In Defense of Posting Screenshots: A Reply to Jon Cogburn

Rightly Considered (RC) has received a lot of attention in the wake of the SCP debacle. It was never our intention, really, to keep blogging about this controversy. But our original story on that has now been picked up by several national media outlets and widely read blogs (see here, here, and here for a few examples). In that story, we posted several screenshots of very hateful comments by philosophers that were directed at Prof. Swinburne and traditional Christians.

For example, Yale’s Jason Stanley wrote ‘Fuck those assholes’. In a later post, he publicly clarified to whom he was referring: “[‘Fuck those assholes’] wildly understates my actual sentiments towards proponents of homophobic and therefore evil positions such as Richard Swinburne” (emphasis added). The “homophobic” and “evil” positions to which he was referring are traditional moral beliefs about marriage and sexuality. Apparently Stanley loathes the hundreds of millions of Christians (and presumably Muslims) who have these beliefs. Other commenters openly expressed their hate by wishing that conservative Christians suffer or die. For example, Julie Klein wrote of “Swinburne and his ilk” that “they deserve the hell they believe in” and Wayne Brooks wished for Swinburne’s death, writing “just give swineburne (sic) 25 years and he will change his mind–he’ll be dead (phew!).” Perhaps most outrageous of all was Georgetown philosophy professor and editor of Public Affairs Quarterly, Rebecca Kukla, suggesting that traditionalists about sexuality and marriage “suck [her] giant queer cock.” Her comments were on a public post, so presumably she had no worries about having her observant Catholic colleagues seeing what she thinks of them.

The reason we took the decision to publicly expose this anti-Christian bigotry and hate is partly because some of these very same people were, on the one hand, moaning about how defenders of Swinburne in Michael Rea’s timorous public apology were being hateful, and, on the other, endorsing (or failing to object to) the above hateful, anti-Christian sentiments. Not only did we show that Swinburne’s defenders were not being hateful, we showed that his attackers were being hateful. In other words, in addition to exposing bigotry, we also exposed rank hypocrisy. People don’t like it when their hypocrisy and iniquities are publicly exposed, so we expected many to feign outrage, and, unsurprisingly, many have now done so.[1]

Enter Jon Cogburn. As far as we can tell, Cogburn, following Elizabeth Barnes, whom he cites, has at least two problems with our posting screenshots of comments in private fora:

“However, Rightly Considered has…pioneered a new thing to further hinder public philosophy, the practice of putting screenshots of people’s facebook posts as well as screenshots of other philosophers’ responses to those posts…Besides it being a violation of privacy, the end result is that many of us are going to end up pruning our friends lists radically, not accepting friends who are conservative males, and being much, much more careful neither to set posts to public, nor to respond to other people’s posts.”

According to the first objection (which is the only one we’ll discuss in this post), RC’s decision to publish screenshots of some of the above comments constitutes an impermissible violation of the right of privacy. As Barnes points out, “when people set facebook posts to a private setting, they are making a conscious choice to limit the audience.” She goes on to say that she hopes that “conservatives value privacy and respect individuals’ choices regarding privacy, so it’s been disappointing to see the RC blog so casually disregard this.” Still, if there’s an argument to the conclusion that what we did was wrong, we failed to detect it.

We do, to be sure, value the right of privacy, the suspicions of our detractors to the contrary notwithstanding. But we also recognise that this right, like most (if not all) rights, is a pro tanto right, not an absolutely inviolable one. If the principle by which Cogburn thinks we should abide were that it is never permissible to post screenshots of private comments without permission, counterexamples abound. Suppose, for example, that the head of a philosophy department or the president of some prestigious philosophical organisation were to, on his private Facebook page, write “Fuck feminists” or “Fuck black philosophers” or “Fuck Muslims.” It isn’t even mildly plausible to suppose that exposing this morally abhorrent behavior would be impermissible, despite the fact that our hypothetical philosopher made a “conscious choice to limit [his] audience.” One reason why this is so is that professors and teachers are public figures in that they are supposed to foster a public good. They have serious power to significantly impact the lives of their students and potential colleagues. If they express sexist or racist or bigoted sentiments on social media to a relatively wide (even if limited) audience, the people over whom they have power have a right to know.

Whether or not our leftist opponents want to admit it, Christianophobia is a real phenomenon, especially in academia. We can apply the above reasoning to the actual case: just as black or female or Muslim students and academics have a right to know whether their professors or colleagues are racists or sexists or Islamophobes, so Christian students and academics have a right to know whether their professors or colleagues are Christianophobes or hostile to (the expression of) their religious views. We see nothing whatever wrong with publicly exposing the hate and bigotry of people who are in positions of power. And some of the comments from both private and public fora that we published are Christianophobic and hateful, a fact that Cogburn disgracefully failed to mention. He’s happy to publicly admonish us for exposing hate but doesn’t publicly admonish any of the haters. Note the title of his post, “A plea to the authors of Rightly Considered to be a little kinder…” This is truly rich. Cogburn means to stir us to put our hearts in the right place so that it oozes graciousness and lovingkindness. We appreciate his concern. Our question is: why was he MIA when Stanley was writing “Fuck those assholes” and Rebecca Kukla was telling us to “suck [her] giant queer cock”? Why no mothering lecture for them? Because they are his friends, or on his side. More hypocrisy, double standards, and nepotism from the left.

To be frank, Cogburn’s response is odd. For our part, we reported the vile and hateful things philosophers were saying about traditional Christians. We did not respond to them in kind. However, in Cogburn’s mind, we need to be lectured on “kindness,” not those who told us to perform oral sex on their queer genitalia. This sort of hateful, vindictive, borderline psychotic behavior is par for the course for leftists. Consider this screenshot from Rebecca Kukla’s public Facebook post.

kukla

Here, Kukla revels in the hope that President Newman follows social media so that he can see that “no one likes [him].” She continues, presumably speaking for “the guild,” saying that “We just think you are disgusting and incompetent and hope that you lie awake at night in bed feeling inadequate and hating yourself as much as we hate you.” This is because Newman expressed views Kukla disagreed with. Perhaps Cogburn and Barnes ought to spend more time cleaning up their own backyard.

We also find the remarks by Cogburn and Barnes duplicitous. Recall that Barnes declared that “when people set Facebook posts to a private setting, they are making a conscious choice to limit the audience.” She goes on, stating that she hopes that “conservatives value privacy and respect individuals’ choices regarding privacy, so it’s been disappointing to see the RC blog so casually disregard this.”  However, a problem here is the standard practice of academic committees. For example, it’s well known that hiring committees will “Google” job applicants’ private Facebook posts and tweets. Thus Brian Leiter notes that it “would be well-advised not to blog or ‘tweet’ since easily accessible blogs or twitters always run the risk of overwhelming other information about a candidate, for a job or for admissions.” Moreover, when applying to PhD programs, applicants will seek to delete their online footprints. They are not motivated by irrational paranoia in doing so. As Today describes matters,

Kaplan Test Prep surveyed admissions officers at the top law schools, business schools and colleges across the U.S. this summer, and found those looking at future lawyers to be the most active in pre-screening applicants using their online footprints. The Kaplan data showed 41 percent of law school admissions officers (from 128 of the nation’s 200 American Bar Association-accredited law schools) said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 37 percent have checked out an applicant on Facebook or other social networking site. And they’re not just looking for fun. Nearly a third of law school admissions officers who researched an applicant online — 32 percent — said they discovered “something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances

The profession Cogburn and Barnes represent seemingly have little regard for an applicant’s “conscious choice to limit the audience,” and do not seem to “value privacy and respect individuals’ choices regarding privacy” as much as one would expect given their high handed remarks. Perhaps to show us that they are as committed to individual privacy as they claim, they could head a taskforce to end the rampant practice inside the very walls in which they reside. But we won’t expect any long blog posts in which Cogburn or Barnes complain about this invasive practice.

Finally, Cogburn begged people who might be associated with us to “ask them to take down the posts with facebook screenshots…” Let’s be absolutely clear: In the light of the fact that we have seen no good reason whatever to do so, Rightly Considered will neither take down the relevant post nor remove any of the screenshots in it. What’s more, Rightly Considered will continue to expose Christianophobia and anti-conservative bigotry within academia whenever we acquire evidence of these offenses. Perhaps Cogburn should be more concerned for his Christian and conservative brothers and sisters than for the people who demonise and attack them.

1. As an aside, some philosophers think that hypocrisy ought to be exposed. For example, according to Barbara Maier and Warren Shibles, “We may infiltrate a perverse organization as an undercover agent would. Hypocrisy as described above has no place in health care or any other areas of an enlightened society and should be exposed for the purpose of improving ourselves as well as our society.” See (2011). The Philosophy and Practice of Medicine and Bioethics. (Springer): 494.

Conservatrarian

Conservatrarian has a degree in philosophy from the UK. He has published papers mostly on topics in applied ethics. Conservatrarian carries a Glock 19 with a 15 round magazine on his hip at all times, so mess with him at your own peril.

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Ronnie Raygun

Ronnie could impress leftists by citing publications in top ranking philosophy journals. Instead, he wants to anger them by pointing out that he and his wife are creating many children and teaching them to be conservatives, and also has a job doing useful stuff and making money.

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Touchstone

Former feminist turned conservative. PhD. Proud helpmeet. Teaches at a liberal arts school somewhere in the Midwest. Enjoys hunting and eating animals. Favorite musician: Hank Williams Jr.

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38 Comments

  1. I’ve gotten a sense that some of the blog’s detractors think we have violated the Golden Rule. For instance, in the Cogburn post, Barnes writes, “Surely – surely – you can understand how this feels invasive and upsetting.” You can hear behind those words, “Surely, you would not have this done onto you.”

    The problem with invoking the Golden Rule is that, as we learned in Ethics class, the Golden Rule has exceptions. Furthermore, I for one, would want someone to call me out if I said “F*ck those assholes”, referring to a group of people who merely call an action (Rea and CVD’s apologies) into question. If my FB “friends” just let that slide, they would be doing me, and perhaps even those I influence, real harm.

      • Clayton,
        Thanks for the comment. Neither. I am skeptical that we can use the golden rule as a general moral theory (thus, the “exceptions” sentence. But suppose that was the right theory. I was suggesting that a virtuous person would want to be sanctioned if (per impossibile) the virtuous person had made the comments that were made by Stanley, Kukla, and others. So, the Golden Rule would actually tell us that using the screenshots (as sanctions) was appropriate.

      • And, probably more people say the GR is a principle and not a theory. That’s fine. Either way, my point about a virtuous person wanting to be sanctioned for such an action still stands.

      • That doesn’t hold up terribly well, though, does it? Let’s spot you the assumption that the sanctioning was good. As others have pointed out, you could have sanctioned in lots of ways that wouldn’t have involved the distribution of screenshots. You could have hidden their identities. You could have spoken with them. There are countless ways of sanctioning that differ from the way that you’ve sanctioned. Does that matter? It might. This little stunt has done a number of things. The probability that someone who has their screenshots posted in the manner that they were posted here receives some sort of threat increases significantly when those screenshots are shared more widely across more blogs. That wouldn’t happen, however, if their identities were kept secret.

        Maybe Aquinas could shed some light on this:
        I answer that there is nothing to prevent one act from having two effects,of which only one is intended by the agent and the other is outside of his intention. Now, moral actions receive their character according to what is intended, and not from what is outside of the intention, since that is “per accidens,” as has been stated (q.43,a.3;and I-II, q.1,a.3,ad 3m). Therefore, from the act of a person defending himself a twofold effect can follow: one,the saving of one’s own life; the other, the killing of the aggressor. Such an act, therefore, insofar as the conservation of one’s own life is intended, is not illicit, since it is natural to every being to preserve its life as far as possible. Nevertheless, an act which proceeds from a good intention may be rendered illicit, if it is not proportioned to the end intended. Hence, if one uses greater violence than is necessary in defending his own life, his act will be illicit. But, if with due moderation he repels the violence offered him, his defense of himself will be licit; for according to law one may repel violence with violence, if he observes the moderation of a blamelessself-defense. And it is not necessary for salvation that a man when attacked should forego such an act of moderate defense in order to avoid slaying the aggressor; for a man is under stricter obligation to protect his own life than another’s.

        I want to draw your attention to Aquinas’ reading of the proportionality condition because it is sometimes glossed over in discussions of double effect reasoning. Maybe you’re not a fan of double effect reasoning, but I am three days out of the week. Today’s one of those days. As you are probably aware, double effect reasoning (as Aquinas seems to intend it) tells us that it might be permissible to bring about both good and bad effects (e.g., the sanctioning (the good) and raising the risk that the person will receive threats as a consequence of being publicly identified in the right wing blogosphere, betraying trust, undermining important relationships between different groups in philosophy (the bad) when the good outweighs the bad, the bad isn’t intended, AND the agent cannot achieve the good without the bad. It looks like you lot have repeatedly violated the third condition. You can get the results you want without releasing the kinds of screengrabs that you have.

        The responsible parties have violated the principle. They should own up to it, make the necessary amends, and seek forgiveness. If not, they should stop pretending that this is all part of some aspiration to live up to traditional Christian ideals.

      • The proportionality criterion of double effect, if that principle is to be extracted from ST II-II, 64, 7, is not a “weighing” of good and bad consequences. For some reason it is often read this way. But all Aquinas is saying is that the magnitude of violence of the means should be proportionate to the magnitude of violence of the attacker; it is a very “local” judgment about what constitute “due circumstances” in the case of self-defense, but it is not a balancing of good and bad consequences even there. (One could defend oneself against multiple attackers, who are aiming at death, even if their several lives are “worth more than” your singular life.)

        I don’t have a settled view on whether screenshots should have been posted, but the proportionality criterion doesn’t imply that they should not have been.

        My sense is that some aim is going to be achieved that would not be achieved by, say, remonstrating privately with the people who expressed or sympathized with hatred of Christians on social media, for people already attempted that. Someone like Jason Stanley now has an opportunity to look at himself and the way he presents himself in public fora; he sees some of the possible consequences that expressing hatred toward traditional Christians, Muslims, etc. Maybe that won’t move him; maybe sending him a private email stating concern over his vehemence would also or better achieve that effect, but that is plausibly doubtful.

        We should also recall that Swinburne was denounced by people like Stanley who hadn’t even read his paper. Where is all of the concern over the possible threats toward Swinburne that might result from a professional philosophers saying, about people like him, “fuck those assholes” before he even had access to the paper?

      • This is to ‘side effects’ below…

        First off, thanks for the response. Not sure why I can’t reply to you in the normal way, but here goes.

        “The proportionality criterion of double effect, if that principle is to be extracted from ST II-II, 64, 7, is not a “weighing” of good and bad consequences.”

        I didn’t say that it was a weighing. (But maybe you’re not saying that I said this, in which case we might be on the same page.) In fact, my point was that weighing isn’t the whole test (and might not even be part of the test). If there are two ways of achieving the good effect and only one way involves the production of the bad effect, you don’t just get to choose the way that has the bad effects. (If I can stop an aggressor by shooting or just threatening to shoot, ceteris paribus, I have to threaten and not shoot. (Unless it’s Texas, I guess.) Similarly, if I have to kill to defend myself but have to choose between a gun that will kill my aggressor and a grenade which will kill him and some bystanders, I don’t get to use the grenade. I take it that these points had better be vindicated by the principle if the principle is any good (and it’s pretty clear that Aquinas was pretty good at this stuff and would agree).)

      • Clayton,

        I don’t know who took the shots or the exact privacy settings, but this business about violating trust won’t wash nor will the placement of blame. First of all, no one I know knows all of his Facebook “friends”. It’s unreasonable to think that they are all “friendly”. In fact, I KNOW that numerous of my FB friends are NOT friendly. And thus, wise person that I am trying to display my wisdom in action, I say nothing that I wouldn’t be happy to defend in an even more public setting. A reasonable person would not think that what they post on FB is private. Second, weren’t people tagged in the one or two comments with the “Friends” setting? If so, they were hardly private. Finally, placing blame on those exposing vile hatred of other people by public figures is absurd. There would have been no exposing without the vile comments in the first place. And presumably there will be no more if such people own up to their actions and stop their vile practices. Wishing someone were DEAD??

      • It might help you to think of what we did here as something like sanctioning. It is no part of the golden rule that because it might be uncomfortable or embarrassing or inconvenient to be sanctioned, that no one ought to impose sanctions on anyone. Now, to be sure, no one wants to suffer _unfair_ or _improper_ sanctions, and violating the golden rule may wholly or partly inform a plea for the improper sanctioners to stop. But it seems to me that Barnes isn’t entitled to just help herself to the impropriety of our sanctioning and then bring in the golden rule to appeal to us to stop. That’s kind of what the whole debate is about.

        -T <3

  2. This blog is so needed! You guys nailed it once again in exposing the hypocrisy of these liberal professors. “Liberal about everything except that which we disagree with” would be a more accurate title. I went through one of these philosophy programs and typically they will give all the best arguments for the liberal position on any given subject and, if they offer the conservative view at all, they will give the flimsiest and weakest of their arguments and then go on to insinuate how stupid and backward these people are to hold such views.

    And you are right not to heed the call in taking down their Facebook posts. They deserve to be seen.

  3. Here is another thought I had.

    Regarding the use of posts that are not set on “public”, I find the complaints against them to be real head scratchers. Surely people understand that Facebook posts set to “friends” are not at all private. For instance, if my friend Jason Schmanley posts, “I love the Westboro Baptist Church!”, and I react to it with an angry face, Schmanley’s post might show up in my friends’ newsfeeds, even though they are not necessarily friends with Jason. They may not be able to comment, but they can at least see them. So, Facebook posts set to “friends” are not at all private.

    Some have said that we are closing off discussion even more because leftists are “defriending” conservatives, resulting in conservatives being even more isolated that before. Whatever harm we are doing in this way is negligible, at best. I find these comments disingenuous because they suggest that they are open to conversation with us to begin with, and many (not all) are not. As things were before the “screenshots”, most conservatives already kept their heads low and avoided posting, for fear of outing themselves and harming their careers. Of course, there were token puff cake conservatives that were deemed acceptable by leftists, but most leftists are not open to a conservativism that doesn’t hem and haw and bend over backwards to please liberals.

  4. Headline…“Liberals: hypocritical and bigoted! In other news – Water: wet!”

    But seriously, I appreciate the good work and plain speaking here. A spade is still a spade even if it has an earned PhD, tenure, and a cushy chair with some dead dude’s name appended to it.

    Publicizing pansy philosophers’ petulant and perverse private posts is one thing, just don’t investigate and report anything about the PP death-dealers trading in human body parts for profit out of their abortuaries…’cuz that’ll get you sued.

    • I just have to say, you have me laughing my head off at that hilarious post! I especially loved the part about the cushy chair.

  5. Good call on Facebook being public and employers looking into what you post and say before hiring. The assertion that posting on the Internet, let alone social media, can be private is immensely weak if not downright paradoxical. If you want privacy, don’t provide content for the masses on the digital information highway no matter if you intend your comments to be only for a restricted, “friendly” audience. It’s still largely public. Your personal, social media droplet is still a molecule fluidly connected to and part of a whole digital ocean of open and unpredictable currents capable of sweeping you off to mingle with any other droplets in its vastness.

    Coming from a background in journalism where oftentimes uncovering corruption or malfeasance requires clandestine, investigative reporting — because the corrupt are purposefully trying to be inconspicuous in their wrongdoing — this “violation of privacy” defense rings especially hollow and self-serving. No one complains for obvious reasons about the company that’s knowingly poisoning the city’s water if the means to that information were infiltrating and posing as an employee for a year to find the evidence — that is, except for whom were exposed. In this case Rea, Van Dyke and co. They’re upset because they got caught, plain and simple.

  6. The right of privacy is not engaged here, so the actions of Rightly Considered do not amount even to a pro-tanto violation of that right.

    The right to privacy is engaged only where, as at the time of the alleged intrusion, the complainant/victim had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    Where there is no such reasonable expectation of privacy, there can be no violation of any related right. To illustrate, if you urinate in public, you cannot complain that your privacy has been breached if someone decides to stare.

    To be sure, such an occasion would be awkward for the both of you. Then again you decided to urinate in a public place. If you didn’t want people watching, you probably should not have made such a decision…as the saying goes, volenti non fit injuria…to a willing person, harm is not done…

    Likewise, if you post on a facebook profile *to which the public has access*, you cannot subsequently complain if the public becomes aware of it. Indeed this is precisely what Rea, Kukla and Stanley did. Although I’m not friends with any of them, I was still able to view their comments….their comments had a “public” status.

  7. Can anyone question Christian claims philosophically without being labeled a Christianphobe? It would seem that objections raised against Christianity are not based out of fear, but because various metaphysical and epistemological claims are so outrageous.

    • Thanks Jim. Certainly one can question Christian claims philosophically without being labeled (or being) a Christianphobe. If not, it would turn out that any person investigating the claims of the faith would be Christianphobes, and that seems absurd.

      • For the purposes of this post, let’s concede that there is something like Christianophobia. I’ll grant that (though I think it’s more general, a fear of religious people). If it is possible to question Christian claims philosophically and suppose there are many philosophers who do, then it’s feasible that if one were to use an expletive to dismiss either Swinburne’s work or Christian orthodox belief about homosexuality, then simply swearing is not enough to warrant accusations of Christianophobia.

        To the extent that such a speech act is a dismissal may be something like “I’ve thought about this a lot and will never agree.” So when you say above: “We see nothing whatever wrong with publicly exposing the hate and bigotry of people who are in positions of power.” You would need a lot more proof than that that to reproduce facebook speech acts (leaving aside whether that’s moral to or not do for the moment). I think it’s more likely you took them to be examples of Christianophobia rather than asking either Kukla or Stanley what they meant by them.

        And, on top of that as a Conservative (please take this post as even-handed in tone and being a colleague), I wonder if you are doing more harm than good. I would hope that you start defending conservative philosophical ideas rather than engaging in gossip-mongering about Facebook posts. More conservative voices are needed in philosophy.

  8. “In a later post, he publicly clarified to whom he was referring: “[‘Fuck those assholes’] wildly understates my actual sentiments towards proponents of homophobic and therefore evil positions such as Richard Swinburne” (emphasis added). The “homophobic” and “evil” positions to which he was referring are traditional moral beliefs about marriage and sexuality.”

    It seems to me you misdescribe the target of Stanley here. The target of his ire was Swinburne’s disability claim, not his “traditional moral beliefs about marriage and sexuality.”

    It is important to be precise here, since, as I put it here http://proteviblog.typepad.com/protevi/2016/10/swinburne-and-his-disability-claim.html ,

    “if Swinburne had stuck to a claim about the immorality of homosexuality, none of this controversy would have happened. My sense of the sociology of the profession is that a great number of philosophers would a) have never heard of it, or b) if they did hear of it they would have shrugged it off as “dog bites man” level stuff, or c) they would have thought that there are resources within Christian moral philosophy to combat the claim, and if pressed, would have expressed solidarity with those using those resources to combat Swinburne’s claim.”

    I go on to link to the following paper, which I commend to the readers of RC: https://www.academia.edu/13030614/Homophobia_and_the_Limits_of_Scientific_Philosophy 

    • Sorry, I can’t trust the reader who wrote this:

      In some of his arguments about sexual morality, Swinburne uses the premise that God can restrict the use of sex because it is His gift (R 299). Of course, a critique of this premise cannot be entirely free of theological considerations. But in his discussion of homosexuality, Swinburne does not use this premise.

      I’d argue that that is pretty off base.

      For example, the immediate sense that Swinburne uses the term “disability” he clarifies: “for a homosexual cannot beget children through a loving act with a person to whom they have a unique lifelong commitment.” So first of all, the hyperventilating about “the word he used” (gasp) tries hard not to see the immediate next clause to be a qualification of what Swinburne means locally by “disability”, but Pleitz adds to this by not even reading the relationship between the particular definition of this big-D disability (taken as big-D disability), and how it relates to a conception of ability.

      Surely “lifelong commitment” plays a part in some ideas of love, in Biblical marital love, in two-halves-of-one-soul mystical love. But in all scenarios of two consenting adults engaging in lovemaking, it plays only one specific role. It is an ideal. However, we can imagine, that even in soul-mate love, if you find yourself committed to someone who turns out to be the imperfect match, that ideal dictates not that you remain committed, but be joined to your “soul-mate” each time you find him or her.

      Really, in a world that looks at Christianity as supporting “unrealistic expectations” we can almost conclude that it is a unrealistic expectation that two primates, for no reason have to make a lifetime commitment. The idea that “we will always be together” definitely helps intensify even the transient love, but it is probably an exaggeration in most cases, brought on my passion’s limitation on the intellect.

      So outside of a cultural condition that emphasizes love with commitment, that homosexuality doesn’t operate within these parameters, really couldn’t be argued to be much of a “disability”.

      So the same with producing offspring with our lifelong commitment. One of the reasons that Biblical thinking is out-of-date, is not only the aforementioned unreasonable expectations, but that it inflicts expectations on the choices of free will. Thus, it is only a disability to produce children, if one has decided to produce children. And if you want children, and can get them through another source, including a one-night-stand with a fertile member of the opposite sex specifically to achieve your personal ends of begetting children, then you can still (in theory) maintain a lifelong commitment to your same-sex partner, especially if we add the sentiment that “it’s only sex”.

      However, all those things are outside the ideal relationship that Swinburne was continually talking about and specifically mentioned immediately after dropping the D-bomb. It’s hard to imagine Swinburne’s “disability” out of the context of a stable, unviolated (by the God of Israel’s) standard teleological marriage relationship, because a smorgasbord approach can solve any one of the term’s of this “disability”. Gay men aren’t by definition sterile, so they have the same physical ability to conceive as other men. Gay men who can sleep with an ovulating fertile female can have children, unless the context is of a perfect and complete sexual commitment to their “spouse”.

      This premise is all over Swinburne’s context. I have to take Pleitz as a motivated reader to miss this. So much for the prosaic internet appeal-to-check-this-link.

  9. I’ve been told that some of the screenshots were taken from posts that were restricted to friends (and sometimes a subset of them). Can you clarify this for the record? Were all the shots taken from posts that were made publicly available or were some shots taken from posts that were restricted to friends (or some subset of them)? (Someone told me that they were not publicly available, so I mentioned this possibility in a Facebook discussion, but if someone on this site wants to clarify the situation, that would be appreciated.)

    I’d also be curious to know whether the contributors to this blog remain friends with some of the people who have featured in discussions here. Do they think that maintaining their social connections to people they have ‘exposed’, plan to expose, or would be willing to expose without consent is acceptable? If it’s clear that these people don’t want their Facebook friends to do such things, it seems there’s a potential kind of deception in play. I don’t want to maintain Facebook ‘friendships’ with the kinds of people who post screenshots on these kinds of blogs, so I think that anyone on my list who would be willing to do that in this knowledge isn’t living up to the moral strictures that forbid deception. (I know some contributors to this blog have some pretty strong principles when it comes to lying, but maybe they think that deception isn’t covered. That would be, well, convenient.)

  10. Just to clarify ‘friends’ only means someone connected to someone else on Facebook. Consider my use of ‘friend’ as a technical term involving all and only the relationship of being Facebook friends. I doubt that anyone here is my friend in either sense, but my question was about maintaining a Facebook friend relation with someone that it seems you’d be spying on. For the record, I think that’s really creepy. (But, hey, I’m a liberal and an atheist. Don’t worry about what I think!)

  11. I agree with Clayton. Someone representing this blog needs to come clean about whether or not the screenshots of Stanley’s and Kukla’s original comments were taken from Facebook threads set to “Shared with: Public” or “Shared with: Friends,” or some other setting. This is a minimal requirement of honest and decent conduct – especially for those who take such pride in lecturing others about the requirements of honesty and decency.

    • I don’t represent the blog — but since those who do keep misleadingly focusing on the public posts they shared in reply to criticism, I do want to note for the record the original comment they shared from Stanley — and many others — were set to ‘friends only’ or an even small restricted subset of the original posters friends.

      • Hi all, we may reply to these queries later and in more detail. For now, I will only point out that you all could answer many of your own questions simply by looking at the screenshots in question and seeing which ones are from posts set to “public,” “friends,” or “custom.” That some of you are requesting answers to questions available by merely looking at the screenshots is disturbing, since it appears that there is a large information gap our objectors need to plug before they even wade into objecting to us on theoretical grounds. My children have a term for this, I believe it is “y’all are n00bs!”

        Second—and again betraying your unfamiliarity with the operation of the Facebook platform—when you claim, “But the post was set to FRIENDS ONLY,” your protestations would have some credibility if the poster in question had not _tagged_ two other Facebook users, thereby opening up the post to over _a thousand_ prying eyes. Literally thousands of people you do not know were invited to witness the scat tongued epithets flung by your mouths and in the direction of traditionalist Christians. To try to act as if this was some discussion behind closed doors and “just between friends” is utterly embarrassing.

        There was simply _no_ reasonable expectation of privacy here. This is a bogus argument, on both the moral and the empirical merits. Stop. Please.

      • Why don’t you answer them now? Are you still trying to hunt through the pages of Facebook friends looking for things to expose? It’s a simple question and I want an answer. A number of us have made it clear that we don’t want to be Facebook friends with the people who post on this blog. If it matters, I hereby request that you terminate that relationship. If you stay, it’s because you want to spy and you’re doing so under the cover of a different kind of relationship. If you think deception is morally problematic, this is morally problematic.

        You aren’t acting like the champions of truth and honesty when you can’t come clean on this. (But I think you realize that your actions haven’t lived up to the ethical ideals that you purport to defend and can’t quite come to grips with that. That’s human nature. We’re all flawed.)

      • Clayton is clearly right about this. Surely we can agree that those who are in the habit of policing the speech of others by monitoring and disseminating their private Facebook posts have a moral duty to make themselves known, so that the people they spy and report on can decide freely to terminate those “friendships.” Right?

      • Hi-C!

        Thanks for the mansplaination! I know my co-belligerents disagree, but I for one find you to be as cute as a button!

        -T <3

  12. Why is it that all of these muscular defenders of “traditional” Christianity — in particular, the contributors to this blog — post from behind the safe and comforting skirts of anonymity? This seems to me to speak volumes about the faith they have in their ideas or, at the least, the manner in which they choose to express them. And if the concern is to protect themselves from the prospect of vicious threats and attacks from the left, the irony is palpable, given that their openly naming and shaming their ideological opponents clearly and unambiguously invites such attacks from the more unhinged elements of the right. Either way, anonymity undermines any presumption of good will that might further honest and open debate and, without question, gives license to careless, dehumanizing invective and hyperbole that one would, on solid moral grounds, never consider in an actual, face-to-face discussion with other persons. It’s cowardly at best.

    • “Why is it that all of these muscular defenders of “traditional” Christianity — in particular, the contributors to this blog — post from behind the safe and comforting skirts of anonymity?”

      Are you really that dense?

      “shaming their ideological opponents clearly and unambiguously invites such attacks from the more unhinged elements of the right”

      Balderdash. No one here has said anything remotely vile or wished for anyone’s DEATH. That is from the side that YOU are defending! In fact, bloggers here unambiguously do NOT invite anyone to do anything unhinged to anyone on EITHER side.

      “anonymity undermines any presumption of good will that might further honest and open debate and, without question, gives license to careless, dehumanizing invective and hyperbole that one would”

      This is utterly absurd. Swinburne openly–not anonymously–gave a talk in which he offered a more liberal view than the traditional Christian (and Islamic) stance on homosexuality–he even went so far as to say that, given his premises, there is no point in rebuking non-Christians who disagree–and he and everyone holding his position were mercilessly attacked with vile hatred. He could’ve used some anonymity, no?

      • “Balderdash. No one here has said anything remotely vile or wished for anyone’s DEATH. ”

        Indeed and I heard no consideration on the consent that would be need to “F– these a——-“, or “suck a big queer c—“

    • Hello. I thought I’d take a moment to give you my two cents regarding posting anonymously. I’m obviously not a writer for this blog, since I only discovered it yesterday. I am also still weighing whether I think those who are responsible for the postings acted rightly or not. (Certainly the left has a history of being far more aggressive against speech (i.e. the recent hubbub over Glenn Reynolds’s tweet, or how about Donald Sterling’s “private” comments that were captured by a recording device in his home?) so they themselves have seemed to advocate for more aggressive practices than they’ve ostensibly been subjected to.)
      There are certainly some drawbacks to posting anonymously. It does grant people an additional sense of safety that sometimes causes people to act/write in ways that they otherwise would not. This means that a responsible poster ought to take certain actions to counteract this temptation.
      There are reasons, though, for why posting anonymously might be useful, especially for religious conservatives. The antipathy against individuals of that persuasion is palpable in the humanities, and many of us are forced to act like secret moles in the system for a time until we can publicly “come out of the closet” (sound familiar to anything the left said was so tragic?) One might respond by suggesting that we ought not seek careers in the humanities at all. The problem here is that for many of us, (I’m speaking here mostly of traditional Christians, knowing well that those who do author this blog are not all of that persuasion) many times our foundational beliefs are about issues that the humanities deals with, especially philosophy.
      I think, too, that this situation has highlighted something very important. The sort of thing that these lefties are lamenting about is the sort of thing that happens to Conservatives almost daily. They don’t seem to see it, but now they get a glimpse of it when something similar (albeit much milder) happens to them. If they were conservatives saying what they did against some protected “victim” (read, aggressor) group, they’d at least be investigated, if not fired. At the very least, students would be blacklisted against having them as advisers, since schools simply would not accept anyone who was advised by them. You may respond by saying that two wrongs don’t make a right, and that may well be true. As I said, I’m still weighing whether or not the authors acted rightly. But it’s very mild compared to a liberal scorned.
      The last thing I want to say is regarding the attribution “muscular” that you gave. That certainly seems to apply to the “alt-right” in some respects regarding their attitudes, and there seem to be some folks on here that are sympathetic to that mentality. I am not. As for me, I don’t consider myself particularly “strong” or “muscular” or “powerful.” I consider myself weak, but nonetheless chosen by God to be a messenger.

  13. “[L]license to careless, dehumanizing invective and hyperbole that one would, on solid moral grounds, never consider in an actual, face-to-face discussion with other persons.”

    Oh, you mean like Kukla’s post? She wasn’t anonymous and she still did just what you mention comes about because of anonymity.

  14. First, I am not a member of Rightly Considered.
    Second, I think there is something to be said for anonymous or pseudonymous posting. Sometimes I’m working through ideas, and if I thought that many people would find my ideas intrinsically offensive, and so would get angry at me for entertaining them, then I wouldn’t want people to know that I’m entertaining them. But that would prevent me from being able to fully work through them. (To be honest, any impassioned criticism of my ideas makes me want to run and hide, even if I’m using a pseudonym, but I imagine some people are comfortable when anonymous and uncomfortable when known.)
    Going on in this regard, I also think that people, even philosophers, will look at someone’s name before considering their arguments. For example, if you know that, say, Thomas Kelly is writing something, then you might take it more seriously than if you know that, say, Robert Gressis is writing it. And that makes sense — there’s far more evidence that Kelly is a good philosopher than there is that Gressis is, so it makes sense to take his arguments more seriously than mine. That said, I’m not sure this is really a good practice. I think it would be better if we could just look at arguments without importing past assumptions into it. Anonymity (not even pseudonymity, but anonymity) helps that happen.
    Next, I imagine that some members of this blog are graduate students or assistant professors who don’t want to risk losing future employment by stating their true beliefs. You might think this fear that their beliefs would cause such consequences is silly, but I don’t.
    Finally, this is not to say that I support the posting of screenshots with the names of people in them. My gut tells me that, at the very least, the names should have been blurred out. That said, I wonder what people think of this: some people think that prominent philosopher P is a sexist, and that this explains why he didn’t invite well-regarded female philosopher F to a conference or to contribute to his book. P denies that he is sexist, but in a FB post that he meant to share only with his real-life friends, he makes a sexist remark about F that some of his friends didn’t make private (or however that works; I don’t understand how FB postings work, which is why I rarely post). Would it be OK to post a screenshot of P’s remark, if you’re friends with friends of P? If so, how is this dissimilar from what happened with Rightly Considered?

  15. I just left this comment at Prof. Cogburn’s weblog:

    Have you considered the comparison to gossip? Gossip says something nasty about Target to Listener and a group of other people, in a setting from which he excludes Target. Is it wrong for Listener to report to the world that Gossip is saying nasty things about Target? I think not, especially if the group is a large group of insiders. The Screen shot is perhaps a good idea to avoid being unfair to Gossip, but would it be better just to quote Gossip?

    Looking at the comments here, I see that maybe I am wrong in thinking that the setting excludes Target. If it really is a public facebook threat, then there is no possible objection that can be made to repeating it.

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