Michael Francis
Michael Francis

To the commentators on Thought Leader: Stick to the topic

There are a number of regular commentators on Thought Leader who write as much as the bloggers do. Some are clever and witty and make relevant points that further a blog or challenge what the blogger wrote. Many also make nasty, snide, irrelevant remarks that have no bearing on the blog. I notice that some of the other Thought Leader bloggers do not comment or respond to any comments on their blogs. Perhaps they are too busy, but I also notice that trying to respond can be testing and sometimes one is tempted to be snide to certain commentators as well respond to more personal attacks. Overall, I do actually enjoy the comments and feel the comments on some blogs are as interesting as the blog itself.

I think that the most annoying commentators are the ones who write about completely different topics. I write about smoking and they say “yeah but what about …?” If I do not address a topic why should I have to write about separate unrelated or even related themes? This is a blog that typically covers a single theme or topic. To demand otherwise would be to ask for encyclopedic blogs that cover all things. Are my readers that demanding?

No, it’s actually just really poor argumentative skills. If you can’t challenge the topic with logic, reason or new information, change the subject. My last blog was about smoking and I thought it was fairly clear.

While I acknowledge there are extra medical costs associated with smoking these are not my main contentions. So do not bother to try and refer to other acts that are more expensive to the healthcare system. They do not strengthen your argument. You may find I am also in agreement with you in those topics that I chose not to write about.

I loathe the littering associated with many smokers. These also lead to fires. One person even claimed they unsuccessfully tried to set dry grass on fire and therefore this is not a real fear. Tell that to the judge who sent a man to prison in Cape Town for manslaughter after setting Table Mountain on fire with a cigarette. And even if fires are not set by butts it is disgusting and lazy. At least that was not challenged. So @agplease — I am also against glass being littered about as well.

Some have claimed that the effects of secondhand smoke are overplayed. Overplayed by whom? I never said they led to immediate cancer or death. There are effects and however insignificant one wishes to argue they are, they do exist. You would have to be a real prick to justify exposing children to them — at what point is something harmful to children acceptable?

Others write that there are worse things such as alcohol (@benzol). No kidding, But because I didn’t mention it I must be for it? Hugh Robinson even went so far as to infer that must drink and drive; seriously, WTF, as the kids text each other these days.

Others write about free will as if I am against it. I even apparently have driven poor Gerry to start smoking. I am all for free will — my own being not to smoke. You steal that from me every time you smog up my space, litter in public places and destroy the atmosphere of decent restaurants with nice patios. Anyone who tries to play the victim while stealing my fresh air and my free will is clearly a hypocrite.

And for those who wish to dismiss my views based on age I have a few things to say. 1) Old people are not necessarily wise. That is a myth to make them feel good about the upcoming exit, and, 2) The Picture of Dorian Gray. Who am I kidding? A literary reference for those who argue juvenile tactics of bait and switch. I like to think of myself as not so young (or at least as you think) but plenty experienced. Also, if you are interested you may wish to follow the links at the side and see more about me at Athabasca University. If you are more scholarly you can read my academic articles, which I am happy to email to you if you ask nicely. It’s easy to Google me and find my work email.

So please try and stick to the topic as you often merely segue into irrational justifications based on nothing I say. And if you perhaps found this blog smarted a little maybe check your logic, but not at the door.

Perhaps this is the problem with a blog and an online discussion is that most of us would actually like to be able to sit around a table at a pub discussing these topics civilly and even have a laugh and a good time despite our disagreements. We would never be snide or cruel or threatening, as some seem to be. But there is something impersonal about an online “conversation” or discussion. This particular one also suffers from a time lag due to the need for moderators (which is not censorship but needed for spam blocking, hate mongering, intimidation, etc — you should see behind the scenes!). I am actually easy going and share my life with people of all stripes and political persuasions, colours/hues, genders, gay and straight, old and young and a variety of other colourful people. All I ask for from people in my life is are they good?

It is hard to display ironic tones in a quick blog and readers seem to dismiss literary and media conventions. I needed a headline for my last blog. If I said I dislike some of the habits displayed by some smokers my readership would have been tiny. So I went for the jugular and got your interest. It worked but then many seemed not to read the blog and made assumptions about things I did not say. You wish to challenge me — lift a quote and show me where I am wrong. Do not make a baseless accusation. I enjoy a good debate but also value ration and reason.

I was originally going to write this blog in reference to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict leaving me conflicted, but that one elicited such strong responses from both sides of the ideological camps that logic and reason no longer existed. Anyone whose responses form a purely axiomatic perspective will never be changed. It reminds me of the story of Bruno, a contemporary of Galileo, who was burnt at the stake due to his belief that the earth orbited the sun. Poor Bruno never knew it to be true, he only believed it to be so. Galileo knew it to be true, so denounced it knowing the truth, as it still turns. Ideological beliefs have subjected many to be burned as well as many who let themselves be burned.

I am an anthropologist and I know that humans are strange animals that are not governed by reason and rationality. We universally fear the dark due to the unknown terrors possibly lurking there, yet let ignorance reign in our personal lives with no such fear. I will write my next few blogs from my professional experiences as some points have been raised in these forums that have suggested themes.

  • Benzol

    @Guy: I can answer both your suggestions positively but it would indeed bring the discussion further “off (the holy) topic”.

    Train of thought:
    (1) hamlet = poetry = rhythm = mathematics. Without mathematics digitisation of analogue material would not have been possible.
    (2) goats mating: most likely they get onto each other’s backside…(you fill in the dots)

    Some people think and debate more lateral (drifters), others more linear (sticklers). Some can do both and choose which they use and when.

    We might need an (social?) anthropologist to contribute meaningfully to this one.

    In the meantime, no hard feelings. Enjoying your valuable warnings and will try to behave in the future :-))

  • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

    @Michael Francis
    ” I have never claimed there is a white genocide here”
    But you certainly imply it pretty strongly here:
    http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/michaelfrancis/2009/11/04/farm-attacks-and-moral-panics
    http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/michaelfrancis/2010/04/08/hate-crimes-and-farming-in-south-africa/
    and in numerous other comments/blogs where you portray violent crime as directed against the white minority.

    As for Canada’s long, brutal winters, there is a reason why Canada is a revolving door for many South Africans accustomed to sunny skies. Your “research” is just an excuse to come “teach” the “natives” about African history, blogging etiquette and whatnot. LOL

  • woody

    Since it is now on topic, thanks to Joffe’s discussion of moles and wood, or is that hood? And indirectly through Francis (Moles do get effected by smoking in many ways, like tobacco plantations, etc). The question that I would like to answer is, do moles have hoods. And how much hood would his wood have if his wood would have hood.

  • http://thoughtleader.co.za/michaelfrancis Michael Francis

    @Dave Harris – Actually on occasion I do ““teach” the “natives” about African history, blogging etiquette and whatnot”.

    I mainly teach the history and the ‘whatnot’ which has included theoretical/philosophical/methodological issues such as semiotics, participant observation, issues pertaining to documentary film and photography. So thanks for noticing.

  • Lynne

    Dear Michael

    You are feeding the worst troll of them all – Dave Harris. He will ALWAYS play the man and not the topic. He has about three sentences in his repertoire which he repeats ad nauseum. Starve him already!! It would clear the air in the same way that putting smokers in confined areas in public spaces would.