_The Apology_, Part II

From: Brian Manning Delaney (bdelaney@infinitefaculty.org)
Date: Sun Jun 25 2000 - 23:38:31 MDT

Hey folks,

I wanted more time to think about this, and to talk with Natasha, but
neither looks possible. I'll be off email starting I think early
tomorrow morning for at least two days, and then might not have regular
email for a while.

I certainly think no one is above error. If my attempts at careful
thought about any of my and others' comments went afoul, I sincerely
apologize. I would never intend to wrong anyone. If I wronged Natasha or
Max, it was unintentional, and I do indeed deeply apologize to them

I had a long, painful, but ultimately productive and interesting
discussion with friends today about this. Although I remain extremely
disturbed and angry about many aspects of these proceedings, something
fruitful might be nonetheless be salvaged if we reflect on a number of
important issues. One is how this example can be analyzed as a case of
clearly (in my view) decent people coming into conflict over relatively

Far more importantly, and interestingly, is how this can shed light on
group dynamics, above all the social psychology of opinion-formation.
What needs explanation is: EVERYRONE I talked with who knows me thought
I was entirely in the right (while noting that I at times wasn't turning
the other cheek where some people might -- but I have strong convictions
about that, which I'm also currently questioning), yet virtually
EVERYONE on Extropians thought pretty much the opposite.

Cultural relativism would be a tempting account. For me, a Platonist
(and Hegelian), this would be require a disturbing conclusion: it
essentially reduces all that's happened to "The 'Stripes' side and the
'Spotted' side are JUST DIFFERENT sides, and that's that." Since I
believe that some difference are not merely lateral (not "just"
different), I tend to think that some trans-subcultural norms were
violated here. I'm not completely certain what those are, though.

I should probably quit here. But I wanted to say the following, in order
that I might further clarify my reasoning in all this.

One thing that might make my -- and perhaps others' -- perspective
clear is this. Mike Lorrey made a comment about "killin'" to which I
reacted strongly. I think I overreacted, partly because of some
frightening anonymous email I was receiving.

Others reacted strongly, too. Mike clarified he was not intending to
kill anyone, nor inciting anyone to kill anyone.

Does he ALSO need to apologize, as a few have suggested?

I don't know. If it's reasonable for him to expect that reasonable
people should understand his meaning, and not be threatened by it, then
perhaps he does not need to apologize at all.

Another example. You use the word "niggardly" in front of someone, and
he reacts as if you've said something racist. "Okay, you think, maybe he
thought you said 'niggerly,' or maybe they simply don't know what the
word means. Fair enough." You explain what you said, and what the word
means (along with its etymology, if needed).

Now imagine the person continues to respond to you as if you're a

Shouldn't you be forgiven any resulting snippiness? Shouldn't you be
forgiven the view that this person has irrational ill-will towards you?

And shouldn't any nastiness that develops not be attributed SOLELY to
you (even if it might be attributable PARTLY to you)?

These are very difficult questions. For that reason, I say again: I
apologize to Natasha if I've thought through all of this badly --
something I most definitely can't fully rule out.

Towards the Good,

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