For those of you who know of our friend Xon, and my recent post about his new internet activity: Xon has sent in a reply to the Wood, which you can see below:
First of all, I honestly thought I had e-mailed you about my recent blog activity. I just checked my gmail archives and I see that I did not. I’ll plead the holidays on this, but still it is no excuse. I did not mean to appear like I was trying to snipe at you without your knowing about it, or anything like that. I hope it didn’t come across that way. If it did, then please accept my apology for not e-mailing you to let you know what was going on.
Second, I do disagree with your interpretation of our e-mail conversation . . . about the aborted debate we had (i.e. I was very much expressing interest in continuing the debate, but was giving you time to do so if you wanted it). But I don’t see why we should drag out all the details on that. Suffice it to say that I am simply concerned to let folks know that not all “Wilson apologists” refuse to interact with your evidence. I have in fact tried to do so on a number of occasions. I don’t have any particular desire to hash out why the original debate was stopped short, and I do not impute any bad motives to you in this. It simply, for whatever combination of reasons, was not continued, which I thought was a shame.
Third, I appreciate the way your basic interpretation of what I’m up to pushed all the rhetorical buttons that you needed to push. I don’t begrudge you this at all; “rhetoric” is not a bad word to me so long as it remains fitting with Christian charity, and your recent post to the Wood about me did remain so. We simply disagree as to what I’m really all about, but that’s not surprising given our respective positions in this conversation.
Fourth, I actually tried to pre-empt many of the things you said in my original “What’s this all about?” post. For instance, I realize that it looks like I’m making sweeping generalizations about your blog without myself providing evidence for those generalizations, and so I tried to explain myself along those lines right out of the gate to avoid confusion. I definitely agree with you that the things I have said cannot stand on their own. In other words, when I claim that your blog is full of slander and unsubstantiated accusations against Doug Wilson’s character (and I just want to remind everyone, for purpose of absolute clarity, that this is ALL I am concerned with discussing from your blog), I do have to back that claim up at some point. But this was the point of my analogy about a defense attorney and a court of law—all I have done so far is give the “opening statement”. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there is no evidence that X committed this crime, or any crime, and everything the prosecution is going to try to show you will be full of holes.” I don’t necessarily need to say anything more than that at that initial point. I CAN’T say everything that needs to be said all at once. As the prosecution (you or any other Wilson accuser, on this analogy) presents their case, I will of course then have to engage their evidence as it comes up. So please don’t think that I do not intend to do that. This, in fact, is the whole point of what I am intending to do, with one addition. My own blog posts do stand as an accusation of sorts against you (and some other Wilson critics), since if I am correct that you consistently use insubstantial evidence to accuse Wilson of various things then this itself amounts to a “bad thing” that you are doing (on any Christian conception of ethics). So, stretching the metaphor, I am like a defense attorney who intends to argue for Wilson’s acquittal and then file a grievance afterwards against the prosecution. Obviously, this charge against you also MUST be substantiated, and the only way for me to do it is to consider the evidence that you (or other Wilson critics) actually do provide. My charge against many Wilson accusers is that they make poor arguments using poor evidence, so I have to look at their actual arguments and evidence to demonstrate that.
There are two ways for this evidence to be “presented.” One is that I go through the archives of your blog and dig up previous posts you’ve made against Wilson and treat that as “the prosecution’s case.” I simply respond to the things you have already written.
There are a few problems with this, it seems to me. For one, I will easily be accused of “cherry picking” if I do this. And I can understand the accusation because that IS what it will look like I am doing. People will wonder whether I am really digging up the strongest evidence against Wilson. Perhaps I am getting hung up on stuff that isn’t really that important, and leaving crucial stuff out. Perhaps I am picking only those posts of yours which are particularly weak (hey, you posted A LOT of stuff, some of it is bound to be weaker than the rest), in order to make myself look better. The only way to avoid this charge is for me to literally go through every anti-Wilson post you have put up on your blog and give it a critical commentary on my own. I don’t think anybody in the world WANTS to see me do this, and I certainly don’t want to do it. Furthermore, I am simply unable to do it. Your blog is a year old, with hundreds of Wilson-related posts. I am trying to finish a doctoral dissertation this semester. “Hey, that’s your problem, Xon, you started this!” Well, kinda sorta that’s true, and I do recognize that I am walking a fine line here, but it seems to me that I should be able to blog in part what I do not have time to blog in whole. In any case, this first option for interacting with your evidence against Wilson is not particularly desirable to me, or probably to anyone.
A further problem with this approach is that it isn’t as fair to you as it could be. Given that you now know what I intend to do, why not shore up your evidence and bring the hammer down all over again as concisely as you can. There is an opportunity to allow BOTH of us to benefit in this (as writing our thoughts helps shape our thoughts and defending our position “in action” helps us understand better what our position actually is). Which brings me to the second way to get your evidence against Wilson “presented.”
That second way is to simply invite you (or any other Wilson critic) to come present it anew, concisely and dispassionately. I wish there was already some sort of “third party” Reformed blog for doing this with the various controversies that arise in our circles, but there’s not, so I’m letting my blog be the place for this particular issue. If you are concerned about “home cooking” on my part, then I would be more than happy to have some other third party set up a blog where we can both have equal posting priveledges and hash this out. The point, though, is that I am trying very hard to avoid the status quo operating procedure for blog wars, which is the blogger presenting only his side, and perhaps the reader can bounce back and forth between several sources to keep up with the conversation. But even if the reader attends this tennis match, things still are not really presented particularly judiciously. It is just human nature to insert a lot of colorful rhetoric and things not so pertinent into one’s commentaries. This means that we are usually left with two bloggers, both glowing magnificently from their respective websites, and neither really addressing the substance of what the other says. I think it would go better if, all in one place, someone could come along and present their case, and then someone else could come along and defend. Again, another thing I said in my original post is that I realize that I am putting myself in the position of both partisan and judge in this particular case, as I am a Wilson partisan but I also want my blog to be the court where the conversation takes place. But keep in mind that really it is the readers who will decide for themselves (the readers are really more like the “judge” on this analogy) who makes the better case, based on the evidence presented and the response to that evidence given by the “defense.”
Now, I think I understand why you would not want to take me up on this invitation. Truthfully, I don’t know if I would either if the roles were reversed. So, if you do decide not to take me up on it, then I will revert to the first option for gathering evidence considered above and will start digging up some old Poohsthink posts and responding to those. This is not ideal, but it is what I will do if need be (charges that I am cherry-picking be darned). In either case, I do not intend to leave it that you present bad evidence and slander as some self-justifying claim.
Fifth, and finally, about the comment of yours to my blog from a few weeks ago which I deleted, the “sort of nonsense” I was referring to was not your argument about Wilson’s alleged attacks on the PCA. I wasn’t commenting on the substance of those posts at all; in fact, I haven’t read them. The “sort of nonsense” I was referring to was simply the very act of coming on to a blog (mine) that is about Steve Wilkins’ situation in the PCA and trying to use that as a forum to advertise for your own blog posts about Doug Wilson and the PCA. It’s off-topic, and comments get deleted in Cyberland all the time for less. I think it is seriously misguided to call this deletion “censorship”, and to use it as a reason for not taking me up on my offer to let you post some evidence at my blog.
[*editor’s note: I did not want to insert any comments in order to let this reply stand as is; however, this claim warranted a short note in my opinion. A short, friendly comment informing Xon’s thread that I was talking about the same current events (an action Xon would likely know I typically do not engage in) is what Xon called the action of a “troll;” he did not limit his comments to the fact that I was merely “off topic.” Further, the comment wasn’t “off topic,” particularly not with respect to the action of deletion without warning or notification and particularly not in a way that egregiously broke blogging protocol or reasonable blogging rules. It is not clear to me how calling this action “censorship” is not accurate and fair. Perhaps more importantly, I was not giving a reason why I do not want to post evidence at Xon’s blog; I need not give such evidence since it would seem obvious to me that the primary reason I would not post evidence on Xon’s blog is that I have already posted the evidence on my blog. I’m not sure why I would would seek to compound my labors in this way–unless Xon’s blog gains a readership greatly expanding my own. I gave this instance of “censorship” merely as an example, among others, as to the sorts of changes Xon needs to make before he will likely gain credibility as an internet judge.]
I promise before everyone here, and you may post any private e-mails between us if you want, that I will not “censor” whatever evidence you send to me. If you think it makes your case against Wilson, then I will post it.
So, there it is. You pushed your rhetorical buttons that needed to be pushed, and I’ve pushed mine. I say that I am just a concerned citizen of Reformedville who wants to see greater judiciousness in the way internet debates and charges are carried out (my actual preference would be that internet charges didn’t happen at all, but I am not the emperor). You say that I am an emotional devotee of Wilson (albeit from a distance) and that I have a strange epistemological blockage when it comes to finding fault with him. I think now we are set up nicely. Let’s rock. If you want.
[*note #2: I have had a good deal of exchange with Xon over many months off line, and I had reminded him again recently of my opinion that despite his desire to be fair, he is functionally an emotional devotee; this comment is backed by a good knowledge of Xon’s concerns about the Wood. My original position stands: Xon needs to earn his right to become an internet judge; as far as I can tell (in my humble opinion) he will not be able to convince me anytime soon he has gained a sufficient working knowledge of the craft.]
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