September 01, 2017

Movement #skepticism fail - concern-trolling, #mansplaining, #strawmanning

This is a follow-up to my earlier post about the Arkema chemical plant in Houston, because it's the events behind it.

(Update, March 12, 2018: Liberty County is now suing Arkema. Alleged are Texas Clean Air Act violations, Texas Water Code violations, Texas Health and Safety Code violations, and common law nuisances as a catch-all. The first three, generally, have an "every single day" penalty on fines. That will surely be sought against Arkema, and part of the court fight will be when the tolling dates should end.

Update, May 28, 2018: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board reports Arkema knew well in advance of Hurricane Harvey about flood risks, according to Texas Vox.)

It's partially my fault for jumping in a conversation on former Facebook friend Jeff Wagg's page. I violated a rule of mine to generally avoid making comments on pages of people who post to "public." But I did, and because I did, this isn't privileged information.

And, the long and short is, whether one says movement skepticism, scientific skepticism, or Skeptics™,  Wagg at least in the past was one. And whether he is still or not, he is other things.

Per the previous post, Wagg whipped out the word "chemophobia" about media coverage of the Arkema plant's initial explosions. It came off as knee-jerk and looking close to strawmanning, as though "the media" is made up all of Gwynneth Paltrow vagina-steamers, chemtrailers and similar.

I relatively courteously, IMO, in one comment, said, Jeff, I'm not saying you ARE strawmanning, but it looks like that. And, in hindsight, and his actions and those of a Facebook friend of his, both now blocked, I feel more comfortable in that assessment.

Jeff didn't want to read through the actual regulatory history vis-a-vis Arkema after the conversation continued. And, even after being told that I have friends who work at Houston media outlets, and him knowing that I'm in the biz myself, he chose to generally not moderate or nuance most of his follow-up comments.

I also noted that movement skepticism has had problems with libertarianism in the past, and I cited Penn and Teller on secondhand tobacco smoke.

Then, a Facebook friend of his, who used to work for the EPA, and is either clueless about Texas politics even if she is from or living now in Texas, or else is an in-the-tank winger or close to it, chimed in.

Per more detailed conversation in that previous post, she said I didn't know what I was talking about.

Then, trying to have the last word herself and accusing me of plugging my ears, she eventually said I was "mansplaining."

That normally is an automatic block on my part and it was then.

And I said I was blocking her, on that thread. Then I wrote about it in my own FB feed.

Well, Wagg followed me. I normally post to "friends of friends," but he was then still a FB friend. I'm bending my FB rules a little bit, but I won't directly quote him. Using the word, he said she was right, so I blocked him, too.

Jeff, maybe you still have guilt — conscious or not — over sexual shenanigans at the James Randi Educational Foundation when you were there. Don't pass your shit on to me, if that's the case. Oh, and even if you're not now, you were a ...

Movement skeptic.

Based on that work history.

Per your own words, including mentioning "drama and scandals," you were active with the group, including regular work with organizing "The Amazing Meeting." Per JREF web archives, you wrote a lot.

This probably isn't your first pseudskepticism, though. You were probably among the last-ditch defenders of Brian Dunning. And you may have overlooked the truth about Jose Alvarez / Deyvi Peña long after an actual skeptic would have admitted reality. (The truth being that Randi knew about Peña traveling on a fraudulent passport long before this conviction, and may well have known the identity theft involved to get said passport, also before Peña's conviction.) 

(I've written some about Peña and a LOT about Dunning. I don't know what Wagg's stance was early in Dunning's criminal process, but I know a lot of movement skeptics rallied around Sharon Hill when she started cutting him blank checks. And, anybody who was a semi-insider at JREF for any time, unless they were sniffing the "founder's syndrome" glue, should have known more about Jose / Devyi / "Carlos.")

That said, in what Wagg either might have known or didn't want to admit, or else didn't want to look at very closely, he was far from alone within the Skeptics™ world. And, yes, the link is Daily Grail, and deliberately so. It's called "tribalism."

Anyway, even if you have no residual guilt about "scandals and drama," your "mansplaining" was intended as an insult. It of course is not; it's a laugh.

And, if you'd exercised more actual skepticism on some of these areas, maybe we wouldn't have gotten to this point — including me adding "concern-trolling" to the header as I finished this piece out.

And, Jeff, if you really ARE worried about "the media," you would, like me, start by worrying about all the "Putin did it" bullshit.

And, speaking of being skeptical, Jeff?

Here's the background on the person who first accused me of mansplaining:

Naomi Baker talked on Facebook about how she worked WITH the EPA. Very true. She worked WITH it, she didn't work FOR it. Her LinkedIn profile says she's worked TWENTY YEARS in the energy industry. And is in Houston right now for a natural-gas processing company, one that works with dirty sour gas as part of their work, apparently. Before that? Dirty oil pipeline company ENBRIDGE!

She VERY carefully said on Facebook that she'd never worked in the "chemical industry" or, IIRC, a "refinery." Very nice. Or "nice." And said this throughout a LONG Facebook thread.

And, Saturday afternoon, the AP reported it had visited a bunch of Houston-area Superfund sites — on the ground or water by the ground, NOT just "visiting" by air — that the EPA claimed were inaccessible.

If only Ms. Baker, in her working "with" the EPA, could tell me what's hindering the EPA, I would be so enlightened! 

If only Mr. Wagg, in his oh-so-diligent concern-trolling the media, would make sure the AP wasn't committing chemophobia, we'd all be so blessed!

And, this also pertains to movement skepticism. She was a Randi Foundation volunteer and is listed as a co-founder of Greater Houston Skeptics.

Given that she has extensive volunteer time with JREF, I'm sure that Jeff knows her in meatspace, not just Facebook. He therefore knew just how carefully she was parsing her language on his Facebook post about Arkema.

Therefore, as I see it, and as I think any reasonable person approaching from the outside would, I think he's as guilty of intellectual dishonesty in general on this issue as she is.

And, per Ms. Baker, if somebody's going to report my post to Facebook where I posted her LinkedIn profile, well, I can report being accused of "mansplaining" as harassment.

(Slight sidebar to friend Brains: This is why, although I acknowledge that social justice is an issue, and needs a fight, that I am not as kindly disposed as you are toward stereotypical "social justice warriors." This is not the first time I've experienced in person the "mansplaining" epithet as an attempt to shut down my conversation.)


Basically, "mansplaining" has gone beyond been taken beyond being, at least in part, an accurate descriptive of behavior to being a deliberate pejorative and a conversation ender. And, from that, many of the other "-splaining" gerunds and "-splainer" nouns were started as that.

There are those of us who are left-liberal, even leftist, who are repelled by such tactics even in the abstract, let alone when they're applied to us personally.


Update, Sept. 14: More dead horse to flog! Valero now admits, even per the currently toothless EPA, that it "seriously underestimated" (i.e., apparently lied about) how much benzene, a known carcinogen, and other volatile compounds escaped from its Houston refinery.

Update, Nov. 17: Harris County is now suing Arkema.

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