It’s not often that I fully agree with something that Anthony Watts says, but sometimes it does happen. This time it’s about how you approach those that you are critical about.
One of the things people notice about me is that I focus on the arguments that someone presents and not the person; also known as playing the ball not the man. Of course I’m not perfect but I do make an effort to stay civil in what I write and I expect the same from visitors on my website who leave a comment.
Experience has taught me that not being civil almost always derails any rational exchanges. It can easily result in polarizing both sides more, and can have real negative consequences for readers of your website accepting valid science. When communicating science language matters more than you think.
That’s why I fully agree with Watts saying “when you resort to name calling, you’ve lost the argument” (archived here):
However, though I might agree with this statement it doesn’t mean I don’t have an issue with Watts saying this.
He’s often extremely uncivil in his language towards opponents and can be very nasty towards them. I talked about a few mild examples of this type of behaviour in my blog post ‘The 97% Climate Science Consensus Reality‘. The worst behaviour he displayed there was making a false accusation and dragging in something that was completely irrelevant in an attempt to make John Cook look bad.
Same goes for the guest blog posts he allows on Watts Up With That (WUWT), one of the more egregious examples I talked about in my blog post ‘97% Climate consensus ‘denial’: the debunkers again not debunked‘. In it I talk about a guest blog post written by Christopher Monckton where he constantly calls everyone that worked on the Cook et al. paper “zit-faces”, “tiddlers”, “teenies”, and “tiny tots”, basically calling them children at every opportunity. Or changing the names of scientists to call them “Doorstop” (Doran), Zimmerframe (Zimmerman), and Scrambledegg (Anderegg).
The comment sections on WUWT are also not a very pleasant place to spend your time. The comments you see there can get very nasty, and moderation isn’t exactly fair towards those that are critical about content on WUWT (there’s a very obvious double standard on how civil you need to be).
This is why Watts has no right to demand that others be civil towards him when he doesn’t take the effort to keep the discourse on his blog civil.