most condescending and loathsome email I’ve ever gotten

I’m on a mailing list where we discuss the use of wikis as a substitute for political reporting. Somehow the discussion turned to abortion, with Ken Mehlman and Randall Terry cc’d. [What a pair of winners there.] I tried to cut it off, with a simple:

Can we *please* not waste everyone’s time with an abortion discussion?
Have it in the wiki, or better yet, have it in private email and don’t
waste anyone’s public bandwidth on it.


The ever charming response from the person who started the discussion, apparently a chaplain with the military (don’t get me started on how wrong I think that is):

Sir, If protecting the lives of babies is wasted time, then I will pray for you. Surprisingly, the official platform of the Republican Party has been pro-life for decades with former President Ronald Reagan and current President George W. Bush being staunch advocates for protecting the lives of babies. I’ll be sure to let the President know that you think that the Republican Party has wasted your time wanting to protect the lives of babies, in accord with 1600 years of Western legal precedent . . .


Rob J. King, Republican

He’ll tell the President. I’m sure that’ll fix me up good!

Ugh. I do want to engage the people I disagree with politically, but there comes a point when the discourse boils down to fundamental religious/faith-based disagreement- no amount of saying ‘please keep the state out of my womb’ is going to convince this guy, so… Better things to do with my time, I guess. Sadly, of course, he doesn’t see this as a choice I have- I’ve gotten on a mailing list with him (or one he’s found out about) so now I’m going to be subjected to it until we all get bored and ban him.

[Edit later: I appear to have gotten across my point that this list is not the right place for it, so he’s moved away from the issue. Someone else threatened to report me to the Pope, though. ;)]

20 thoughts on “most condescending and loathsome email I’ve ever gotten”

  1. 94. “But I did not get my picture of the world by satisfying myself of its correctness; nor do I have it because I am satisfied of its correctness. No: it is the inherited background against which I distinguish between true and false.”

    Ludwig Wittgenstein – On Certainty

  2. I disagree that any such argument *must* boil down to a religious/faith-based disagreement. One could make a credible libertarian argument against abortion based on the fetus’ rights. Or an argument based on the state’s interest in the life of the fetus (see also: Roe v. Wade’s “trimesters”, especially regarding third-trimester abortion and the state’s expressed interests therein). Or etc.

    You’re unlikely to get these sorts of arguments from a Republican military chaplain, though, and there’s little point arguing secular theories against faith-based ones. You might want to point out to him that prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion wasn’t considered a major offense, and that the Catholic Church’s doctrines have long considered abortion a “lesser sin” than homicide.

  3. I find it really hard to deal with people who believe in something so strongly that they are blind to not just basic courtesy but to how much their beliefs are turning people off instead of convincing them. I have to think they aren’t really trying to convince you.

    My recent worst encounter with someone of this type was on a flight to Europe when I was six months pregnant – this seemingly very nice man sitting across from me asked if “I was going to go through with it.” What kind of question was that?? (And who has an abortion at six months?? Believe me, if you didn’t want the baby, you wouldn’t stay pregnant for six months. Being pregnant isn’t fun. Especially on an airplane when your feet are swelling up.) That was the first time in my life that I truely was “struck dumb.”

    Anyway, my argument for ending the abortion debate is that nobody wants an abortion so let’s use our energy to figure out how to keep people from reaching the point where they are considering one.

  4. – I don’t understand how a discourse on this topic is a “waste of public bandwidth”.
    – I realize you would rather talk about your non-existent womb and believe, falsely, how you have a choice to make about carrying a child, but what about the baby’s choice to live?
    – Nice to see that you might ban someone from a mailing list for stating his views.

  5. John, you might want to read my response to Mr. King when he said basically exactly the same thing. Lets be very clear: I don’t really care what the content was (though I disagree vehemently with it), it was off-topic for the list, and starting a flamewar about something that is off-topic (and spending the time to insinuate that I’d be reported to the authorities along the way) is indeed a waste of bandwidth.

  6. Is it not ironic that Mr. Villa’s comments are picked up by aggregators like Planet GNOME? Clearly Mr. Villa is as far off-topic as Mr. King in this context. Of course, everyone always wants to shut people up when they disagree but rarely think about their own ridiculousness. Should those that, knowing that popular, off-topic aggregators pick up their thoughts, claim that they have a right to say whatever they want eat their words? I think so. Is Luis right to say that Mr. King is off topic? Possibly. Is Mr. Villa trying to shut up Mr. King because he disagrees? Yep.

  7. Planet is an explicitly partially social tool; I read planet to find out about the personal opinions of Real GNOME People. If you want pure GNOME development news, read desktop-devel; if you want non-development gnome news, read footnotes. I wouldn’t send something like this to either of these places, which is exactly what this gentleman did.

    So you’re failing to grasp a key nuance, but thanks for trying. [Tangentially, your attempt at discussion would be more convincing if it weren’t anonymous.]

  8. I disagree vehemently with Luis’ position (what of the rights of the baby?) but I don’t mind it being aggregated on planet gnome. Such things have come across before, including Zaheer’s opinions on Lebanon/Israel/Palestine, various Christians stating their beliefs, Manuel’s musings on the elections in Mexico and US politics, and even re-postings of sermon notes. I tend to notice an overal liberal bias in the Planet Gnome community, though. Worth thinking about.

  9. Hi Luis

    Why do you hate BABIES?
    Why do you hate GOD?

    Ha ha, just kidding. Look, I think your mistake was in using judgmental language in your posting (“waste”) and you just got slapped back by this chaplain with his own judgmental language. The merits of your side are just as irrelevant as the merits of his side. You were rude, he was rude back. Case closed. Let me be a preachy bastard for a second here and say you really got to pick up on this if you want to be a good lawyer. The best lawyers use interest-based negotiation to get win-win agreements. You will deal with people that don’t share your view point and you will need to get deals done. All of my mistakes in the legal field centred on my being angry that someone else couldn’t see I was “right.” You compounded your error with the title of your blog posting (“loathsome and condescending email”)

  10. Joseph: at least in the US, there would be a strong correlation between the desire to share code and being more politically liberal.

    nobody: The topic of the blog post, of course, is distinct from the contents of the posting to the list. With regards to waste, though you’re right; I should have used language more like that which I used in the followup (linked above), though overall, I mostly stand by waste- it was turning into a proto-flamewar, which is a waste of everyone’s time and has never, ever led to anyone saying ‘you’re right, abortion is ______’.

    To underscore my point, while the discussion was starting, three people emailed the list saying ‘please unsubscribe me’, so I firmly stand behind my move to focus the conversation on the topic at hand.

  11. Luis: Yes, I would agree with that assessment. Hence, planet gnome will generally be liberally biased. One must merely be cognizant of this fact.

  12. The idea of a wiki reporting on politics gives me a migrane.

    At least they’re not playing tag on the playground (if you saw my post from CNN you’ll understand)

  13. Mike: I think if you have the right policies in place, you can use a wiki to try to get to an ‘agree to disagree’ point. The actual name of the wiki is the campaigns wiki– the goal is not ‘reach political conclusions’ (i.e., we’re not going to settle the abortion debate in the wiki either) but ‘document what candidates think’. So in the wiki, this guy could go write about every pro-choice candidate ‘I will pray for him’, and people on the other side would be welcome to write ‘I will vote for him’, or what have you. I agree completely that if the wiki turns into ‘we’re going to argue about abortion’, it will fail.

  14. A baby on a ventilator just died after a power outage. If we hadn’t had this discussion, and instead saved the electrons, he might have lived.

  15. […] Some people were apparently offended by my post a couple weeks ago about being ‘prayed for’. That has bothered me a bit, and I want to take an opportunity to clarify that. I’m not anti-Jesus and I’m not anti-Christian, I’m just anti-assholes-in-the-name-of-Jesus. But I’m not eloquent, and didn’t convey that in my post. In contrast, John Scalzi is an excellent writer, and he puts it really, really well today, in a discussion about Luke 6:42 and Ted Haggard: From the outside, it looks like evangelistic core beliefs are about division, acquisition and exclusion, none of which strike me as particularly Christ-like (or for that matter particularly evangelical). I’m never going to be an evangelical Christian, but I like Jesus; he was a righteous dude. It would be nice to see more of Jesus in the loud and showy thing that is evangelical Christianity. I don’t expect it. It would still be nice to see. […]

  16. my prayer for you worked. you like Jesus now. so do I. He is a really nice guy being God-incarnate and all that. thank you for taking the time to care, you know “Hallmark Cards, most-loathsome e-mail ever received” . . . wry humor there . . . seriously, glad that you like Jesus . . . one question, why do you hate Evangelical Christians so much? I speak in tongues (Charismatic Chaplain) and so many times people hate me just for being Charismatic. Well, this is too long as it is . . . thank you for liking Jesus though . . .

  17. Luis. Hey, you are a “Dukie” . . . same here . . . Resident Advisor for the Pikas from 1994 – 1996, Area Coordinator in Residence Life from 1995 – 1997 (enforced the new alcohol policy at Duke), served on a Dean selection committee, served on Dean of the Chapel, Will Willimon’s Evaluation Committee, studied Ethics with Stanley Hauerwas (MDiv & ThM–was a BA in Religion at Davidson College, then spent 3 years studying ethics & church history in the PhD program at Notre Dame). So, looks like we are in the same “snotty, preppy good ole boys club” (went to school with Strom Thurmond, Jr at Davidson). So did you hate the Intervarsity folks at Duke as much as you hate me??? Intervarsity was basically my “enclave” community (John Inazu was my “accountability partner” prior to he becoming a JAG lawyer at the Pentagon and with me at Notre Dame). Intervarsity at Duke is basically who I am. Evangelical, oppressed by anti-Christian professors at times, but ready to defend orthodox Christianity to the point of our own martyrdom. I take it that you are main-line Protestant or something, given how much you hate we Evangelicals . . .
    Blessings in Jesus,
    CH Rob J King

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