OK I didn’t really know Socrates, but I stand by the second part of that statement.
A few weeks ago John Loftus abruptly left Free Thought Blogs, in a snit, but also in a cloud of uncertainty about exactly what caused the knot to form in his shorts. I won’t speak of things spoken amongst us bloggers in our back channel because a) I assume it to be private and b) it is not that interesting, but I will say that John appeared to be paying no attention to a conversation that was going on (two or three conversations entwined, really) then showed up and did not understand what was happening and took it personally and then stormed off and that was the last we saw of him.
Since this followed a moment in John’s life that was troubling for him, which he had blogged about, I assumed he would recover from what looked like a minor breakdown and eventually perhaps even come back to FTB.com. I still assume that is theoretically possible (the recovery part) but unfortunately his own meltdown has spread to catch a couple of bridges on fire and I don’t think he’ll be welcome back.
Prior my own involvement with FTB.com, I knew nothing of John Loftus. I’m not all that involved with the stuff he writes and talks about. I’m an atheist and an activist, but I’m not an atheist-activist. Other people do that and I step aside because they are so good at it (over half the people on this network could probably be thought of as specialists in that area). So me not having heard of John Loftus doesn’t mean a thing about him. Only now am I really paying attention to what he is saying, since it is sort of in my face, and I have a hard time believing that he was even invited to be part of this network to begin with.
I suppose this is what happens when a person is asked to join a group because they fill some concept of “diversity” … It probably made sense to have an ex priest on a network with a lot of atheist activism.*
Anyway, John, whom I was ignoring, earned my ire when he suggested that Natalie is here on FTB.com because of some attempt to increase diversity here, and that she otherwise does not deserve to be here. I would like to disabuse John and everyone else of that notion.
I don’t think I’m violating anyone’s sense of privacy (among FTB.com bloggers) if I say the following: The conversation of who should be added to this network is an ongoing one. The conversation of diversity, in terms of topic, in terms of identity (of the bloggers), and in terms of identity of the focal audience, is an ongoing one. There was never a moment when anyone considered that Natalie should be added to this network because she would add diversity. Among professional people like us, we attempt to enhance diversity by diversifying the long list and the medium list … who we look at. But we “hire” (and nobody here is “hired” though that metaphor is often used conversationally) on the basis of quality.
As Daniel has said, and I think he is completely correct, Natalie is better than most of us! We are very lucky to have her here. (Thank you, Natalie, for joining us.)
Back at the time that John left FTB.com, it was very obvious that he was distracted, that he was not thinking clearly, that he was annoyed, and so on and so forth. He is a ship with a broken rudder, at the moment. It would have been better if he had taken a bit of time off from his public engagement and gotten his act together, but he didn’t and as a result he’s run against a rocky shore and has probably suffered too much damage to recover in the short term.
But this is the blogosphere where our memory barely stretches back to the beginning of a long blog post, so I’m sure that if John just cools it for a while, focuses on other things that won’t bring him so much shame and pain, he’ll be back with the rest of us (in spirit, not on this network) in no time.
John sees himself as like Socrates. Fine. But remember how Socrates’ blogging career ended. John has the choice of doing it differently. Nobody is making him eat a hemlock tree. All he has to do is shut up for about a month and lose what may be an incipient obsession with FTB.com and its denizens, come back and start writing about whatever he writes about.
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*Dripping sarcasm, obviously.