6 Apr 2009

Effective moderation, anonymity and the "good faith" fallacy

Let's make this clear and concise. Contrary to dismayingly popular belief, "good faith" is not a logical principle whatsoever. The tip-off is the two completely subjective words that this obnoxious term is composed of: "good" and "faith".

First, what is "good"? We learn thoroughly from a proper knowledge of history and world issues that this question is silly because it can be different from culture to culture and period to period. It was okay to burn women accused of witchcraft once. Now, not so much. In Canada, we support the rights of women to vote and own property. In Afghanistan, not so much. No matter how conscientious and seemingly well-argued one's opinion of what is good, there will always be another who will oppose it with a differing point of view. So as practitioners of logic, it's pointless for us to dwell on what is "good" or "evil" since these are terms with more interpretations than there are people in the world, causing an unhealthy "infinite loop" in reasoning.

Then there is the term "faith". I don't have faith. I never will. I don't intend to (re)start either. During my childhood, I was indoctrinated to believe by my well-meaning fundamentalist parents that the earth could only be 6000 years, no matter what the purportedly evil scientific evidence, and that evolution was an intentful academic conspiracy meant to undermine the faithful worship of God. I just had to have faith to suspend all logic just waiting to bubble up from my severly oppressed brain. Been there, done that, never ever again. Like the term "good", there are more belief systems than the stars in the sky. "Faith" should never be uttered in logical, objective discussion and yet far too often it is by not just the woefully uneducated but even by persons with university degrees!

Now, if both "good" and "faith" are such irrational and meaningless terms, what then of the combined term "good faith" which is supposed to simply mean "compliance with standards of decency and honesty" (cf. Answers.com: good faith)... and which is in itself clearly another subjective term. The term usually ends up being redefined as a philosophy of belief that one should always **assume** that a person's intent is **good** unless **shown otherwise**. Three logical issues here involve idle assumption, the imposition of a subjective term "good", and the matter of when if ever it can be convincingly "shown otherwise" that a person's intent is "un-good". Rational-minded people will see the dilemma immediately in this nonsense since, if we cannot logically define what is "good", we will never be able to define what is "un-good" or "bad". Therefore, good faith is nothing more than a covert carte blanche for trolls to castrate all reasoning from mature communication and snuff out any flames of constructivity. As long as good faith is allowed to dictate, there are no limits to stupidity or maliciousness, both of which have the exact same deleterious effect anyways despite the common false dilemma.

If a blogger or forum moderator is mature and sensible enough, (s)he will recognize that logical debate must be governed by nothing else than logic itself, not something as puerile as good faith, blind faith or any other senseless kind of faith. When done unslothfully, negative elements despite the cowardly anonymity of the speaker can be sussed out of a debating group immediately, even before the potentially harmful comments are posted, by the consistency of their dyslogical statements that regularly employ any number of the well-known logical fallacies long ago exposed. No more idée-fixes or beating dead horses with circular arguments because we can gauge the presence of logic by logical means. This "pruning" by the blogger or forum moderator is not to be done out of emotion, as is far too often done, but only by conscious logical assessment. While it may seem "mean" to bleeding hearts, the result is that not only will angry trolls be silenced, but also silly children who have little yet to offer a mature debate in their forgivable ignorance, and the hopelessly insane who can never be reasoned with no matter what incontrovertible fact is presented. Alas, the effectiveness of one's moderation is fully incumbent on one's comprehension of logic, something which is not intuitive for most.

I believe that once we get active and take the extra effort to properly moderate the websites we go to the bother of creating and advertising in the first place, such websites will become a breath of fresh air in contrast to the immaturity of the surrounding internet where the one with the biggest mouth and smallest brain wins. I can only suspect that good faith has been so popularized as it has because of confused religious zealots who sincerely take great strides in believing that all people are somehow constructive and "good" despite all the facts otherwise, and the tragically lazy who can't be bothered to own up to their own online commitments at the expense of their readership.

And now for something more amusing...

Interesting quotes on the abuses of the "good faith" mantra
(and consequently why I don't respect it)

"The rule itself means that you are to... almost literally, take a lawn-mower to your brain. You are to assume that every edit by every user is done with the best interests of Wikipedia and 'truth' at heart. Each edit is to be assumed as though the editor is free from bias and that the edit is designed to advance the concept of learning and knowledge and all these fluffy flowery things that we SHOULD all value. This rule itself, however, shelters trolls and those who come with a point of view they wish to propagandize."
The Evil Vigilante, Musings on why Wikipedia fails (July 2007)

"Since the High Court overruled the General Medical Council and reinstated Professor Sir Roy Meadow it has been 12 days and counting. Yet the implications have not yet been fully understood. You can get away with being wrong, the judgment seems to say, as long as you were wrong in good faith. You should not be disciplined by your professional body, even if that body deems that you have broken its rules."

Times Online, In good faith? A bad excuse (March 2006)

"In other words, would any solitary human worthy of the name be recreationally cruel to a sick or weak person when he stood to gain nothing?"

"Internet trolls regularly tread on gouty toes. They trick vulnerable people with whom they have no quarrel; they upset those people; they humiliate them; they break their hearts; they mess with them. They do it for something Hume didn’t perfectly name: the lulz — the spiteful high."

"The troll behaviors that are classic on the Internet are actually more readily and narrowly defined — deliberately inciting hatred repeatedly so as to disrupt and annoy. It’s an absence of good faith; it’s opposition-defiance disorder sort of behaviour constantly challenging the rules just for the sake of challenging them, not for the higher cause of establishing the truth, or advocating a sincerely-held point of view."
The Medium, Trolling for Ethics: Mattathias Schwartz’s Awesome Piece on Internet Poltergeists (July 2008)

Now, after proving how inanely subjective the term is and the problems that it condones or even causes, who in their right mind would still utter the phrase "good faith"? Quite frankly no one. Only mentally lazy individuals (aka "troll enablers") or bona fide trolls, neither of which are of much use to academic debate or society. Stay true, fellow logicians.


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