MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

A PROVOCATION is an action or speech that makes someone annoyed or angry, especially deliberately. In law, provocation is when a person is considered to have committed an act partly because of a preceding set of events that might cause a reasonable person to lose self-control.

An INSULT is an expression, statement, or behavior which is disrespectful or scornful. Insults may be intentional or accidental. An insult may be factual, but at the same time pejorative.

An AD HOMINEM ATTACK is an attack on the character of a person who tends to feel the necessity to defend himself or herself from the accusation.

Despite all my attempts to keep the exchanges on this blog reasonably polite, civil, and respectful, I seem to have been less than successful. This, of course, is not least my fault. I am as prone to lose my temper as anyone else, and I admit that, after decades of discussing with irrational people, my patience wears thin.

What should we do about it?

To start with, we need to understand what typically happens. In most cases, things start with a provocation. Let’s consider a recent example. As a response to my perfectly non-provocative post entitled A LOOK AT MY OWN PUBLICATIONS, I got this response:

“Surprisingly, not many of these papers are in the ‘top 100’. I am not sure whether this is meaningful and if so how I should interpret this.”

Perhaps your fame was overshadowed after Hahn showed that you manipulate data and now you are taken seriously into account only by foreign lobbies (such as the “Questao da Ciencia Institute”) and German lobby that you run from your country. It’s normal, Ernst, it’s not surprising that your colleague Natalia Pasternak pathetically cites your book in her article to justify the elimination of homeopathy in Brazil.

As we had discussed Robert Hahn’s misunderstanding of my research several times previously on this blog, my response was to simply post one of the posts that had dealt with the issue. The comment that followed was even more insulting than his previous one. My reaction was to ban the author.

This course of events is fairly typical. Normally, the sequence is as follows:

  1. I (or someone else) post something that displeases a reader.
  2. He responds with a provocation.
  3. I give him back accordingly.
  4. Things escalate until he posts one or more full-blown insults or ad hominem attacks.
  5. Eventually, I ban the author.

I wonder how these unpleasantries might be avoided.

  1. I could phrase my posts in a way that is less provocative to fans of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). I have often considered doing this. So far, I have mostly decided against it, because I feel a certain amount of provocation is healthy and needed to stimulate discussions. If I changed my style, it would be at the cost of the interest this blog often attracts.
  2. I could refuse to give back in the same coinage as I receive. This is precisely what I very often try. Yet, sometimes I fail. Sorry!
  3. I could be much stricter and ban people at the first signs of misbehavior. This, I fear, would take much of the spice and excitement out of our discussions and reduce the entertainment value of my blog.
[The points above apply, of course, also for everyone else who comments on this blog]

There is no easy solution, as far as I can see.

For the time being, I will try harder to be polite and civil, and I do beg all of my readers to do the same. Other than this, there is not much that I will change. Oh, I almost forgot: there is also this previous post of mine which I usually send to people who, in my view, have overstepped the mark. It might serve as a caution that I am considering banning that person if things don’t improve.

Bottom line: thanks everyone for your efforts to control your aggressions!

 

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