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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I left New APPS when a blog post of mine was taken down without my consent.

[Update: The post was restored the next morning]

Here is the post, if anyone is interested:

24 March 2014

Rutgers student engages in trolling and sexist behavior

Rutgers is one of my favorite departments in the world. I admire and respect the faculty there. Many people there are my very dear friends. But not all students, or friends of students, at Rutgers respect women. I wrote a blog post about trolling yesterday. It turned out that I was being trolled as well.
"Highly Adequate" "Tara Nelson" and "JW Showalter" have all posted from the same Rutgers [or East Brunswick] IP address. So has “Suzanne Southam.” [update: we have no info on "Highly Adequate's" IP address.] So, "Tara Nelson” may not be "JWShowalter." But it looks like "Tara Nelson" is "Highly Adequate." [update: or, at least wanted to draw attention to him.]"Highly Adequate" is probably a fellow Rutgers student of “JW Showalter,” if not "JW Showalter" himself. Alternatively, there is a small team of trolls working closely together from the same IP address.
Also, notice that "Highly Adequate" abbreviates "HA." That has a particular meaning, which I won't repeat here. I think everyone in philosophy will know what this might refer to.
So, please fellow bloggers in the blogosphere ignore the comments that this or these students are making. They are trolling you. They are trolling me. They are potentially dangerous. They are potentially psychotic or psychopathic.


Rachel said...
"They are potentially psychotic or psychopathic."
Come on. That's totally ableist.
John Turri said...
Hi Brit,
Very unfortunate about the dismal trolling you note. We definitely should not tolerate that.
Real quickly, I haven't read the posts/comments you linked to, so perhaps there is further evidence to be had there. But, for people who don't wan't to experience the painful trolling for themselves, could you please say what the evidence is that one or more Rutgers graduate students, specifically, are responsible for the activity from this IP address? Did he/she/they say that they were (philosophy?) graduate students?
PS: Incidentally, doesn't "Tara Nelson" abbreviate "TN"?
Taylor Murphy said...
I think "Highly Adequate" and JW Showalter are different people. See e.g., the exchange linked below, with JWS telling HA that Cordelia Fine responds to HAs objections in her Delusions of Gender book. Just posting this because JWS is presumably the only non-anonymous named person, and given the linked exchange, probably shouldn't be associated with HA's views or behavior.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to John Turri...
Thank you for catching that!
The evidence is complex. They know a lot about philosophy. They are students. They [update, 2:30 pm: "Showalter" and "Nelson"; we have no info on "Highly Adequate's" IP] have Rutgers IP addresses (the same one). "Highly Adequate" abbreviates "HA," which refers to a certain accuser.
"Tara Nelson" has the email address of T Nelson Downs--an obscure historical figure:
"JW Showalter" is also the name of an obscure historical figure:
We don’t know for sure whether Nelson = Showalter = “Highly Adequate.”
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Rachel...
It's a diagnostic guess. The illnesses are so-called.
John Collins said...
Why do you think they are students, rather than professors?
Also, why would someone espousing anti-feminist views give himself/herself the initials of an accuser? (I'm assuming you mean someone who has made accusations of some kind of inappropriate sexual behavior. I don't know the names of any recent accusers.)
Former Leeds Graduate Student, Somewhat Precariously Employed said...
I Imagine you've got evidence to rule out the possibility that Rutgers grad students might share an office or Internet connection.

Justin Tiehen said...
Hi Brit,
Your link to yesterday's blog post about trolling is broken, I believe. (I think the problem is that it includes the "" portion of the address twice.)
Tara Nelson said...
Hello, Berit.
Just to clarify: I am non-identical with the other people you mention, and am not and have never been a Rutgers student. I am not sexist or 'trolling'. I live out of state, though I am briefly visiting New Jersey this week.
I completely disagree with everything HA (at Laughing Philosopher) says, and I don't know how to make that clearer.
Perhaps some of the other people behind the other names you mention are identical with one another. It sounds as though you have narrowed that person or persons down to people at or visiting Rutgers, whether staff, faculty, grads, undergrads, or guests, or people living in the area getting their internet service through Rutgers. As I'm sure you know, the firewalls behind which users operate at large institutions tend to assign everyone the same or similar IP addresses.
Again: I am the farthest thing in the world from a sexist or an essentialist sexist. I wrote specifically to look for resources to use against an essentialist sexist. I think I made that very clear. That is not 'trolling' but a sincere and well-motivated request.
Thank you,
Rachel said...
If it's a diagnostic guess, then that counts as possibly defamatory, and it's the same crap that people are criticizing Leiter for having done to me. So perhaps we shouldn't do it to others.
It's perhaps interesting, but certainly troubling, that you're a strong proponent of the ableism behind "blind" (e.g., "blind refereeing") but fine with the ableism of "psychopathic."
Rachel said...
Also, could you perhaps point to where "Psychopath" as a diagnosis (you say "illness") is in either the DSM (IV or V) or the ICD?
I wasn't aware there was any such illness "so-called."
Alexis Shotwell said...
Hi Berit,
Just to amplify what I take Rachel to be saying - you're using terms that designate mental illness in derogatory ways - or, anyhow, equating being "psycho" with being dangerous, trolling, etc. That's the ableist part of the post (and unfortunate, since you're linking in the linked post to productive discussions about disability!)

Graduate Student said...
I'm probably in the minority, but I found the suggestion of mental illness very off-putting.
(And this was before the correction. Surely if we are going to make conjectures about the health lives of our students, we should do so on pretty damn good evidence.)
Berit Brogaard said in reply to John Collins...
"HA" is an accuser. Trolls work in mysterious ways. But this is one of them.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Rachel...
I recall that you used the word "blind" in a reply to me. I pointed out that it was ableist language. You said that that's what the phenomenon is called.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Alexis Shotwell...
No, I meant it literally. Many trolls are mentally ill.
Rachel said...
I believe that was in discussing what's known in multiple literatures as the implicit bias blindspot (which Helen De Cruz has usefully written about in a NewAPPS post here:
But is that your defense for using ableist language, that I've used "blind" in talking about the bias blindspot? If so, it sounds like your defense of, say, punching someone is that, well, the person accusing you of punching someone has themselves once punched another person. That's not a very good defense.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Berit Brogaard...
I thought your reply was odd, given that you are not exactly helping us fight ableism.
Rachel said in reply to Berit Brogaard...
Interesting. Do you have a psychology or psychiatry degree? Are you qualified to make such diagnoses?
And again, on what basis are you making these diagnoses? Are you using the DSM or ICD? Which version?
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Rachel...
Yes, in fact I do. That was my first degree.
The comment section following this blog post (which I wrote) may help you out:
Rachel said...
Ah, so by a couple internet comments, you've diagnosed this person (or these people) as having…wait, what ICD or DSM diagnosis, exactly? I don't see any mental illness labeled "Psychopath."
You think that's responsible?
Rachel said...
Hmm. I think you're trolling if you literally meant that they're a psychopath.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Rachel...
It's not my job to teach you clinical psychology. Furthermore, taking over the thread and focusing on a different topic, like you are now doing, is a form of trolling.
Neil said...
Most psychiatrists think that psychopathy overlaps considerably with what the DSM calls anti-social personality disorder. Many think that it is a proper set of the latter. Few researchers use ASPD as a category, holding that psychopathy is closer to a natural kind than ASPD. If ASPD is a mental illness, then psychopathy is (I'm not sure I would accept the antecedent).
There is evidence that trolls exhibit psychopathic traits Psychopathy is dimensional: probably some would exceed the cut off score for a diagnosis. That score is rather arbitrary, fwiw.
See, for instance, here:
Rachel said...
Yes, Neil, I'm very well aware of this. I was poking Berit because she seems determined to double (and even triple) down on her ableist use of "psychopath" to describe internet trolling. Her doing that is ableist, and she hasn't addressed that point one bit. She's derailed the point by attacking me.
Berit Brogaard said...
Here is my comment from the comment section I linked to above:
"ASPD, Psychopathy and Sociopathy
Submitted by Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D on December 22, 2012 - 5:52am.
In the old version of DSM (DSM-IV) the ten personality disorders are divided into three clusters. A: Unusual behavior. B: Dramatic behavior. C. Neurotic behavior. Cluster B includes narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. The latter (ASPD) can (allegedly) be socially based or psychologically based. We sometimes call the first type of disorder "sociopath" and the second type "psychopath."
There has been a lot of criticism of the distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy, because the words indicate that we actually know what grounds ASPD in the first place, which we don't. Personally I prefer to use 'psychopathy' and 'ASPD' synonymously because even if a mental disorder is socially or environmentally based, it is still manifested psychologically.
Though it's somewhat controversial I personally believe most personality disorders and other mental disorders are spectrum disorders. It makes sense to me to talk about degrees of narcissism, for example.
I hold the same view with respect to attachment styles. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you will fall somewhere on the spectrum, which means that you may be very avoidant or a little avoidant or somewhere in between. Likewise, there probably would be very few people who have a secure attachment style in all circumstances, unless we allow for some variation in security.
I also personally believe many people who satisfy the diagnostic features for one personality disorder also satisfy the features for some of the other personality disorders in the same cluster. In fact, this was one of the problems the committee working on DSM-V hoped to solve. Whether they have solved it or not is debatable."
Jon Cogburn said in reply to Rachel...
I'm not getting this.
How is "psychopath" ableist? I know that the DSM are sticking with "Anti-Social Personality Disorder," but there's an overwhelming amount of experimental work that shows they dropped the ball on this one (as well as so much else). Please see the literature over view in Ken Levy's excellent recent law piece: . Or see Denham's excellent “Psychopathy, Empathy & Moral Motivation” in J. Broakes (ed.) Iris Murdoch, Philosopher: A Collection of Essays (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Psychopaths systematically lack the ability to automatically feel empathy. They tend to have a lot of traits in common with people who have clinical levels of narcissim or borderline personality disorder, but one can have these things while still having the ability to automatically feel empathy.
There's tons of excellent research on psychopathy. For example they process sentences that reference abstractions slighlty slower, tend to miss the valence of metaphors (even while having no processing problems with the interpretation of the metaphors). They understand why a person gets angry when they hurt that person but can hardly even convincingly fake understanding about why someone gets mad on someone else's behalf. It is the latter data that makes psychopaths so important in law, because it's not clear that they really understand our laws (Levy argues that they understand contracts and so thus can be legally even if not morally liable).
I guarantee you that use of the word "psychopath" as a pejorative term for people who genuinely can't automatically feel empathy is not going to cause them any emotional pain. Psychopaths really, really, really don't care what you think.
Another thing wrong with ableism is that it sets up unreasonable standards. But people *should* be expected to manifest basic empathy of the sort that seems very foreign to the owner of the sock puppets who has ruined so much discussion on (by my count) five well-read philosophy blogs now.
The person involved with the sock puppetry *should* be ashamed for violating the autonomy of the rest of the philosophical community. He should be ashamed that in part because of him all of the well read blogs are censoring far more anonymous comments because we're worried about trolling ruining yet more conversations. If he actually feels shame for coming across as completely unempathic to the rest of us in his puppetry and his obsessive defense of male privilege (as well as how he treats interlocutors) fine. He should be ashamed and try do better.
Again, if he really is a psychopath, then he won't feel any shame. But I can't see what the problem is in either case.
There are deep issues here around the manner in which psychological terms are both normative and descriptive in a weird virtue-theoretic way. This is in part why the theory of personality disorders is such a mess. People are so endlessly creative at discovering different ways of making a hash out of their own lives that psychologists just can't come up with compelling natural kinds. If psychologists realized that what they were doing was normative maybe they'd have a little more humility here (actually they do realize this, but they are very aware that insurance companies use the DSM so they try to write the thing so that the most insured people who need help can get it). But it would be the height of folly to use the fact that psychologists and insurance companies have medicalized these things to refrain from engaging in normative assessment about manifestations of the relevant caricature traits. I think this is the upshot of a lot of Foucault and Hacking, though experts can correct me.
We don't want to say it's ableist whenever we criticize crappy and/or frightening behavior. Among other things, this is an insult to the vast majority of disabled people who are neither more nor less crappy as human beings than everybody else.
For anyone reading this, if I'm being particularly obtuse please direct the corrections at me, and not Berit. If what I wrote is anger inducing, please feel free to express that but don't make assumptions about my own status as abled or otherwise (for that matter God knows that life is impossible for every sentient creature, even the laughing philosopher person so bizarrely obsessed with maintaining male privilege in all things relating to academic philosophy).
RM said...
This has what it has come to. Publicly making wildly speculative denunciatory assertions based on ... possible connections to IP addresses.
Truly infantile. Hope for progress has effectively been dashed.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to RM...
Rutgers is currently tracking them down and will dispel them from the program, as they are ruining all the progress Rutgers has made on the gender front.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Tara Nelson...
Hello Tara,
I am pleased to hear that you are merely visiting Rutgers because it would be terrible if you were actually a grad student there, given your apparent affiliation with the "two" other trolls.
If you truly are a visiting student who accidentally used the computers or IPads/IPhones of trolls, please send me an email with your real name and affiliation, and I will clear you "name" after some investigation.
I am very familiar with IP addresses. Thank you.
Wow said...
@29: so this is what it's come to? Threats of being "dispelled" (I hope this is a joke, actually) and claims that people are dangerous and psychotic? It's impressive that you (BB) are so confident of your judgements about whether people are actually stating their opinion as opposed to trolling that you are willing to say things like this publicly. I personally find your behavior here much more shameful than theirs, though I'm sure you must disagree.
All in all, this whole thing has degenerated amazingly. Speaking as a non-philosopher, I can attest to the fact that people in neighboring disciplines are not impressed with the whole elementary school squabble thing.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Wow...
Did you really think that sanctions are imposed only on faculty members? As a graduate student, you are employed by the university and have to abide by the same rules.
Grad Student said in reply to Wow...
I don't see the material importance of whether the comments and posts in question are someone's actual opinion or products of trolling.
Berit Brogaard said...
At this point no more anonymous comments will be approved. Only comments that are attached to real names and real email addresses will be approved.
Berit Brogaard said...
You will need to provide a real first and a real last name and a real email address, otherwise I will not approve your comment. Please resubmit if you did not already do that.
Berit Brogaard said...
Also, I will not approve any abusive comments.
Berit Brogaard said...
Sorry, I will not approve the comments of boyfriends or girlfriends on behalf of their partners.
Berit Brogaard said...
Reply to anonymous (whose comment wasn't published): Yes, sexual discrimination and trolling on blogs or elsewhere in public could be grounds for dismissal, not least at an elite program. This also applies to Colorado (@ Colorado troll).
Matt Drabek said...
I'm sorry, Berit. You have my sympathy for being trolled, but you completely lost me at the point of tattling to Rutgers and threatening to have the student expelled from the program. You're using your position as a tenured professor to bully a grad student, and that's shameful.
Jon Cogburn said in reply to Wow...
I don't mean to be speaking for Berit (or any of the other members of Newapps, just as Berit is not speaking for them or me), but let me note that "Showalter" has dishonestly pretended to be different people dozens of times over the last few months here, at Leiter Reports, at Philosophers Anonymous, at Philosophy Smoker, and (if I remember right) at Feminist Philosophers (certainly among other blogs I don't follow) to: (a) completely derail conversations, (b) try to drive traffic to his laughing philosopher blog, and (c) get people angry who care about the problem of male privilege in philosophy.
This person successfully misled Berit about his identity to draw attention to yet another rebarbative post attacking people who are trying to do something about sexual harassment in philosophy (this time the Executive Director of the APA).
Don't you think she has a right to be angry? Don't you think the people at Rutgers should try to get this person to cut it out?
Unless you run a blog, you have no idea how much extra work this person is causing anyone who wants to have a blog with open communication and consequently what an impediment to free unrestrained speech his behavior is.
Berit Brogaard said in reply to Matt Drabek...
That's ridiculous. I am not a faculty member or administrator at Rutgers. I do not control who is dismissed from programs I am not in. But the actions we have talked about could be grounds for dismissal, if not from the university then from the department. Certainly, if any grad student in my current program behaved like this, they would be dismissed from our graduate program.
Berit Brogaard said...
As a friend of mine pointed out, we must leave open the possibility that a student from a different department is posing as a Rutgers student. My friend sent me this quote from an article about how to fake IP addresses:
"And as this article is being written (at a local coffee shop), the geo-locator says I'm near Wichita, Kansas, when I'm in fact smelling the breezes off the Pacific Ocean between San Diego and Los Angeles. (If you go to our Hide IP address page you'll find out how that can happen.)
Still, even when not pinpoint accurate, geolocation usually puts a computer user in a nearby town or area, which may be good enough for the person who wants to know where the curious email they received was really sent from. Check out Trace Email."
Berit Brogaard said...
Several of you keep inventing names and emails. Your comments will not be published.
Berit Brogaard said...
As I am checking your email addresses I keep getting this kind of message:
"Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
Technical details of permanent failure:
The email account that you tried to reach does not exist"
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