Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November 6th, 2014

Whenever an obviously well founded statement is made…by a person specially well acquainted with the facts, that unlucky person is instantly and frantically contradicted by all the people who obviously know nothing about it.  –  George Bernard Shaw

A few months ago a reader asked if I’d grown less patient than I used to be, and I replied that while I certainly hoped I was no less patient with good readers and people who genuinely want my help, “I’ve never been patient with fools, trolls, ninnies, sophists, fanatics and the other assorted riff-raff who attempt to lay claim to my time and energy.”  Well, I need to add one more type to that list; I’m afraid I no longer have any patience with people who refuse to understand that the plural of anecdote is not data.  Now, my forbearance for such well-meaning but ignorant folks was never exactly Penelopean to start with; even as a teenager statements like, “well, my grandpa smoked his whole life and he lived to a hundred” set my nerves on edge, and in July I published a whole column about people who think that one exception invalidates an entire rule.  But lately, I’ve found that my immediate response to comments declaring that I must be wrong about such-and-such because the commenter knows of an exception (which she then proceeds to relate without any corroboration) is to immediately trash it.

This doesn’t quite rise to the level of a new rule; one of the suggestions in “How Not To Get Your Comments Posted” was, “Pretend to be more knowledgeable in my subject than I am without offering any proof whatsoever.“  I suppose that the assertion, “my cousin’s friend is a hooker in Chicago and everybody she knows has a pimp”, doesn’t quite qualify as no proof whatsoever, but neither does it reach the level of credibility required to cause me to rethink four years of research.  No, I don’t have a PhD, nor have I done field trials in two dozen cities involving hundreds of respondents.  But you know what?  Neither have the prohibitionists.  And unlike them or some anonymous person’s cousin’s friend from Chicago, I have spoken to or corresponded with hundreds of sex workers and read dozens of methodologically-sound studies in addition to actually being a hooker for years, so please don’t think me vainglorious if I trust my own judgment over theirs.

I’m sure someone will accuse me of simply not wanting to be challenged; please give me a little credit.  Not only am I quite aware of exceptions to hooker norms, I even feature them in TW3 or other columns when I encounter them.  But there’s a vast difference between “20 witnesses saw such-and-such and here’s the video” and “you just have to believe me”; or between “what do you think about this unusual circumstance?” and “no you’re TOTALLY WRONG because a prohibitionist said so”; or between odd but well-documented phenomena and outrageous claims which violate the laws of physics or stretch the limits of human credulity.  Furthermore, reputation helps; when someone who’s been commenting here for months or years and impressed me with his good sense and veracity tells me something, I’m a hell of a lot more likely to give credence to what he says than to a newcomer whose very first act on this blog is to make some outlandish statement in the most belligerent tone possible.  If you’re spoiling for an argument or seeking converts for your prohibitionist cult, I suggest you try posting your comment on YouTube or Huffington Post, because it’s highly unlikely it will ever see the light of day around here.

Read Full Post »