Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An apology

In the midst of a rollicking debate on anonymity, pseudonymity and Blog Syn, Keith, a commenter at Depth First takes me to task for this post:
Anonymity gives bloggers like Chemjobber a platform to spout the xenophobic and bigoted crap he did on Saturday, May 2, 2009:
"Safety glasses or goggles (not prescription glasses, all you idiot foreign postdocs with your Coke-bottle glasses sans side shields) are required of sophomore organic chemistry students, much less graduate students."
He says further: "I'm all for reminding people to wear appropriate PPE, but *you* are doing a poor job of delivering that message when you do so in a xenophobic and bigoted manner."

I apologize for this comment and I ask Keith's forgiveness, and forgiveness from anyone else I offended with that statement. I was wrong. 

24 comments:

  1. ...and the shiny new Baran group blog makes it clear what Phil thinks about anonymity (http://openflask.blogspot.com/2013/02/phils-two-cents-on-blogging.html):

    I think the world should know them and their inspiring stories - scientific or otherwise - without having to hide behind a cloak of anonymity with the fear that I might find out they are "one of those bloggers".

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    1. That's quite the cynical reading of that comment. I read this as: "My student's shouldn't have to worry about retribution from me. If they want to blog about these issues, then I support that and am providing this forum for that."

      Of course, I could be reading this with rosy glasses.

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  2. Don't worry too much about being politically correct. It's the internet.

    Also, you do have a point... lots of international students don't have the same precepts of safety requirements. To be vehemently against international students is a bit harsh, but still true.

    Stereotypes generally exist for a reason.

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  3. @CJ, thanks for coming out with this. As I am sure this is the case (knowing the excellence you push for), you probably wished that it would not have taken a reader calling you on it. But, as a reader, I appreciate that you are being proactive and open about this.

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  4. Geez... americans are obsessed with political correctness and racism (i.e. xenophobia). That's one of the biggest reasons that I left actually. That's gotta be one of the wussiest 'xenophobic' things that I've ever seen.

    Don't worry chemjobber, you can pretend you were talking about me. You can call me an idiot foreign grad student (tis true, I was born on another continent) anytime old buddy. You can't call me an idiot foreign post doc though, I did the postdoc outside the States.

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  5. It is pretty idiotic. I caught a (Canadian) higher-up last week trying to pass off prescription glasses as safe in the lab. Dummies!

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  6. Maybe English isn't "Keith"'s first language, so it's possible he misunderstood the phrase to mean "all foreign postdocs are idiots" instead of the more obvious meaning to someone reading in context, "all postdocs (many of which are foreign) who refuse to use PPE are idiots".

    As Uncle Sam implies, apologizing for such things serves only to lower the bar of acceptable speech even further. Looking up someone's safety rants from 4 years ago to accuse them of thoughtcrime? Do we really need that?

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  7. "not prescription glasses, all you idiot foreign postdocs with your Coke-bottle glasses sans side shields"

    Ha, joke's on you: as a former, foreign-born, US PDF I have perfect vision! I did (I worked in a well-known lab) often wear shorts and flip flops in the lab. In hindsight, I am amazed that was permitted.

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  8. Unstable IsotopeMarch 5, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Good job, CJ. Short comments can often be misconstrued but my first read of the comment gave me the same impression that Keith got. It's the word "foreign" that really makes the comment troubling.

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  9. That's fascinating. All I hear from chemists in the UK is how un-safety conscious American labs are.

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    1. Unstable IsotopeMarch 5, 2013 at 4:39 PM

      Yeah, pretty interesting considering all the chatter about US academic lab safety after the Sheri Sangji incident.

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  10. Unstable IsotopeMarch 5, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    There is an important message: prescription glasses do not equal safety glasses unless the glasses are made from safety glass.

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  11. Some people will go to great lengths to be offended.

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  12. I agree with badwolf and racist xenophobe. Somebody's obviously got way too much time on their hands. But, good for you for apologizing all the same. It shows you're the bigger man. He's probably only jealous anyway.

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  13. Anonymity also makes it easier for irony-deaf people like "Keith" to nurse a grudge for nearly four years (and counting, it appears).

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  14. Isn't anyone going to pat Keith on the back for being oh-so-enlightened and teaching all of us that racism is bad?

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  15. Actually I can see where the whole coke-bottle glasses part might strike a nerve for some people. For a better part of the 20th century the stereotype of Asians was one of buck-teeth, coke-bottle glasses, pidgin English etc. Since a sizable portion of foreign post-docs are from China, this could come across as part of that stereotype even though that wasn't what was intended.
    Glad to see you just apologized and moved on instead of getting huffy and defensive.

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  16. To the PC Police out there:

    My art-inclined daughter (now 26) was shocked to find that her favorite childhood stories such as "Cat in the Hat," "Horton Hears a Who," and "The Ginch Who Stole Christmas" were written by the racist, xenophobic author, Dr. Seuss. And how did she come to that conclusion? By reading this: http://goo.gl/10cF6 (Dr. Seuss Goes to War)

    The book contains about 200 of Dr. Seuss' World-War II Editorial Cartoons written for a New York daily paper of the time. Many of the cartoons depict people of German and Japanese heritage (and in particular, German and Japanese political leaders of the era) in less than flattering terms. However, there was no outcry of "racism" against this author either then or later in life, at least as far as I know. Why not?

    The whole "PC" concept fails the test of logic. It wreaks of "freedom of speech as long as you agree with me."

    I neither condone nor condemn CJ's descriptive choice almost 4 years ago. However, asserting that CJ is either "racist" or "xenophobic" based on a single blog entry is absolutely inappropriate.

    Good job CJ for taking the high road, and some anti-kudos to Keith for his rant.

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    1. The quote doesn't call CJ a racist. It calls the "manner" of him delivering the safety goggle message "xenophobic." There is an enormous difference between saying a person is something ( a judgement on their whole being, their repeated pattern of actions, their inherent motivations) and saying that one of their particular actions from a particular moment in time is something. Since the quote hasn't actually done what you claim it has, it can not be "absolutely inappropriate" for this purported reason.
      I do not see how the exchange highlighted above "wreaks of 'freedom of speech as long as you agree with me'." Was CJ threatened with legal action for his blog? Was his IP address blocked? Were his comments deleted? If anything, a public exchange of opinions (especially opinions that disagree) seems evidence that freedom of speech exists and is exercised.

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  17. Keith and CJ have accepted each other's apologies, and no one thinks that CJ has been "serially insensitive," so let's all move on.

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  18. Since we are clearing the air, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize for those girls/women would didn't want to go out with me while I was young and single. I said some pretty mean things about you, some of them on bathroom walls.

    My bad.

    I'm sure you weren't any of those things I said. Well, at least most of you...

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  19. that culture class takes place in academic chem labs is undeniable. CJer chose a poor way to express his frustration on the topic of safety equipment but he could have done a lot worse.

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    1. see: http://www.thechemblog.com/?p=1486#comments

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