Gormangate II and disagreeing with T. Scott Again

Damn it. I was going to stay out of the discussion of Gormangate II (see this, this, this, this, and this, for examples) until I saw Scott’s post on the topic.

Scott appears to be bothered that bibliobloggers express their views that Gorman is irrational, an egotist or condescending and rude.

Among some legitimate examples of ad hominem attacks on Gorman, Scott lists the following:

“the latest Michael Gorman insanity,” “Gorman rambles…like a lost puppy…,” “rambling, nearly incoherent piece….”

This isn’t an ad hominem attack. This is an attack (accurate, in my view) on Gorman’s poor writing and weak rhetoric.

Scott, if you’re going to criticize those who question Gorman’s sincerity, civility or sanity, shouldn’t we examine Gorman’s own use of personal insults?

Google cofounder Sergey Brin has said that “the perfect search engine would be like the mind of God,” but most of us took that to be billionaire hyperventilating not blasphemy. Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, Part I

A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web.Revenge of the Blog People

It turns out that the Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief.2

Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts.2

So…Gorman’s ad hominem cracks directed at others are okay, but it is wrong for others to put Gorman on the receiving end of such attacks? From here, Scott, this looks like you’re applying a double standard. Because I read your blog routinely, I think you won’t be at all bothered that I point out what I see as an illogical contradiction in your writing.

It isn’t just Gorman’s STANCE that is the problem. Scott writes that he doesn’t “…have any grounds for questioning [Gorman’s] sincerity or his passion for his beliefs.” (EDIT: See comment from T. Scott below clarifying what he meant by this) But he DOES. Any critical reading of Gorman’s writings on technology reveals hypocrisy, condescension, intellectually dishonest attacks on straw men and conflation of concepts. Gorman isn’t the same sort of rational, intellectually honest critic of technology that Neil Postman was- not by a long shot.

Like these others Scott links to, I find myself wondering: How does a man as well-educated as Gorman repeatedly manage to be so rude, so intellectually dishonest, and so sloppy in his writing and reasoning? I think it is a reasonable thing to wonder about, and there are only a couple of reasonable explanations for this behavior. One of the possible explanations, that Gorman is mentally or emotionally unwell, is the more charitable of the two.

Just to clarify: I find Gorman’s writings to be condescending, egotistical and filled with intellectual dishonesty. I love disagreeing with an honest critic (I enjoy reading and disagreeing with Scott, Walt, and Karen, for examples) but I can’t abide a liar and I don’t generally tolerate those in the habit of condescending. Gorman’s dishonesty and incivility are inexcusable, and Scott’s scolding of others for answering his dishonesty and incivility with some anger is an application of a double standard. If Scott is going to chastise them, he needs to chastise Gorman, too.

3 thoughts on “Gormangate II and disagreeing with T. Scott Again

  1. 2 quick things — I intentionally stayed away from addressing Gorman’s remarks specifically, and I certainly don’t think ad hominem remarks from him are “okay” — it’s just that his comments weren’t what I was writing about. Some folks may believe that his offensive tone justifies using an offensive tone in response — I don’t. If that tone is unacceptable coming from him, then it should be unacceptable coming from anybody else, it seems to me, regardless of the provocation.

    Second, I may have stated this badly, but my statement that “I don’t have any grounds for questioning his sincerity” was meant to apply to the NASIG speaker, not to Gorman.

  2. Hi Scott.

    On the second point, thanks for clarifying. I’ve added an edit to the post noting this clarification.

    On the first, I maintain that you’re applying a double standard by your selection of recipients for your critique. You criticize others for being rude in response to Gorman, leaving out entirely that Gorman himself is exceptionally rude. You suggest in your comment above that you find Gorman’s tone offensive and unacceptable but you don’t say this in your own post. It is this conspicuous absence that bothered me. This absence suggests to those uninitiated in the debate that others are reacting to Gorman in this way only because they don’t like his views.

    They’re reacting to someone who has been publically insulting and berating them for years with writings chock full of dishonesty.

    For the record, I don’t think it is unfair, when discussing someone who is notorious for being rude, dishonest, and irrational, to suggest this person might be a lunatic or a jerk.

    For the record, I suspect he’s just a jerk.

  3. I haven’t been following this particular Gorman incident closely, and just read his Brittanica posts yesterday. I did note that he’s to be sticking up for Brittanica and similar text-based or authority-based products *on a blog hosted by Brittanica,* but doesn’t seem to address that conflict of interest to my satisfaction. But that’s just me.

    One thing I’m wary of is that whenever Gorman goes off about the perils of the tubes, it gets picked up much more widely so as to go mostly outside the librarian audience. When techies and other folks respond to it, they typically say, “former ALA head Gorman…” This disturbs me because I don’t think your average reader on a non-library blog is necessarily going to know or take time to find out that Gorman doesn’t represent all librarians, and this is not how all librarians think. It’s an image issue. Gorman can say whatever he wants, but it falls to the rest of us to work extra hard to make sure people know we are up on technology and are moving forward with them, not against them.