Friday, May 21, 2010

An Ethics Train Wreck, Indeed

ScholarThe recent debate I took part in at Public Square has taken an interesting twist. Not only was my final post in the series refused for publication, but as various readers have discovered, my opponent, Jack Marshall, is not entirely what he seems to be. In addition to his deficiencies in logical reasoning, certain of Mr. Marshall’s credentials as a lawyer and an academic appear to be less than were stated in his CV.

I apologize to our readers for allowing myself to be snookered into such a shabby event. However, in my defense, I had only a couple of hours to prepare before beginning the debate — not enough time to do a thorough investigation of my opponent.

Dymphna will have more to say on the credentials issue later.

After submitting my final response for review, I posted it here, expecting that it would appear shortly at Public Square. However, instead of my post, an additional response by Mr. Marshall, “Ten Steps to An Ethics Train Wreck”, appeared two minutes before the noon deadline.

I’m not going to address what he says in his post — it’s similar to what went before, and y’all can read it for yourselves if you’re so inclined. I’m more interested in the fact that my final post was denied publication.

I wrote to the site’s owner to find out what happened, and he responded with this email:


I can’t publish your last post as-is because I interpret most if it as a dig at itself. Attacking your opponent is one thing; going after the host of the debate is quite another. If you do not intend it that way, please edit your post accordingly and I’ll be happy to post it.

My reply:

My post contains valid criticisms of your site, which are relevant to our recently-completed “debate”.

To bill the process as a “debate” and to describe Jack Marshall as a “professional ethicist” is misleading at best. Mr. Marshall would be more accurately described as “an attorney who describes himself as an ethicist.”

To allow this type of discourse to proceed unhindered is, of course, your prerogative as the site’s administrator. In my opinion, however, to describe the process as a “debate” is a misrepresentation.

My criticisms were valid and to the point, and were clearly, reasonably, and civilly stated. If you choose to deny them a public airing on your forum, I obviously have no recourse.

I will, however, publicize this fact at our blog, and include our correspondence (with your name omitted, of course). Our blog has a wide readership, and posts of interest often go viral. So who knows? This may well increase your traffic at Public Square.

I shall also suggest to our regular readers that they visit Bloggerheads and avail themselves of the opportunity to comment on some of the posts in question, if they are so inclined.

Baron Bodissey
Gates of Vienna

He wrote me one final email:
- - - - - - - - -

I’ll go over all of the posts again to see if there’s anything I should have edited differently, but you cannot expect me to post content on my own site that would dissuade others from participating in similar exchanges in the future. What you do on your own site is, of course, your own business.

Thank you for your participating and best wishes.

So that’s it, folks. I’ve been shut out for voicing honest, civil, and valid criticism of the site that hosted the “debate”.

If you decide to avail yourself of the privilege of commenting over there, please play by Gates of Vienna’s rules. We don’t want anyone’s muddy boots tracking up the pristine carpet that covers the Common Ground at Public Square.

The posts at Public Square: #1 (Baron), #2 (Marshall), #3 (Baron), #4 (Marshall), #5 (Baron), #6 (Marshall), and #8 (Marshall)

My four posts here at Gates of Vienna (including the unpublished one): #1, #3, #5, and #7

Keep an eye on this space for some of the lesser-known career details about the lawyer, scholar, and ethicist Jack Marshall. Dymphna is working on it.

Note: I corrected two typos (a single orthographic metathesis and a repeated word) and a mistakenly used word (“Blogbusters” for “Bloggerheads”) in my email response to the site’s owner. Otherwise the email exchange reproduced above is verbatim.


Rollory said...

I wasn't expecting to say this, but, I can see why the editor responded the way he did, and in his shoes I think I would've done the same.

They shouldn't be publishing Marshall in the first place. Given that things played out the way they did, the right thing for them to do is to not ever have him on again. But given that the decision was made to do it, any attacks should be focused on Marshall himself, not the site.

Zenster said...

Rollory: But given that the decision was made to do it, any attacks should be focused on Marshall himself, not the site.

I disagree. Once Public Square had agreed to host a debate about EDMD (Everybody Draw Mohammad Day), it became obligatory for their web site's administrative staff to moderate the contents of whatever ongoing dialogue was being posted there in order to ensure the accepted rules of order were respected as they apply to a forensic exchange on that subject.

People who host poker championships are expected to eject cardsharps just as Olympic officials are supposed to disqualify entrants using performance enhancing drugs.

Jack Marshall repeatedly violated the accepted rules of debate by employing numerous logical fallacies and engaging in personalities that had no bearing upon the topic.

It's difficult not to imagine that many people would call such conduct a violation of ethics, especially coming from someone who poses as a "professional ethicist". For Public Square to tacitly countenance Marshall's behavior at their web site makes them complicit in such misconduct, if only as an accomplice after the fact.

Thunder Pig said...

It has been my experience that websites that claim to be 'fair' or 'down the middle' aren't. There is always a hidden agenda.

Détente in public discourse is a dream.