[Smt-talk] "Courteous Professional Discourse"

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Wed Jul 25 06:23:59 PDT 2012

I appreciate the humanity and good sense of messrs. Monahan and Ninov. But as the cliché would have it, be careful what you wish for. I no longer post on the AMS list because, during a discussion of composer reception, I said that a familiar music historian had a negative attitude toward Prokofieff. I would think that two extremely critical pieces in the New York Times would qualify on that score. Said historian immediately replied in full-scale ad hominem mode, calling me "cowardly" for making my comments. I composed a reply defending myself, and complaining of the needless & unjust ad hominem. Despite its measured, purely defensive tone, the moderator rejected it. Said moderator further indicated that nothing I composed in reply, even if I paraphrased Albert Schweitzer and Mother Theresa, would be posted. That upset me. I complained to the host society, who replied, understandably, that if they undercut the authority of their moderators, no one would do the job. The last piece of the puzzle needed here is that the moderator was a junior scholar with a not yet fully formed reputation to protect; I have a low profile in the scholarly world; and my accuser has a reputation for vindictiveness nearly equal to his scholarly accomplishment.
I had quit the list once before, when the then-moderator, a dogmatic post-modernist/new musicologist, censored my postings for intellectual content. Even though he agreed the postings were plainly not ad hominem, and strictly confined to the realm of ideas, he decided that they were sufficiently critical of his friends' received ideas that they constituted an offense. 
So moderators can be people who look out for number one, regardless of their duty. Or they can be party-lining imbeciles, entirely willing and much concerned to ensure that their parti pris complacency remain undisturbed.
I count my blessings here. The discussion does get unwarrantedly hot and personal sometimes. But due to prudent moderation and the eminent good sense of the community, it rights itself soon enough. I think that last is the ultimate arbiter. Only when we understand what is possible in the world of ideas can a discussion thrive.
MW MorseTrent UniversityPeterborough, Oshawa 		 	   		  
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