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I'm at least temporarily semi-retired from Wikipedia
I'm at least temporarily semi-retired from Wikipedia, as it's proving too much of a distraction from more important things. I had intended to be fully retired at least until if and when I had completed some of those 'more important things', but so far that has proved too difficult. If I do succeed in completing 'some of those more important things', I plan to eventually return, though I'm not sure when (and I may eventually decide that returning would be a mistake).Tlhslobus (talk) 11:22, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

Hi there,

For privacy reasons (and partly also because of the inhibiting effects of Ireland's 2009 anti-blasphemy law (see below)), I don't really want to say too much about myself. But you can have the following info:

Some Basic info about me[edit]

My user page on Wikimedia

Real name: Frank

Born: Dublin, Ireland, 1953

Living in Dublin.

Single male. Not looking for any partner.

Politics: some rather conservative and eccentric variety of Social Democrat

Religion/philosophy: my own thoroughly eccentric variety of agnostic, ignostic, skeptic, and humanist. Or at least that's arguably the least misleading short description I can offer.

Contacting me[edit]

The easiest way to contact me is probably to leave a message on my Talk Page, and be prepared for a long wait, as I don't necessarily check it very often. You can also try e-mailing me, especially if you want to say something private, but as I check that e-mail address even more rarely than my Talk Page (it's not my normal business e-mail address), you should probably leave a brief note on my Talk Page to let me know about your e-mail, and you should keep a copy of your e-mail in case it needs to be re-sent because the original has got lost somewhere in my spam.

Please Feel Free To Pass This On: Wikipedia unsurprizingly doesn't tell you, but be aware that as an editor you just might get sued, jailed, or murdered[edit]

  • Here is an instance in which somebody (seemingly unsuccessfully, at least so far) tried to sue 54 Wikipedia editors for $10 million for alleged defamation. That's just in one of hundreds of jurisdictions around the world, and it's in relatively pro-Free Speech America, but you might well be sued wherever Wikipedia is read. One well-known celebrity, despite being a fugitive from US justice, recently successfully sued in London (again not exactly thought of as the worst enemy of Free Speech) over an article published in the US (he wasn't suing Wikipedians or Wikpedia, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have sued them if it had been a Wikipedia article). Needless to add, there is no way Wikipedia can tell you what the precise legal situation is in all the world's jurisdictions even now, let alone at some unknown future date. And defamation is only one of many issues you might face (incitement, blasphemy, criminal libel, copyroght violation, and doubtless much else that I haven't thought about) - and some of these may be criminal offences for which you might get jailed, and alleged 'blasphemy' might also get you murdered by religious extremists, and in some circumstances organized crime and/or various tyrannies and/or other kinds of extremists might conceivably also want you murdered.
  • Perhaps these risks are all very low, but we can't know for certain even now, still less for the future. Arguably Wikipedia should automatically tell you all this when you join up, as well as sending you a message if you have already joined (as you would seem to have a clear right and need to know), but, at least to the best of my current knowledge, they unsurprizingly don't tell you, perhaps because they are short of editors and don't want to frighten you away, and perhaps also in some cases out of fear of putting nasty ideas into nasty people's heads. Also if you are sued, Wikipedia's lawyers will probably try to protect you, but quite likely only up to a point, as it's arguably in Wikipedia's long-term interest if the kind of editor who causes unnecessary offence gets punished, as such editors are often very damaging to Wikipedia (of course this is itself an argument for Wikipedia warning us all when we join in order to protect itself, but it isn't clear that it outweighs other arguments against doing so, at least from the perspective of Wikpedia's interests, as distinct from our own interests as editors and human beings).
  • None of this has deterred me from editing (at least not so far, and see the exception below), but I have sometimes felt that something I put in to avoid the risk of unnecessarily defaming people would be less likely to be reverted if more editors were aware of the risk of being sued, and similarly that potentially defamatory material might be less likely to be put up in the first place, and so on. However it was an implicit hint (possibly just an innocent unthinking posting, but not much less scary for that) of an editor's alleged 'blasphemy' against Islam, following only a few days after the murders of alleged 'blasphemers' at Charlie Hebdo, that helped persuade me to finally write this comment. Needless to add, I can't even tell what that hint was (that's the above-mentioned 'exception'), for fear of just possibly getting that editor murdered (arguably very unlikely, but ...).
  • One rather obvious way to at least reduce the above risk is to edit under an obviously fake name rather than a real one. (But editing under a fake name that is not obviously fake seems a bad idea, as it may endanger others who happen to have your fake name as their real name.) So it might be a good idea if Wikipedia explicitly recommended this as a security measure, especially to newcomers.
  • Of course you're also at arguably much greater risk of other things, such as being insulted and/or bullied here on Wikipedia, but on the whole Wikipedia does quite a bit to warn you about that (arguably as distinct from doing as much as it could or should do to protect you from such risks, but that's another lengthy and complex debate, which I have also engaged in sometimes, with not much to show for my efforts).
  • Please feel free to try to reword and/or improve a copy of this essay, but not here on my home page (but please feel free to let me know about improvements you have made to it elsewhere). And please feel free to use it as the basis for a Wikpidia Essay (in which case, please let me know about this on my Talk Page). Tlhslobus (talk) 04:50, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

Some Thoughts re inhibiting effects of the 2009 Irish Blasphemy Law[edit]

Anybody interested in the above-mentioned inhibiting effects of Ireland's 2009 anti-blasphemy law can look it up under Blasphemy law in the Republic of Ireland. But I should point out that I have no wish to offend anybody, merely a somewhat qualified wish (see below) to express the truth as I see it. However, I wouldn't be the one who got to decide whether I intended to cause offence; quite likely those deciding that would be among the offended. And I'm no lawyer, so I can't be sure of this, but it wouldn't surprise me if in law people are simply presumed to intend the (alleged) likely consequences of their actions, so if writing the truth about a religion is deemed likely to offend many of its adherents, then that may well be blasphemy, unless the writing is deemed to have some kind of special merit, with those deciding that also being quite likely to be among the offended. And once convicted (which nobody has been, yet) the police suddenly acquire rather wide new powers to search other people's homes looking for the banned material, so I can't simply say that getting myself convicted would hurt nobody except myself. But of course there's also a case for the law. With or without this law, there's the problem that I don't want to have UN workers murdered in Afghanistan because of something I wrote. I don't know how big or small that risk would be in the case of what I might write. Before I felt obliged to remove it due to the 2009 law, much of what I might want to say had already been up on the Internet for about 7 years without anybody being seen to take offence, probably because almost nobody even noticed it was there. A prosecution would presumably have made it a lot more likely that it would get noticed by people liable to be offended (indeed the law arguably creates an incentive for people to take as much offence as possible, as that's a requirement for prosecution), but on the other hand since the law has made me remove my writing, it probably means there's now almost no chance of anybody noticing (though there are still a few remnants hanging around that I'm unable to find and/or unable to delete).

Then there's also the question of not wishing to cause offence, given that human beings aren't saints. Many religions are not merely offensive but in a sense they are infinitely so. After all, it is offensive to tell somebody who isn't wicked that they are wicked, and deserve to be punished. But many of these religions don't just say that I and the billions of others who don't share their faith deserve to be punished, they say we deserve to be infinitely punished (through eternal agony in Hell), and they are thus in a sense being infinitely offensive, even if most of us choose not to take offense most of the time (if only because we'd be in a permanent fit of rage if we did choose to take offense every time such religions were being offensive, since their doctrines ensure they are permanently in a state of being offensive). Arguably our refusal to take offense is in the long run suicidal lunacy on our part (but I haven't given that enough thought yet to be sure whether it is). Still sometimes they do in fact manage to offend me, usually with some particularly infuriating behaviour. And since I'm a human being and not a saint, I think it's rather likely that at some stage or other I may have had some temporary wish to cause a little bit of offense in return. Which means that if prosecuted I can probably truthfully say that I have no wish to cause offense, but I probably can't truthfully say that I have never at any stage had any wish to cause any offence in retaliation for the far greater offence inflicted on me and on others. And, for all I know (I'm no lawyer, as already mentioned), quite likely such an admission in court would be enough to convict me of blasphemy.

Of course, this is currently only a problem for Ireland, provided you ignore the point that Ireland is violating the right of 7 billion people outside Ireland to receive information from people like me. Unfortunately the 7 billion don't seem too bothered - if they did, the law would rapidly disappear. This is so, despite our constitution requiring a law punishing blasphemy, because it would be very easy to produce a law that punished blasphemy yet had no practical effect, by a perfectly reasonable change in the definition of blasphemy. You simply declare that blasphemy is gratuitous offense to a genuinely good God who exists (after all it makes no sense to claim that a non-existant God has been offended). This is more or less what blasphemy originally meant in the Bible (I don't believe in the Bible, but that's beside the point), and arguably the modern definition (offending the sensibilities of religious people) is itself both blasphemous and idolatrous since it in effect deifies religious people and/or their sensibilities. Anyway, getting back to the amended law, it could state that the allegedly offended God's existence would need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt (otherwise guilt could hardly be established beyond reasonable doubt, as always required for a criminal conviction), and for the purpose of the law such proof would consist of the uncontradicted sworn affidavit of at least 10 living recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physics, or some similar criterion.

But leaving aside the peculiarities of Ireland's constitution, all the other arguments for that blasphemy law could apply just as well in most other countries (except that it wouldn't be called prohibition of blasphemy, it would be called prohibition of religious offence) - quite likely in any country that has laws against incitement to hatred (after all religious offense can lead to hatred, etc). Quite likely this means that even if our Constitution is amended to remove the requirement to punish blasphemy, we may well end up keeping basically the same law with a different name. And it also means you shouldn't be too surprised if you end up getting such a law in your own country too.

Finally I might add that I'm no longer sure whether I still want to say what I originally said (and removed from the Internet following the 2009 law). My views have changed somewhat since then, and so has my perception of the possible risks (assuming anybody even noticed what I would be writing), so that these days I'm even less sure than I was originally as to whether the world would on balance be better or worse off being left in blissful ignorance of what I have to say. Ironically, in the (not particularly likely) event that I ever conclude that the possible benefits of publication outweigh the possible costs, then I might well feel morally obliged to throw in a few paragraphs that were as offensive as possible, not because I really wished to cause offense, but because getting myself prosecuted for blasphemy might then seem the most practical way to gain publicity for my other ideas :)

Postscript on the dangers of hatred by the irreligious/anti-religious[edit]

I should perhaps have long ago added to the above what I always added to my supposedly 'blasphemous' writings in the past, which is that none of this in any way justifies persecuting religious people (even those who think people like me deserve eternal agony in Hell), as distinct from simply trying to rationally argue that they are mistaken, as the vast majority of them are decent people (and are entitled to our respect as such), albeit hopefully at least partly misguided people (after all, we are probably all misguided about something or other, but that doesn't justify disrespecting or persecuting us).

What reminded me to add the above were these items (here and here) about a self-described US atheist and anti-theist who considers it his 'duty' to insult religions because of the harm they have allegedly done, and has just murdered 3 young US Muslims (a young married couple and the wife's 19-year-old sister) in North Carolina. And of course, despite one-sided anti-religious rants about the harm done by religion, there is plenty of evidence for anybody wishing to argue that irreligion can also do great harm (besides the above 2 items, just ask the victims of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Hitler - though Hitler is perhaps a bit awkward because he remained a nominal Christian all his life, at least according to Albert Speer). The atheist Richard Dawkins dismisses such arguments as 'that old chestnut', seemingly claiming that these people were in fact followers of such 'religions' as Communism or Nazism, and/or that the evil they did had nothing to do with their lack of religion - he may well be right but I see little evidence for this, or at least no more evidence than I see when religious people use almost identical arguments to dismiss similar criticism of alleged harm done by their religion ('that monster is not a true Christian/Muslim/Jew/whatever, and is just an evil person...'). And of course in the context of understandable anger at Islamofascist terrorist outrages, it's perhaps worth remembering that (due mainly to the greater wealth and firepower gifted to us by 'irreligious' Science) the Judeo-Christian-plus-secular West has killed far more Muslims than the other way round in recent years and indeed in recent centuries.

Postscript: Preliminary thoughts on the murder of atheist Nahed Hattar when charged with blasphemy[edit]

What his murder seemingly shows is that a quasi-blasphemy law can kill you whether you are technically 'guilty' or not. From the moment you are charged with quasi-blasphemy against Islam you are in danger of being murdered. Actually you are in danger even before you are charged, but being charged presumably increases the danger. And merely having a law is also an invitation for people to demand that you be charged, thereby also increasing your danger even if you are never charged. Note that I say quasi-blasphemy, since the danger exists whether you call it blasphemy (as Ireland does) or something more modern-sounding such as 'causing offense' (or whatever term Britain currently uses).

But unfortunately this remains just more confused waffle by me, since I still have the 'on the one hand ... on the other ... with no firm conclusion' of the rest of the above essay (and I still suspect a firm conclusion would not be based on any sound rationale, and would thus probably just make the whole essay even worse).

Preliminary thoughts concerning the Islamofascist terrorist attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo[edit]

It's very sad. But one can look on the bright side. The fact is that almost no other publication previously dared repeat the various cartoons about Islam and Muhammad, and they mostly don't dare even now. There's nothing recent about this as I vaguely recall reading about Bertrand Russell mentioning something like the near-suicidal lunacy of criticising Islam long before I was born, and even longer before the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa sentencing Salman Rushdie and his publishers and translators to death for writing and publishing The Satanic Verses back in 1989 when the issue first came to my attention. But this all actually shows that we're mourning for the loss of a liberty we've never really had, and we've always somehow managed to make do without - the freedom to criticize (beyond some limits that seem unclear Islamofascistically-defined movable goalposts) or ridicule Islam without risking being murdered. And looking on the bright side, this seemingly means the terrorists and their supporters are deluding themselves if they believe they've achieved anything, or can achieve anything, except the further discrediting of their own cause by publicly reminding us all of what kind of an abomination Islamofascism actually is.

The main downside, apart from the immediate tragedy, is that when people defiantly write "And in the long run the Pen is mightier than the sword!", I can't help thinking "And in the short run Le Pen is mightier as a result of these 'swords'", so the price is unfortunately quite likely to be paid by entirely innocent ordinary decent Muslims and other minorities in France and elsewhere. Tlhslobus (talk) 04:23, 8 January 2015 (UTC)

and finally...[edit]

That will do for now; I may add in more as and when the mood takes me.