Monday, August 31, 2009

The Safety of Anonymity

Besides JP's not-so-subtle obsession with drugs and sex, he has recently aimed his guns at the anonymity afforded by the internet.

I think that his arguments in this post , and in the subsequent comments, represent JP's dying breaths. In medical parlance we call it agonal breathing. As the circular reasoning, logical fallacies and ad hominem arguments that he uses have grown old and tired even to JP himself, he has resorted to one last desperate attempt to discredit his detractors-- that anonymous bloggers (mainly the atheist/skeptics kind) are all lying criminals.

The main asserion in JP's post is clearly false because it is based on the logical fallacy of generalization. Nonethess, I think the idea of anonymity and its attractiveness on the internet does warrant some thought.

First, I think that there are different levels of anonymity. There are the truly anonymous "feedbackers", the kind who comment on news articles and blogs for whom there is no possibility of identification. Some bloggers may fall into this category as well. Lets call this level 1. Then there are bloggers like myself, who express opinions and reveal information about themselves, without revealing their full identifying information. Anybody with enough determination would be able to find out who we are. In addition, when somebody legitimately wishes to initiate contact with me, he or she can by requesting my email. I'll refer to this as level 2.

Mentally healthy people do not always say what they think. This is human nature. We evolved the ability to not blurt out everything that we are thinking. This function is localized in the frontal lobes of our brains. This is a social skill, sometimes it helps us, and other times it doesn't. Sometimes what we think may offend certain people, so we choose not to say it. We don't tell people that they are ugly, or that we think they are idiots. We won't tell a coworker that he has body odor. Or we don't tell them that their religion is a lie, even if we think this. Sometimes we may tell something to some people and not others. There "others" might be people who our opinions won't offend, or those people that we don't particularly care about. JP argues that this type of opinion is not worthy of expression. I would argue that the internet and blogging gives us the "other"-- the targets of expression are those who won't be offended by our opinions, or , if they are offended, can choose not to read it. That is the whole point of the internet. This is truly egalitarian freedom of expression, even for non-professional writers.

Level 1 anonymous writers are at greater risk for writing blatantly offensive, racist and bigoted opinions. Nonetheless, most newspapers have continued to allow anonymous feedback, sometimes with filtering. We level 2 anonymous are generally more cautious, and I don't think that we write blatantly offensive or racist things that advocate persecution or violence against people. Ironically, it is JP himself, an non-anonymous blogger, who openly expresses violently homophobic and religiously biggoted opinions. He also falsely and maliciously accuses skeptics of drug abuse and prostitution. If he is truly "non-anonymous", it would be interesting to ask if he would be willing to walk around with a placard espousing his views about the racial origins of blacks in the streets of Harlem. I suspect not, because he, too, "filters" his message and chooses who hears what.

So JP's claims regarding anonymity are not only false but represent the height of hypocrisy. He is more of a fraud than any of his "anonymous" antagonists. I would tend to agree with the opinion of many that JP is just an unhappy, insecure and angry man. His blog affords him the opportunity to spew his hate in all directions, and in so doing he misrepresents Judaism. The purpose of this blog is to discredit JP, and therefore I will continue to expose his fraudulent and malevolent posts.


Anonymous said...

The fact that JP has repeatedly asked to know about my friends and family - and not just about me - is worrisome and one reason why a blogger might really prefer anonymity.

I take JP at face value that he would call my family, friends and co-workers if he had more information about me than my name.

He also tends to mis-read posts by not parsing them carefully or by presuming that so-and-so is an alcoholic or sex addict. So, one can easily imagine JP spreading damaging falsehoods about others.

JP is more than just a loudmouth who says things that are incorrect. He is a dangerous individual. That he claims himself to be Jewish is awful and destructive.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell whether dialoguing with him does any good or just makes a problem that wouldn't exist if I were just not to post. I hope it does some good that folks challenge him and break down his faulty logic. JP himself is gone, of course, since all he does is go back to earlier, stupid posts as support for recent, stupid posts.

If one wonders how bodies of lies and ignorance develop into larger, more refined tomes of lies an ignorance - well, JP's blog demonstrates it.



DrJ said...

Larry- At some point when I was commenting on his blog (he blocks my comments now) I was tempted to call his bluff and publicize my information. But on the chance that maybe JP is a psychopath, my common sense thought better of that.

Even before he started blocking my comments, I tired of going around in circles with him, while he moderated the posts thus in effect preventing a dialogue. Thus I thought that this blog would be a better forum to discredit him. IMO The only effect that JP's blog might have is with anti-semites who might use his opinions as "proof" for their conspiracy theories and hatred. I'm certain that he doesn't persuade anybody of anything. To us he's just the perfect "straw man" for our skeptic arguments.

Off the Derech said...

Right on.

Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, excellent post and insights.

But I don't think JP is exhibiting agonal breathing. He's simply far too successful. Look at his blog - dozens of comments per post. Look at his appearances on other blogs and how he can generate 100 comments just through his confrontational style. By all the measureable methods of success in the blogosphere, he is doing quite well.

What I have always found amusing though is the opposite of something you noted. Far from "the targets of expression are those who won't be offended by our opinions, or , if they are offended, can choose not to read it", I've found it to be otherwise. The vast majority of my commentators are folks who completely disagree with my point of view but seem to feel it is their life's mission to change it.
Then there's the little wuss who's obsessed with me but that's another story...
It seems that unlike newspapers where people find the one with the editorial style they like so they can say "Right on!" over their monring coffee, in the blogosphere they look for the blogs they hate so they can comment negatively over and over and over and over again.
So level 2a might read "People who need to vent but use the anonymity as a cover to allow for safe venting."

DrJ said...

I think we can all admit that there can be a lot of different motivations for blogging. Self-promotion, self-therapy, fun, creative expression, venting, all of things come into play.

In my case I think I went through evolution when commenting on JP's blog. It started out thinking that I can change his mind. Then it went to trying to influence his readers or the commentators. Then it went to outright trying to discredit him, when his dirty tactics became exposed. To be honest, I haven't yet figured out what I am accomplishing with this blog, but I guess that could be said of anybody. At any rate it does help me work through my thoughts and feelings about things.

Off the Derech said...

Garnel, as usual you're projecting. Nobody gives a crap about your blog and no one ever comes to give you a hard time. You, on the other hand, couldn't stop commenting on my blog from day one. You're such an idiot, and you love to ignore it by lashing out at everyone else and claiming their lives are anywhere near as pathetic as yours is.

DrJ said...

Let's be nice, kids...

Mellock said...

DrJ, I know I may be a little late with this one, but I think it may be necessary to understand what makes JP tick. This latest ad hominem attack by Jacob Stein against "anonymous bloggers" is all the more ironic considering what a compulsive liar he is!

Concerning Mr. Stein's biographical details we have little or no way of determining what is true and what is false. For starters, by legally changing the name his adoptive parents purportedly gave him to "Jacob Stein" he acquired a certain degree of anonymity because "Jacob Stein" is such a common Jewish name. Beyond that, we have little or no way to independently verify his biographical or genealogical details, though we can conclude that some are true based on his odd decision to include photographs of himself, his wife, his 3 children, and his house.

Some biographical facts are probably true. Others are obviously false. Yet others fall in a gray area where they may or may not be true, and are difficult to verify or refute, but which Jacob Stein reports as if true (which is not blatant lying as Stein does not know whether such claims are true or false but he assumes the veracity of such suspect claims). I am willing to assume that claims regarding his personal life story and his family mostly fall in the first category, that his claims to be a Mensa member fall in the second (blatant lie!), and that his genealogical details mostly fall in the third category. (His family history stretching into the Dark Ages is obviously exaggerated, if not outright fabrication in some areas, as there is no way that anyone who had so little contact with his biological parents can construct such a long and thorough genealogy with any reliability.)

Jacob Stein claims in his biography that he is a Mensa member, about which he boasts on his blog. This is obviously a blatant falsehood. In order to qualify for Mensa membership, one must score in the 98th percentile on a standardized intelligence test. Jacob Stein is a total retard! Well okay, that’s a bit harsh… Even so, based on the content of his blog entries and comments, I would estimate his IQ to be in the 80s. He is clearly of below-average intelligence, certainly NOT gifted, and his resorts to logical fallacies and personal insult, both stemming from an utter inability to argue logically, reflects his relatively low innate intelligence. Furthermore, I can guarantee that nobody of Mensa potential would waste their intellect by deciding in his teen years to forsake any sort of college education for some Haredi rabbinical seminaries and opting to permanently shut his brain off. That he claims to be Mensa material (without even offering any proof, no less!) when his IQ can NOT possibly be higher than the mid-90’s tops, reveals two things about him (in addition to the fact that he is a compulsive liar). First, that he is an extreme narcissist who must pretend to be involved with Mensa on the Internet. Second, that he is a “credophile” who does not need any sort of evidence or proof to believe what he wishes, and accordingly expects others to take whatever he claims on face value without independent verification. (He assumes everybody operates as he does, which further demonstrates his narcissism, and exemplifies his tendency towards projection.)

Mellock said...

Likewise, Jacob Stein’s genealogy page reveals more than just his shortage of honesty and integrity. It reveals his bizarre fascination with family ties and “blood” and nepotism. Of course this is also evident in his life story, if true. He admits to have ungraciously forsook his loving adoptive parents, who took him in and raised him as their own son, upon his conversion (and he posted his final letter announcing his abandonment of them), yet he remains fascinated with the worthless losers who happen to be his biological parents, the very same people who gave their son away on the flimsy pretext that they were “not married,” said fascination bordering on obsession. Jacob Stein is so obsessed with his bloodline that he felt the need to attempt to create a genealogy extending to the Middle Ages (who the HELL cares?), about which he claims that perhaps nobody could trace their ancestors as far back as he can (more narcissism on his part) though he uncritically mentions the Chinese Kong family, purportedly descended from or related to Confucius, in passing. What exactly is his point in including such an elaborate genealogy? Is it to prove the purity of his Teutonic blood? Is it so he can say, “I’m a bonafide convert, Just 100% shaygetz going back to my Teutonic ancestors in the Dark Ages!”

Does he know more than he reveals? Does he honestly expect us to believe he reliably reconstructed his genealogy based on limited encounters with his biological mother? After all, in the short version of his genealogy he mentions a great-grandparent from Finland with the surname “Newman.” Hmm… Newman does not sound Scandinavian/Swedish or Finnish at all! On the other hand, it is a common Jewish surname. Newman is listed as "Lutheran" but it is possible he converted to avoid trouble. Jacob Stein (AKA Lee Epple) may be as much as 1/8 Jewish from his father's side. He also mentions one great-grandparent on his mother's side, Catherine Bluxome, who was rumored to be Jewish, a rumor which he summarily denies. Considering that both of his parents have at least one grandparent who was probably Jewish, Mr. "Jacob Stein" is probably as much as 1/4 Jewish by birth, coming from both sides of his family. I suspect that his larger biography tracing back to every major king or duke or prince of Europe is a red herring to bury and distract from his own Jewish ancestry.

But why? We may believe either that Stein fabricated his entire genealogy, or that he did get many of the details right but that is because he knew about his family history for longer than he claims, or else we are to believe that Stein miraculously reconstructed his entire genealogy based on a few meetings with his birth mother and biological cousins, a very outrageous claim. This leads me to believe the first two options to be the only tenable ones. Either Jacob Stein's genealogy is a complete sham, a work of conjecture, fancy, and imagination, or else it is partially true but with some guesswork and outright embellishment mixed in. If the latter, then the real dishonestly lays not so much in the content of his genealogy page, but in how much he admits to have known about his family history prior to meeting his mother. I suspect that the real reason why young Lee Epple (Jacob Stein) was so interested in Judaism and the real reason why his Haredi rabbis were so open to the conversion of a "gentile" was racial, not spiritual in nature.

Mellock said...

My take on the matter? The Epples were somehow aware of their adopted son's (rumored?) Jewish ancestry. Their son found out somehow, and believed himself to be "Jewish" in some ethno-racial sense by a sort of "one-drop-rule reasoning," and sought to convert. He probably used this information to persuade the rabbi to sponsor his conversion, and thus "Jacob Stein" was born. His adoptive parents probably knew more than Jacob Stein lets on, and he probably gathered some facts about his family history from them. However, in creating his "Jewish Philosopher" persona he attempted to sweep evidence of his Jewish ancestry under the rug and invent genealogical facts and details to distract from this. I think this is part of his "personal narrative" in which he rewrites history thus bending the truth that he is a racist old Haredi rabbi to make it seem that he was a strapping young Teutonic lad who converted to Orthodox Judaism because it's the "truth." He can also use his (largely forged) Gentile pedigree to get holier-than-thou and claim that he is a "better Jew" than most born Jews. (When in fact, due to the unique circumstances of his adoption, Jacob Stein is a Jew by birth AND conversion.) But this is all just speculation...

There is no way to confirm ANY of Mr. Stein's biographical details, although, a poster to OTD's blog identifying himself as "Mark" claims to have known Jacob Stein personally. However, everything from his blind acceptance of fundamentalist Orthodox Jewish dogma, to his relentless stereotyping, his lavish genealogical page based on the fragmentary memories of his mother and some very old German church documents and books by amateur genealogists, to his outrageous, self-aggrandizing claims (which he expects us to believe with no supporting evidence)... This all leads me to conclude that Jacob Stein is what James Randi calls a credophile. The concepts of critical thinking, skepticism, and rational skepticism are so utterly alien to him that he is willing to believe whatever he wants, disbelieve whatever he rejects, and expect others to take whatever he says on face value. However, the man is a rotten liar and everything he says should be taken with a hunk of salt!

In summation, what we can infer about the mind of Jacob Stein:

(1) He is a pathological liar with no qualms of telling blatant falsehoods.
(2) He VASTLY overestimates his own intelligence.
(3) He is an extreme narcissist with delusions of grandeur.
(4) He has a bizarre obsession with bloodlines and ancestry.
(5) He constantly engages in psychological projection.
(6) He is possibly a severely repressed latent homosexual (as evidenced by his violent homophobia among other things).
(7) He appears to lack any emphatic instinct being motivated entirely by an authority that operates through coercion or threat of violence.

Tova said...

Thanks for this post.

Ever since Mr. Epple began to sexually harass me and call my house, I have wondered about his true identity.

Thanks again!

Mellock said...

Tova, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we greatly appreciate your reply. Please know that you have my sympathies for all the pain and suffering Jacob Stein caused you and your family.

That said, I humbly suggest that we report him to New York State Office of Children & Family Services or specifically, to New York State Child Protective Services. Additionally, I would recommend reporting him to Google (the proprietor of Blogger, though I am unsure how successful this latter step might be, in either case it is not as important right now).

Jacob Stein is more than an extremely obnoxious man. He is a threat to his own family! In fact, he left a comment on his blog, which is still available, stating that he would murder his own son if his god so demanded. While the very hypothetical nature of that statement might make it seem like an empty threat, consider that nobody knows whether or not Jacob Stein is prone to "hearing voices" or other hallucination.

I would like you to know that I support your efforts, as well as those of OTD and cipher, to neutralize the threat posed by Jacob Stein to yourself, his own family, and others, by any means lawfully available.