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June 25, 2006

John Scalzi: Egotistical Toady-Loving Asshole?

Due to my reaction to a number of his recent posts, a fellow who comments here at the Whatever has decided to take his leave of this sunny vale, but not without offering a kiss-off which reads, in part:

You're an asshole with an inflated ego who only truly suffers the company of sycophants & makes no effort to even try see anyone else's point of view.

Well, I have my own opinions on this assessment of my own self, but because I'm just this way, I thought I'd throw this open to discussion. So:

Resolved: John Scalzi:

a) Is an asshole;
b) Has an inflated ego;
c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;
d) Makes no effort to see anyone else's point of view.

Discuss. Are all these true? None? Some but not all? I crave your opinion on the matter!

To assure that all and sundry feel free to express themselves freely, this thread will not be edited (excepting for spam), nor will I participate in the thread. I trust that you all will play nicely with each other.

Have fun, you crazy kids.

Posted by john at June 25, 2006 06:38 PM

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Anonymous | June 25, 2006 06:59 PM

1. Can't say, never met him.
2. Has an ego, certainly. I think no one would take up the life of a performer or a writer/artist/etc without have a larger than normal ego. Someone once told me that he thought Isaac Asimov was egotistical. I said, "Yes, but he has a lot to be egotistical about."
3. Prefers the company of syncophants, certainly. Who does not? But only syncophants? Can't say.
4. I don't think I have ever met anyone who does not prefer his own point of view over someone else's. This charge is usually made by someone even more in love with his own opinion than the person being charged.

Overall: Sounds like the dearly departed has lost too many arguments to you, and just can't stand it any longer.

Dave | June 25, 2006 07:09 PM

That you've actually managed to get someone so annoyed at you without resulting to direct personal insult or profanity can only be seen as a testament to your mad polemic and didactic skillz. Bitchin'! Good on ya!

I'm not a sycophant. I can stop at any time.

JonathanMoeller | June 25, 2006 07:09 PM

How the devil am I supposed to know? To me, "John Scalzi" is naught by words on a page or a computer screen. For all I know, this page is run by an shut-in elderly woman with 100+ cats, and "John Scalzi" is in fact an elaborate facade created by a concerted misinformation campaign and slick Photoshop work.

Ulrika | June 25, 2006 07:16 PM

Oh, everybody's an asshole, one time or another. The things I've seen said about Mother Teresa would turn your nose hairs.

As for ego, no no. Mr. Scalzi is a very humble man, we have it on his own authority.

And I think the original line was in fact, "but then, he has much to be humble about," one wouldn't expect Asimov to remember it that way.

Josh Jasper | June 25, 2006 07:31 PM

Mr. Scalzi, I've met Haraln Ellison, and you sir, are no Haran Ellison.

Janice in GA | June 25, 2006 07:44 PM

Well, I haven't seen anything that would make me think those things of you. But I'm pretty oblivious; I might have missed them.

Ardaniel | June 25, 2006 07:53 PM

It's not a crime to see someone's point of view and then tell them that it sucks, clashes with their wallpaper, and makes them look fat, last I checked. I think someone's mistaken "seeing another's point of view" for "abjectly prostrating oneself before same."

Nonny | June 25, 2006 07:58 PM

Umm. Hmm. Sounds like a classic case of projection to me!

JC | June 25, 2006 07:59 PM

Honestly, I can't tell one way or the other.

The only people who make these sorts of comments about him also happen to the same people who have so thoroughly discredited themselves that I can't trust what they say. If only someone with at least a shred of credibility would resort to such base namecalling...

I don't think he is, but I'm apparently a notoriously poor judge of character. Social cues just fly by me and I don't notice. Actually, I wouldn't know. I only repeat what I'm told about this.

In any case, I'm looking forward hearing the insights of "John Scalzi" at ReaderCon in July. (I mean, let's face it, JonathanMoeller has a point. Perhaps to throw us off the scent, we've already seen examples of deliberate PhotoShop work. Or maybe he really is a collective intelligence composed of a bunch of clones. How cool would that be!)

Scott | June 25, 2006 08:05 PM

If there's one thing I've learned from watching a lot of action movies is that "You can't shoot what you can't see." (which is only sort of true in an action movie context, but it's more true outside of that context, so... moving on)

So, I don't think D) can be true because Scalzi likes to shoot differing opinions in their face.

I suppose a different metaphor might go something like, "It's hard to dissect a specimen that isn't on your table."

I think if I went on making up other metaphors, I'd be increasingly tedious.

At any-rate, since Scalzi limits the amount of numb restatement and massively fallacious rhetoric he does to small quantities dispersed through a whole discussion, that means that some amount of his points tend towards substantive, which does require a certain amount of seeing the other side's argument. He stops short of accepting it. Because, once you've accepted it, it's your side of the argument too... and then he'd be in trouble from the departed correspondent, wouldn't he?

Clearmoon | June 25, 2006 08:14 PM

Why would anyone give this much of a crap what you think anyway? Obviously, several of us come here to see what you think & say, but why take it personally when Scalzi's opinion doesn't mesh with one's own? It is Scalzi's blog, after all. Here, he is ALWAYS going to win the argument.

I mean, really. I truly enjoy Scalzi's books. However, politically I differ at least slightly with about 90-95% of his views.

I'm just glad I live in a place where that combination is OK.

Steve Brady | June 25, 2006 08:21 PM

c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;

See, now, this is just bad grammar. The implication is that the only thing you suffer is the company of sycophants.

It should be "suffers the company only of sycophants." You egotistical asshole.

Bill Marcy | June 25, 2006 08:29 PM


But you do at least read my comments, as right wing as they often are. Do you ever agree? Got me, who knows what lies in another mans heart?

Do I need you to agree with me? No more than you need me to agree with you.

Bryan W | June 25, 2006 08:37 PM

a) Edit: Has for is?
b) Is only arrogant in a charming way!
c) I want the gig that yields sycophants. More sycophants. Really.
d) Now see. This is where I, personally, take exception. I mean, how can anybody truly "see" someone else's perspective? To ding John on this as though he's the only one locked inside his own head and eyes is both a travesty of logic and justice. I mean, when I close my eyes, you all go away. If I move to where you were standing to see your "perspective" then you go somewhere else. Can't see it. Ergo, initial hate mail person is both foolish and wrong.

What a waste of UofC education that argument was. Sigh.

Kevin Q | June 25, 2006 08:54 PM

Seems to me like somebody didn't read the site disclaimer.

a) Is an Can be an asshole;
b) Has an inflated egoWhat the hell does that even mean. How about: is the center of his own universe (at least online);
c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;Also suffers the company of those who vociferously disagree
d) Makes no effort to see anyone else's point of view. But does make a point to understand it, so he can dismantle it.

I think that Scalzi is a fairly reasonable blogger, as far as that goes. However, he can be an obnoxious ass to certain people. He is not an ass to those he disagrees with, and he's not an ass to the blameless ignorant. However, hee's a monumental ass to those who repeat the same statements in successive comments, apparently under the (mistaken) impression that Scalzi is an idiot.

Sometimes he pushes people a bit farther than they prefer to be pushed, but to me honest, that's one of the reasons I read this blog.


P.S. I apologize if the first part of this post makes no sense; I'm not sure if the site recognizes the (strike) or (del) markups.

Ulrika O'Brien | June 25, 2006 08:56 PM

No, it's true. Harlan is shorter. Though not by as much as one might think.

Jon Marcus | June 25, 2006 09:01 PM

Based solely on reading your online writings:

A) Sometimes, but you have the redeeming quality that you moderately your ass-holiness if politely called on it.

B) Not really. Hints of it seem to peep through occasionally, but in general you're too willing to cop to ignorance/lack of competence when applicable.

C) Sycophants? Ummm...no more than many other authors anyway.

D) Nope.

Mostly, I wonder why you bothered dignifying the author of the quote above.

emeraldcite | June 25, 2006 09:12 PM

Basically, the rant translates to: "John Scalzi won't change his mind on his own opinions, so he must not be able to see any other point of view other than his own."

Of course, the poster is most likely leaving because he also won't see any other point of view and is tired of trying to convince you to change your mind. Since you're obviously a hopeless case, he's going to find someone else's blog to comment on and try to change their mind. Inevitably, he'll move from blog to blog complaining that the entire web is close-minded liberal nutjobs who never see any one else's point of view.

And on a side note: the two richest men in America, who are primarily liberals, are practically giving all their big business-made dough away (Gates is leaving day-to-day Microsoft to concentrate on giving his money away and Buffet just announced that he's giving his fortune away as well).

I'm sorry to say that Republicans shouldn't take the high road too often. It seems like you can give money to those in need and make a difference that's not a result of some vague "trickle-down" idea. I wonder: are the oil companies passing on their record profits to share-holders or to the lowest paid employees? Hmmm...

ok. rant over.

Annalee Flower Horne | June 25, 2006 09:18 PM

This reminds me of the guy in my Speech & Retoric class who was constantly trying to start debates with the prof in order to prove his superior intellect. Because, you know, starting an argument with someone who has a Ph.D in how to argue isn't a good way to wind up looking stupid.

Likewise, on the internet, the only thing that really matters is the effectiveness with which we can express our ideas. Here at Whatever, we do so in writing.

...so I can see where starting arguments with a rather accomplished writer might lead to a sense of inadequecy.

Jim Winter | June 25, 2006 10:48 PM

a) Never in my presence. Then again, as he was sitting six feet away, I did not feel it appropo to turn to Krissy, who was also present, and say, "Soooo, is he really an asshole at home?"
b) Occupational requirement for a novelist.
c) Have you seen his guest blogging list from last year?
d) I thought that's what the comment section was for. But then this isn't the first time I've seen someone who couldn't get the last word in pitch an online temper tantrum over it. Some of them think your blog is their platform. It's why I love IP banning so much.

Brad Selbst | June 25, 2006 10:48 PM

Near as I can tell Mr. Scalzi & I disagree on just about everything. However, I do have an opportunity to state my opinion/thesis just as others do. I don't imagine Mr. Scalzi would invite comments if he wasn't trying to see or contemplate the other guy's point of view.

Frequently Mr. Scalzi and others (most others) disagree with me. This is shocking! It is quite horrid to think I haven't cornered the market on truth. Furthermore, that truth should be subjective is contrary to all that all is sacred in my little world. Damn that Heisenberg! Damn Him!

Switching gears, though I often disagree with Mr. Scalzi, I find his writing style to be very compelling and accessible, just like Asimov. His stories are exceptionally well written and conceived.

So now I sound like a sycophant... but reading my posts you would never know my level of admiration for the man. This is because the blog is generally about Mr. Scalzi's opinions and ideas (and his daughter of course), not whether and how much you love John Scalzi. It may possibly be implicit that you like his writing; therefore, you visit the site. But, by no means does that make you a sycophant. Further, the level of debate that occurs would seem to be mutually exclusive to sycophantic behavior.

My message for our little friend would be "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!", but of course homeboy has already jetted... just as well.

CoolBlue | June 25, 2006 11:25 PM

John Scalzi....hmmm, let's see....

Writes better than most, and that's saying something in my book.

Aggressively defends his positions, and does so in a generally coherent manner. I certainly can't fault him for that. Of course, I could be a sycophant....

Can't really say as I know him but he seems like an OK egg to me.

I flew over his house today and waved.

Kafkaesquí | June 25, 2006 11:39 PM

Am I allowed to yawn at this one?

Kafkaesquí | June 25, 2006 11:40 PM

By that I meant the troll-ish observations that initiated the post, not the convo going on here in comments.

Merrie Haskell | June 25, 2006 11:51 PM

Resolved: John Scalzi:

a) Is an asshole;

Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

b) Has an inflated ego;

Sure, but not *hyper*inflated like a World Cup soccer ball. When kicked, his ego will not go 3/4ths of the way down a soccer field.

c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;

Hm. Since I'm only here trying to win him as one of *my* sycophants, I hope not, or I've really been wasting my time.

d) Makes no effort to see anyone else's point of view.

Damn straight! I can't believe he didn't go off on Bush for that snark to the reporter with the macular degeneration. That inflated asshole sycophant-seeker has no respect for my Republican-bashin' viewpoint!

Seriously, I haven't even figured out where this has all come from yet, but I like these creative writing exercises.

Bobarino | June 26, 2006 12:28 AM

I have good news! An ever-increasing supply of assholes in government and cable TV news has raised the bar for assholery. Behavior that would have qualified a person as an entry-level asshole in, say, 1985 would now be considered only mildly annoying. So you're OK, John, and so are the most of the rest of us.

It's nice to know that the steady degeneration of public civility has paid off somehow.

Lisa | June 26, 2006 01:48 AM

From reading the whatever for years and a spattering of emails and IMs, I'd say...asshole? No. Ego? Yes. But it is the same ego I have been accused of having. It is when you've spent some good portion of your life being underestimated and you tend to overcompensate by too often being put in a position to prove yourself. (For me, its caused by disability. For John? I dunno. Perhaps being formerly known as poor? But I'm not going to psychoanalyze.) Syncophant? No. I wouldn't say I've lavished on the praise and adoration too much (and god forbid, I have to admit only ever reading one of his books) and he still seems to put up with my witless comments. He will also defend people (CoolBlue comes to mind) from a pile up when they disagree with him. Makes no effort re POV? Not really, no more than anyone else. I have seen him concede to points and occasionally change his mind about an issue, which sometimes is rare in the blogiverse. I actually come here partly to hear John debate with folks in a clear and logical manner that does takes into account their POV. Mostly very fair.

So you only scored a -1 in my book. And I think you are self-aware enough about the ego thing. And the ego thing is funny most of the time. Tell you what--You can get rid of yours when I get rid of mine, which will be around never.

darren | June 26, 2006 01:50 AM

For what it's worth John, I only think you're those things when I don't agree with you.

Other than that, you seem like you're just an average Joe, with an average job. You're an average white, suburbanite slob. You like football, porno, and books about war. You've got an average house with a nice hardwood floor.

Brian Greenberg | June 26, 2006 01:55 AM

Hmm...just finished a comment on the previous thread on this topic - that's what I get for commenting sequentially.

It's a shame that repsonses in this thread have been of the kiss-up-to-the-proprietor variety. Allow me to try a more balanced approach (cut from what I said below, to some extent):

We (the Whatever Comment Community, that is) have had some very detailed, fact-based discussions on these pages about a wide variety of topics. The longest & most interesting ones are often in the political realm.

In some cases (e.g., the discussion about intelligent design), John has responded to differing points of view with reasoned argument in defense of his own views. He's included references to other resources on the web, quotes from knowledgeable people, stipulations where others know more than he does, etc.

In other cases, he's fallen into a pretty predictable pattern:

1) Make statement.
2) Receive disagreeing commenters.
3) Tell commenters that their comments are "the dumbest, most assinine thing I've ever heard anyone say in any context."
4) Receive responses to those comments of the "just because we disagree doesn't mean I'm dumb" variety.
5) Shoot back with the "I said your comment was dumb, not that you were dumb, and if you can't tell the difference, you're illiterate or ignorant."
6) Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the commenter finally give in, or calls John an asshole.
7) Refers those who call him an asshole to his site disclaimer, which says "I'm an asshole sometimes," suggesting that he doesn't really want to be an asshole, but you know . . . dem's the rules.

In my humble opinion, the Scalzi in the former mode is much, much more interesting to read than the one in the latter mode.

A good case study would be the recent discussion about national monuments. John responded to one of my comments in mode #2, and when I called him on it, he switched back to mode #1, and began providing some facts behind his opinions. The resulting discussion was much more valuable than the way it began.

Adam Ziegler | June 26, 2006 08:27 AM


I think you are mischaracterizing what is going on.

John isn't an asshole, he's just impatient. When John goes off on someone it's because they made a weak or poorly-formed argument that would be tedious to refute. It gets worse if they don't see or acknowledge their mistake yet continue to demand that they be taken seriously.

And honestly, I wish this happened more often in public discourse. Specifically, that we held people accountable for the quality of debate. But generally those in the media who do the questioning consider any argument equivalent to any other and make no effort to point out logical fallicies or weak thinking.

So in summary, John doesn't attack people because they disagree with him. He attacks people becaue they diagree with him badly.

Now, I read the thread on monuments to which you made reference, and while John wasn't exactly gentle with you, he didn't deliver the sort of stern and vigorous ass-whumping that our recently-departed poster endured. And I would guess that was because you presented your arguments well enough to keep him interested.

Bill Marcy | June 26, 2006 08:31 AM

Emearaldcite: My oil company stocks are paying nice dividends, along with the incresed portfolio value, so as a stock holder, I am quite happy with them.

Maybe, if you want to get your hands on some of the oil company profits, you might want to buy part of the company, instead of expecting them to take money from me, to give to you (or the people you deem worthy of my money). No?

John H | June 26, 2006 08:43 AM

See, this is why the Republicans need to ban gay marriage - before you know it someone will be wanting to marry a toad. We need to nip this toad-loving in the bud...


That was 'toady-loving', not 'toad-loving'?


Well that's different.

Never mind...

Sue | June 26, 2006 08:46 AM

Eh. We're all jerks at some point. I can't help but think of something Scott Adams wrote once in which he discussed the fact that we all have moments when we do stupid stuff. Same thing applies here. And when you have a statistically small sample of writing or activities to judge from, and you choose to judge somebody based on those, you form incomplete opinions.

Sometimes, I think maybe you have a little more fun than you ought at the expense of some of the stupid people who float around here. And I wish you would admit that not everybody who chooses not to have kids is like the rabidly CF types. But beyond that, I wouldn't keep coming back and reading this site if you were truly a jerk, John.

Mark Tiedemann | June 26, 2006 09:08 AM

Such appelations are open to semi-accurate paraphrase, so direct refutation--or agreement--become unnecessary.

1: John Scalzi (like everyone) has an asshole
2: Egos are like balloons, by evolutionary necessity, and therefore inflate and deflate as the environment calls for it.
3: As with most people with some public persona, sycophants come with the territory. Suffering goes along with this.
4: We are/become different people depending on time of day, diet, state of inebriation, season, and company. Ergo, P.O.V. changes without even trying. Also, since we share a common language and, presumably, read other people's books, we most certain "see" other points of view, also without even trying. Accepting those points of view and agreeing with them makes them automatically our own, also, usually, without trying. Other points of view can be very trying indeed, and seeing them is automatically an effort, trying as they are, also without even trying.


David Moles | June 26, 2006 09:22 AM

Speaking as a sycophant, if you say you're an asshole, clearly I have to agree with you.

mds | June 26, 2006 09:23 AM

Well, I'd agree to (a) and (b), and more power to him. (c) is patently untrue. (d) has a germ of truth in it, since Mr. Scalzi is either a human being or a really excellent simulation of one. There are areas where we all are disinclined to entertain alternative points of view. Now, since (c) is false, Mr. Scalzi nonetheless does get exposed to alternative viewpoints. This is more than can be said for most people, who prefer their worldview to remain hermetically sealed. I mean, the man often seems to be a slightly left-leaning centrist, yet gives Professor Reynolds the time of day. That's someone with an open mind.

Rhiannon_S | June 26, 2006 09:34 AM

a) Is an asshole

I would never call John Scalzi and "Asshole". I'm from the UK I would say "arsehole" for a start, and I wouldn't say it anyway because it's not true.

Smurf | June 26, 2006 11:10 AM

I goof on him all the time, and he hasn't booted me yet.

darren | June 26, 2006 11:44 AM


"It's a shame that repsonses in this thread have been of the kiss-up-to-the-proprietor variety. Allow me to try a more balanced approach (cut from what I said below, to some extent):"

Hey, I thought this thread was about John being as asshole. Not you Brian. :-P

Bottom line, this is John's blog. I would not walk into his living room and shit on the rug, or his kitchen and pee in the milk carton, so neither would I come to his blog and call him an asshole. If I don't like what the proprietor of a website has to say, then I just do not visit their site. It seems pretty simple to me.
Sometimes reasonable and intelligent people make stupid, asinine, idiotic comments. Smart folks are just as capable as any one else of falling into the trap of having their pet issues that they don't want to know the truth about. They will defend their views irrationally with vitriole, hyperbole, and ad hominom against a rational arguement that doesn't mesh with their own world view.
In case you're wondering who I'm talking about, these would be the folks that would come to someone elses website, use arguements based on a fundamental ignorance or misunderstanding about the topic of discussion, and then call their host an asshole when he calls them on it. The whole thing is a no-brainer to me as to who the asshole is.

Mary | June 26, 2006 11:53 AM

darren: "Other than that, you seem like you're just an average Joe, with an average job. You're an average white, suburbanite slob. You like football, porno, and books about war. You've got an average house with a nice hardwood floor."

Oooh! Two points for subtlety! Minus 5 points for making me hum that damn song at work.

Now for the next musical question: does John Scalzi have any Elvis in him?

Harry Connolly | June 26, 2006 12:38 PM

John, I recommend that you trade in your sycophants for groupies. The exchange rate is something like 11 to 1, but it's totally worth it.

KL | June 26, 2006 12:59 PM

Agree with Darrell, Brian. Bad arguments get called bad arguments. Good arguments JS disagrees with get debated.

Dogbreath that left in a huff was ignorant to a "T", and JS doesn't suffer fools like that, at all.

And I figure that John already responded to you quite well in the thread that caused all this hoo-ha. *Of course* you're going to be a little disgruntled by the presentation and direction of a blog that disagrees with the majority of your political views. *Of course* you're going to be under greater scrutiny than the (heh) sycophants. Er, why are you complaining about this?

Josh Jasper | June 26, 2006 01:01 PM

Jesus, I'm a horrible typist.

Madeline F | June 26, 2006 01:07 PM

Resolved: John Scalzi:

a) Is an asshole;

Yes. A well-spoken asshole, which tends to throw a bunch of people off, but definitely an asshole. And a guy can be an asshole and a good guy at the same time, and Scalzi definitely moderates his assholishness so that it's usually amusing.

But some situations, like suporting his friends, really bring out the asshole in him in a poor light.

b) Has an inflated ego;

Yes. Seems to me he's got an inflated ego pretending to be a normal ego pretending to be an inflated ego. But, eh, it's not a problem inandof itself.

c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;

He's more likely to flip to annoying-asshole mode when he's defending the people on the board and the internet as a whole who agree with him, or who are long-known to him. So a stupid comment from someone disagreeing with his bud is met with an assholish counter, but a stupid comment from someone disagreeing with him, or agreeing with him and his people, is unlikely to be remarked on. Over time, it makes for a more hostile environment for those not in the Scalzi group.

d) Makes no effort to see anyone else's point of view.

He's better about this than most ranty wordsmiths, but again, when his people are challenged, he's more likely to set aside the attempt to understand and go straight for the throat with his massive word-fu.


In general, Scalzi writes interesting stuff on the internet and he writes it well. And he's a cool guy, even a nice guy. And when it comes to interactions on the internet on his own behalf, he's pretty wise and seasoned. The original ranter isn't entirely off-base, though.

MikeB | June 26, 2006 01:44 PM

Whilst everyone likes a good toady once in a while they do become a little McD eventually. For myself I can be a perfect asshole when the need arises, I am glad that John manages it too. I don't agree with eveything he writes but I do enjoy reading it and that counts for a lot. And as for ego, well without ego there would be a lot less creativity in this sorry world.

Jacob | June 26, 2006 03:13 PM

A, C, D: No.
B: Of course, he's an egomaniac: he's a writer.

Magenta Griffith | June 26, 2006 03:34 PM

I met John briefly at Wiscon. He was in the Green Room, and I listened in on a discussion while I was waiting for the rest of the panelists to show up for my next panel.

He certainly did not seem like a asshole, he was not surrounded by syncophants at the time, and was listening to other peoples' points of view, as far as I could tell. The condition of his ego is not something I am competent to judge, but it didn't seem any more inflated than any other writer I've met.

To me, it sounds like sour grapes on the part of the late, not-too-lamented poster.

CosmicDog | June 26, 2006 04:23 PM

a) Is an asshole;
Yeah, probably. Sure seems like it sometimes. Then again, there is so much thought and communication that gets lost in writing. The smirk of amusement on his face, if it's there, does not make it to the page.

b) Has an inflated ego;
He's been getting a lot of good press lately. That would certainly inflate my ego. By the way, have you seen the pictures of his house? He is obviously doing very well and success, so I've heard, can cause one to build up quite a pedestal. So yeah, I guess so, but can you blame him?

c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;
Nope, clearly wrong. Unless your posts were deleted or you were kicked from the board simply for having a differing opinion, you cannot make this claim. (or kicked out his house/conference/whatever)

d) Makes no effort to see anyone else's point of view.
I don't think that that's true. He may be a bit stubborn and may refuse to change his opinion sometimes, but who would trust or respect someone who changed their point of view all the time. He even posted a positive comment of President Bush; that leads me to believe that he does think about issues and isn't simply snapping to conclusions and refusing to back off.

That's my two cents. By the way, I am a Christian and sometimes feel like my faith, my God, and my people are being attacked by some of the things that John writes. Then I take a breath and decide that I don't care. He is entitled to his opinions and has the right to express them. I still think that he is a good writer on his way to becoming a great writer. Who knows, maybe he'll come around someday.

Timmy | June 26, 2006 05:11 PM

From the existence of this comment thread, we can determine four things:

a) You're not an asshole; true assholes tend to close their minds to the very possibility that they could, indeed, be assholes.

b) You do have a slightly inflated ego; you never would have been able to open a hey-let's-talk-about-me thread without one.

c) You do not suffer only the company of sycophants; you seem to suffer just about whatever company comes your way.

d) You're not heedless of other people's opinions and points of view, if anything you're obsessed with them.

Your greatest weakness as a man (your Achilles heel, if you will) is your desire to please others. This man's weakness is also your greatest writer's strength, however, and I see that as a pretty good trade-off.

Tripp | June 26, 2006 05:20 PM

John has zero patience for bad arguments and rhetorical tricks and that is what I like about him.

Rhetorical tricks are not used exculsively only by one side, of course, but they seem to be much more prevalent to some right-wingers. I think they learn that style on sites such as powerline and little green footballs where they can ban anyone who doesn't toe the line.

One example - John may say something like "In general we should help the poor" and some commenter will say "so what you are saying is everyone should be forced to give all their money to the poor."

Strawman arguments and trying to put words in one's opponents mouth are almost as bad as calling someone names and they deserve the scorn they get.

Right wing commenters seem to favor these tactics as well as the 'false dichotomy' technique and it gets very tiresome to see them repeated.

Tripp | June 26, 2006 05:21 PM

Oh, yeah, does anyone know who the commenter was? I've got a guess but would like to know for sure.

Timmy | June 26, 2006 05:49 PM


My name links to the comment thread in question.

Occula | June 26, 2006 07:47 PM

It's such a fine line between being closed-minded and simply having made up one's mind on a particular issue, isn't it?

Hey, so far, so good.

Anne C. | June 26, 2006 07:51 PM

I think Adam Ziegler said it best: "So in summary, John doesn't attack people because they disagree with him. He attacks people because they disagree with him badly."

John has the capability of being an asshole, but thankfully curbs that impluse 95% of the time, and when he does let loose, it's usually deserved.
Ego? Of course. As has been stated many times, you can't submit your work for thousands to read without having some confidence in your work. If his ego wasn't inflated (Lisa, I think the ego came from being a child with a higher than average intelligence.), he wouldn't write for the public and we would be the losers.
Sycophants and opinions? I think this one is the furthest off. I actually think he prefers listening to intelligent disagreement than "Brilliant, John!" any day. There are plenty who do agree with him, but he never really encourages this. I think the number of intelligent posters who disagree with John who have stepped forward on this post (disagree with his politics, not the "am I an asshole" question) are testament to his interest in opinions. He certainly can get stuck in a rant, but has never turned away a well-written and thought out counterpoint.

John is no paragon, but I like listening to a majority of what he has to say, so I stick around. If I didn't I wouldn't stay.

Evil Monkey | June 26, 2006 08:49 PM

I know assholes. I've met many of them. I cut off their heads sometimes, even (although they keep growing back for some odd reason).

You, sir, are no asshole.


Evil Monkey

Andrew Wade | June 26, 2006 09:25 PM

a) He has his moments. His trolling he keeps in strict moderation (I first came to this site through the "I Hate Your Politics" troll), and it spices things up. And it is rare that he brings his disputes from elsewhere on the 'net to the front page of the Whatever. But he can be abrasive.

b) Hard to tell (and compared to what standard?). Certainly the ego of the Whatever persona doesn't appear to be very vulnerably to deflation, but it is possible that Scalzi just doesn't much care about what happens here.

c) Um no. He can be a bit rude to those he disagrees with and very rude to those who he thinks are being stupid or jackasses. Unfortunately his dumbassery detector does suffer from the (IMO) false alarms. The end result is that commentators here have generally thick skins. And a certain uniformity of opinion. But I've run across more than a few echo chambers on the 'net, and the comment threads here are not one of them. Partly I think it's due to the (relatively) low volume of this site, allowing conversations to take place without being swamped in 1000 post threads. Partly it may also be due to the variety of topics posted here. But not only does he suffer the company of those that disagree with him (in that he doesn't ban them, and a few of them hang around), he will often respond to the substance of what they say.

d) Nonsense. I don't know just how much effort Scalzi is willing to expend to understand someone's point of view, particularly if they trip his dumbassery detector. But it's clearly non-zero. Otherwise he would not be able to respond to the substance of what his critics say, and the threads would be a bit more boring. Probably a lot more boring, as I doubt the more interesting commentators would bother to stay.

"I crave your opinion on the matter!"

Heh. I'm taking you at your word. If you're fishing for toadying instead: no thanks, I'm not interested.

joshua corning | June 26, 2006 11:37 PM

Otherwise he would not be able to respond to the substance of what his critics say, and the threads would be a bit more boring.

BS...it has been my experiance that scalzi avoids responding to substance like the plague and will often nitpick until you give up or drag him kicking and screaming to address it.

That aside "a" doesn't matter...i am sure i am an asshole and if scalzi is one i don't see it as a charater flaw...although i am not saying that he is.

"B" well he has published a few books and countless people read his blog...i am not sure that he does have a huge ego but he has earned the right.

"C" look like anyone can post here and i have not been kind to him and he has not deleted any of my comments so this is dead wrong.

mark ensley | June 27, 2006 01:21 AM

Resolved: John Scalzi:

a) Is an asshole;

What's wrong with assholes?

I'm in favor of mine. The one I'm sitting on keeps me from dying in my own poisons.

People who respect the beginning of a process seem to never consider the end of that process. And the whole cycle viewpoint which creates new processes from older ones. Assholes are necessary and vital.

Assholes produce either waste or fertilizer, depending upon your viewpoint. Or one can not judge and see both together and merely a point on the cycle.

b) Has an inflated ego;

Honestly, I think his ego is exactly in line with his reality. He seems clear on his ablilities, his achievements, his limitations, and his potential.

c) Suffers only the company of sycophants;

You clearly haven't been reading this for long.

However, I will demure if you replace "sycophants" with "intelligent commentators".

He seems to enjoy savaging poorly thought out comments, especially ones that ignore his first more kindly responses.

d) Makes no effort to see anyone else's point of view.

Again, you haven't been here long, have you?

From what I can tell, he loves to be disagreed with, if this is done so intelligently.

One reason I continue to read these comment threads is the incredibly kind responses John provides.

No matter how snarky he becomes, he is ALWAYS trying to educate.

That's incredibly kind.

I'm sorry you missed the kindness he was trying to provide.

mythago | June 27, 2006 10:13 AM

Wait a minute. Somebody 'left' a discussion space on the Internet after throwing a tantrum?

I...my world is shattered....

Tripp | June 27, 2006 10:34 AM


My name links to the comment thread in question.

Thanks for the info. You were not my guess.

Oh, and your Mom was hot!

Dan | June 27, 2006 10:38 AM

No, John, i think you're great!

*is a toadying sycophant*

Tripp | June 27, 2006 10:54 AM


Aw, geez, now that I follow your link I see that you weren't the commenter in question.

My bad.

And why do th ebest flame wars take place on the weekends? Damn. I miss the good ones.

Luke | June 27, 2006 11:30 AM

joshua corning said:
"it has been my experiance that scalzi avoids responding to substance like the plague and will often nitpick until you give up or drag him kicking and screaming to address it."

I have observed him to attack arguments on structural grounds first. This may be frustrating to those attacked, but one should first consider that it is frustrating to everyone else when one puts forward arguments that are susceptible to structural attacks.

Tripp | June 27, 2006 11:47 AM

Scalzi debates at a higher level then many people are used to. He does not allow argument by assertion, ad hominem, strawman, and other logical fallacies.

Before arguing here people should read the Wikipedia article on logical fallacies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacy and have access to a good dictionary.

Otherwise you are likely to sound like a contrarian teenager who learned a few things and thinks he knows everything.

Timmy | June 27, 2006 01:02 PM

Tripp: "Oh, and your Mom was hot!"

Thanks for the lovely compliment, I'll make sure to tell her.

"Aw, geez, now that I follow your link I see that you weren't the commenter in question."

No problem.

joshua corning | June 29, 2006 01:06 AM

I have observed him to attack arguments on structural grounds first. This may be frustrating to those attacked, but one should first consider that it is frustrating to everyone else when one puts forward arguments that are susceptible to structural attacks.

yes nitpicking about the proper placment of a comma or complaints about typos are "structural grounds"...you are making a distiction without a difference.

Scalzi debates at a higher level then many people are used to. He does not allow argument by assertion, ad hominem, strawman, and other logical fallacies.

I can see where the "sycophants" observation comes from...but who in his right mind would say "You agree with me to much stop it"
Father Sculzi can't be blamed for who shows up at choir each Sunday.

Luke | June 30, 2006 02:44 PM

Please point out where a comma error that was not important took precedence over a substantive argument.

Michael Patty | June 30, 2006 07:47 PM

Who cares? I mean, really. We all come here, OBVIOUSLY, to read what Scalzi has to say. I personally enjoy the heck out of his musings, even though I don't agree with much of it and stand on the opposite side from him, politically.

So back to my main point. Who cares? What was the guy here for if he didn't like the way Scalzi writes? Let's return to the fun! Cry-babies can do their thing somewhere else, please. :p

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