Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Open Letter to Steph

I have finally realized that I have a blog nemesis (or stalker) of sorts. She often posts highly negative comments on this blog and it sometimes feels like on other blogs that I comment on that she is there soon after as well with bitter and derogatory against me no matter what I'm talking about (even on something as prosaic as NT essay topics on Chris Tilling's blog). Her name is Stephanie. I do not know her personally, but I know about her through friends and colleagues. We evidently have different views about faith and biblical scholarship. But the mean spiritedness and needless character of her invective remarks spurns me on to make a response in the same public forum that she is active in maligning me. For case in point, this is what she wrote on a comment when I announced the birth of my son Markus:

"'Fruit' of your 'loins'!!?? You read a book during the birth?? You name the boys??? and this one after a dubious military person???? and then turn him into you? I hope he has the freedom and courage to think for himself.Congratulations..."

Now there was a cordial "congratulations" there, but you'll note that all of the other words seem to cast aspersions on myself as a husband, a parent, on my family, and now even on my son as prone to indoctrinisation. Is this what the biblioblogosphere is for? Is this collegiality? I was celebrating the birth of my son and this woman could not even say "congrats" without attaching some barb on the end. Thus, I make an appeal to Stephanie:

Dear Stephanie,

It has become apparent that we are not kindred spirits (despite our shared antipodian roots). My views on faith, theology, scholarship, biblical studies do not align with your own convictions. But I feel that your comments about me, on this blog and others, have exceeded the bounds of civility and cordiality that has come to typify the biblioblogsophere. If you knew me personally, you would realize that I am not quite the ultra-right wing fundamentalist that you seem to picture (or is it caricature) me as. I get on well with other secular scholars (e.g. James Crossley whom I count as a genuine friend) and I see no reason why we could not be friends either. So I politely ask you to desist from your vitriolic comments about me. I do not mind criticism (on this blog or others) but criticism does not need to exhibit an ad hominem character in order to be effective or provocative. If, however, your animosity towards me cannot be placated or assuaged, and if you have no interest in being on friendly terms with someone you disagree with, well, in that case could you (a) just stop commenting about me any where and everywhere, and (b) in return I will abstain from commenting on James Crossley's blog in order to keep us from crossing swords on that terrain as I know that it is one of your favourite haunts.

Cordially yours

Michael Bird


JCEdwardsStAndrews said...

Before you suspend commenting on Crossley's blog, I would be interested to see your response to NT Wrong. Your lack of a response has been noted twice by Crossley, most recently today.


Unknown said...

Personally, I'm Roman Catholic and I love your blog. So keep up the good work. Just ban her from your blog.

Bill Victor said...

What I don't like is that she comments semi-anonymously. She doesn't blog and you can't find her profile anywhere. Some of you who run in those circles may know of her, but most of us do not.

Bill Victor said...

Thanks for the note, Ranger. If you just happen to come across her name in one of these comments section, you can't just click on a link to take you to a profile of her. I never doubted her expertise, just didn't know who she was. I guess a lot of people do, though.

Peter M. Head said...

I personally feel that this an over-reaction: heat, kitchen, pots and kettles etc. I never knew you were so precious.

Keen Reader said...

Well said, Michael. And it's about time that someone said it. Sadly, Steph has become the Ms. Nasty of the Biblioblogs. Her post to you on the occasion of the birth of your son is almost unbelievable.

Rod said...


I identify myself as an Anabaptist and I guess a person on the Evangelical left and enjoy reading this blog. Keep up the good work!

Alison B said...

I have neither the time nor desire to search for every post made by Stephanie and so I will leave it up to others to make a decision about whether her usual comments about Michael are justified academically / scholarly.

Is Michael being "precious"? Perhaps as he is now about five weeks after the birth of his son tiredness and emotions have increased and so Michael is reacting to something he would normally let slide. However, this does not justify the comments made by Stephanie following the birth of Markus.

Perhaps Ranger is right in that many people think this is a playful crossing of swords and maybe even Stephanie has felt a measure of familiarity with Michael beyond what Michael reciprocated. There is a problem when one of the parties fails to know how to take comments (was Michael willing to take them in good humour until Stephanie posted her comment following the birth of Markus).

I don't think it is too much to ask for a simple apology for an ill-considered post and then a refocus on whatever issue is being discussed separate from personal animosity.

Bryan L said...


You might have wanted to consider asking her first (maybe in a previous comment or by relaying a message through someone who knows her) whether she actually has something against you or whether you were just misreading her tone before putting a whole blog post out there about this.

Also, I hope these comments don't turn into a place for people to air their negative opinions of another blogger. That tends to happen when one blogger decides to publicly air their personal grievances with another blogger and sometimes it turns pretty nasty.

I can echo the same positive things Ranger said about Steph. Although we disagree on quite a lot she can be very helpful and gracious and once you realize that she says a lot of her comments in jest and they should have a " ;-) " next to them then it makes a big difference in how you read her.

Bryan L

John Lyons said...

Billy V: "What I don't like is that she comments semi-anonymously. She doesn't blog and you can't find her profile anywhere. Some of you who run in those circles may know of her, but most of us do not."

Isn't this is a bit rich coming from someone whose profile says as little as yours does, Billy V? :) My profile links to my webpage and who I am is a matter of public knowledge. But if you choose not to use your full name when you write, I fail to see how you can criticise someone else for not doing that either?

What I find peculiar in all this, is the feeling that I am witness to a spat between family members, or a friendship group, and not to something that has to do with either the Bible or academia.

The blogosphere obviously doesn't have the formal aspects of academia - i.e. where you are made to apologise or are disciplined if you go beyond some invisible line - and peer disdain doesn't feaure so large either. Instead what we have is a loose grouping of people who supposedly are interested in the same thing. But let's face it, they aren't really. So we end up with people being a bit hostile, occasionally verging on being outright nasty to each other, and some think that is legit, some don't, some can take it and some can't. But what I find strangest of all is the introduction of 'etiquette' into this situation. Which always raises the question of just whose etiquette we are talking about.

I know people in various parts of my life who find the invocation of family very, very painful. For some this is personal and to do with loss, for others it is to do with the feeling that the promulgation of the "normal" leads to the denigration of their own lifestyle, especially as an academic. (Believe it or not, Mike, I know people who might rejoice at the birth of your son, but find you putting it on a biblioblog a repulsive heterosexist gesture.) I am not saying here that I think that Mike was at fault for mentioning his son, or that Steph was wrong in responding as she did. My point is simply that none of us really know what is going on here, and that goes for the wider phenomenon of blogging as well.

I am always amused by the expectation that we should get on, or that we are on a common trajectory. The fact is that we are taking part in a social project which none of us control, which has almost no commonly acknowledged principles for distinguishing between legitimate comment and illegitimate, and yet we still get upset when someone does something we consider out of line. But out of line with what?

And this is why it is so odd that we let each other into our personal space in this way. And it is why I think Biblioblogging seems to be more of a family-type thing, than an academic one. But it is a hugely dysfunctional family, with some nice people, some odd people, and one or two utter bastards. But who those odd people and bastards are will depend pretty much on who you are. Is Roland Boer one or not? Is Steph or Mike? We will answer those questions differently. And then we are in the business of self-revelation. Is that good for us? Or useful? Or productive? Or is it a reason to give up altogether?


J. L. Watts said...

Michael, I get these commentators as well who have no inclination to to create their own blog, but would rather spend large amounts of time attacking me on mine. I think your post here was excellent, and well said.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Really, this is one of the least offensive Biblical Studies blogs. I can see people attacking Jim West, but i wouldn't do it myself, at least not recently, maybe back in the 90s but not now. Cris Tilling (sp?) could also attract nasty people, but why here?

James said...

I am as thoroughgoing a skeptic and secularist as might be imagined, but in this dispute--or, better, as to this request for a modicum of civility--I am entirely on Bird's side.

I hope he will not carry through on his intention to stop commenting on Crossley's site. To lose a co-author's ongoing observations would be a considerable loss to Crossley and to all his readers, and here's one reader who hopes he will be able to continue to see what Bird has to say.

James Crossley said...

Just for the record, the above James isn't me!!

Mark Stevens said...

Mike, did you receive a reply as yet?

Henryk G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henryk G said...

Illegitimati non carborundum.
No offence to 'Steph' but, Michael, please don't stop posting where you feel appropriate just because someone's having 'a go'. Effectively they're censoring you and that is most definitely illegitimate!

Stephan Huller said...

I am having problems with Stephanie Fisher too. I thought you and the other bloggers might find some of the personal details I uncovered of interest:


J. L. Watts said...

It would seem to me, Mr. Huller, that you have your own questionable activities


Stephan Huller said...

What's that? Being born in to a Jewish home trying to make sense of Christianity? Guilty as charged.

At least you decided to check out the integrity of your protege. For you that's something. Why not talk to these guys about what a lovely person you've decided to befriend. Her profile says that her favorite movie is the Life of Brian and her favorite group is the Sex Pistols.

Maybe your trying to convert her. I hear she likes missionaries or something like that.

Stephan Huller said...

Something doesn't add up, Joel. You have to admit

Her co-habitation with the professor aside. You haven't noticed that she spends A LOT of time at John Loftis' site? Just look at his comments page. It's even more than she used to spend at Jim West's site.

Yes she puts on a good show but she's not one of you. You can't like the Life of Brian, the Sex Pistols and John Loftis and be sincere about the things you're sincere about.

She cries the victim but she's very, very manipulative. I suspect the professor is just old and lonely and she's got him wrapped around her finger. He's afraid she'll leave.

The truth is that can't believe the day would come when Joel Watts preferred atheists to heretics but I am learning a lot today.

J. L. Watts said...

Stephan, I am not going to litter Michael's post with this conversation. He deserves better than that; however, your attacks here are baseless, disgusting, and vile. You should be ashamed of yourself.

steph said...


Stephan Huller said...

This is becoming the most illogical experience of my life. If the whole point of this controversy was for me to take down comments I posted from her cohabitant why do you continue to fuel interest and attention in the controversy. The request for the removal of the comments did not come from the original source but someone I detest and the owner of this site detested at one time.

Had Steph's cohabitant made the request there would have been an immediate response. Instead I have the two of you going around promoting a controversy which should been solved with the removal of the original post yesterday.

That you want to prove I am detestable is obvious. But if I am detestable for revealing details of a cohabitation and the implications for a doctoral program in a certain university and then removing them how do we explain your actions? If privacy is sacrosanct then we are equally detestable.

This is utterly illogical. Whereas I have removed the things the third hand emails on my site, you continue to post third hand emails at your site. Are you so drive by hate that you can't see that you are engaging in the exact activities you describe as detestable?

As I don't pontificate about my moral superiority I can live with being detestable for five hours in my life and then taking steps to correct my original actions. Apparently you are quite happy about being detestable as long as it done in the name of some misguided cause.

And Steph, what can I say that hasn't been said already at this blog? Good luck, God bless