The Sciences

Dave Appell: remember the messenger

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJul 22, 2010 1:58 PM


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David Dobbs has a long measured response up to David Appell's strange argument that Pepsi's "free speech" rights were violated during the recent ScienceBlogs kerfuffle, by way of which he casts some aspersions on the character and agenda of specific bloggers. Here's the thing about Appell, he has a long history of confused and surly criticisms and interrogations of others and himself. I know that history because I first became familiar with Dave Appell in May of 2002. In between pointers and commentary on physical science, his primary beat as a science journalist, he would offer some personal reflections, frustrations, and worries. I'm not big into bloggers who "overshare," especially science bloggers, so I tried to ignore that as I focused on the substance of Appell's posts. But he popped up again in subsequent years with what I felt to be peculiar and emotionally driven behavior. First, in early 2007 I heard Rod Dreher offer a long explanation and apology on NPR for his support and subsequent opposition to the Iraq War. Dreher was heartfelt from what I recall, and didn't soft pedal his faults which led him to his initial opinions. Well, that wasn't enough for Dave Appell, he sent Dreher a nasty note where he stated that hoped that Dreher would burn in hell for the suffering that he caused. For someone who believes in free speech Appell certainly does not incentivize public candor about error. If you do something stupid, and perhaps even foul, keep your mouth shut! Then in 2008 he had a relatively widely linked post up criticizing the whole enterprise of blogging and the blogosphere. He concludes:

So more and more I am focusing on real writing, detailed reporting for magazines where you can do some real investigation and reporting and your audience isn't just people reading over their calzone at lunch. I don't want to end up some vapid blogger who tries to say everything and so who says nothing whatsoever. Life is too short. I'm really not sure what the solution is.

Two years on he's obviously still reading blogs, still blogging (posting YouTube clips and updates on his kittens even!), and commenting on the situation of the blogosphere. He even wants to broaden the discussion and let a thousand flowers bloom. Sometimes when the message seems a bit muddy, it's not because you lack powers of perception. If you see the byline "Dave Appell," and it doesn't have to do with atmospheric physics or such, update your priors! (or better yet, click away)

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