Sunday, March 17, 2002


JSH: Explaining the Ullrich mess

I've said that I'm a very logical person, and I think this Ullrich thing about racial slurs and "lapdog" is a good way to highlight that.

The facts are that I made a statement which apparently angered Ullrich and he made a statement which angered me. Now I'm going to succinctly go over the details, and explain my reasoning in inferring why my statement angered Ullrich based on his statement that angered me.

The original statement by me with date and time:

From: James Harris (
Subject: Re: A Web page about FLT and JSH ?
Newsgroups: sci.math
View: Complete Thread (55 articles) | Original Format
Date: 1999/09/21

Excerpt from post:

If you were smarter you wouldn't have been my lapdog in this instance.


Notice the month and year.

Now here's an excerpt including the statement by Ullrich that angered me:

From: David C. Ullrich (
Subject: Re: is wilma scranton really james harris?
Newsgroups: sci.math
View: Complete Thread (14 articles) | Original Format
Date: 2001-07-24 08:40:37 PST

Excerpt from post:

"The game" indeed. I recall the incident you refer to. I don't
recall the details. But I do recall that the "game" you were
playing was such that it seemed to me a perfectly appropriate
reply would be some sort of racial slur - someone talked
me out of that.

Like you referred to me as your lap dog or something. Boy
was I mad about that.

"The game" indeed.

(Note: That statement was made almost two years after my original statement.)

Ok, so here's my statement again:

"If you were smarter you wouldn't have been my lapdog in this instance."

I inferred that Ullrich was angry because I described him as behaving in an inferior position to me, while he sees himself as my superior.

I further inferred that Ullrich saw his superiority as coming from his race because he mentioned race and used the word "appropriate".

His statement:

"…it seemed to me a perfectly appropriate reply would be some sort
of racial slur…"

My inference was that Ullrich wished to remind me why he couldn't be my lapdog, since he could never be inferior to me, and that the basis for his perception of his superiority was race.

Consider, Ullrich might have felt superior to me because he's a math professor and I am not. If that had been the case I presume he'd have made a statement where his reminding me that I'm not a math professor would have been "appropriate".

Now, Ullrich has claimed another interpretation saying that he wanted to show me why you don't talk to people that way (note the condescension).

Let's analyze that position.

My statement again was

"If you were smarter you wouldn't have been my lapdog in this instance."

Hmmm…how many of you see gross insult in that?

However, one can see how Ullrich might see it as a gross insult if he saw himself as superior to me. In that case, it would be wrong for me to talk to him that way if he were clearly my superior.

Therefore, I concluded that Ullrich felt superior to me because of race, and that he wished to remind me of that with a racial slur.

He further said:

"…someone talked me out of that."

My inference from this statement was that Ullrich felt it his right to inform of his racial superiority by a racial slur, but that he also realized that he couldn't get away with it on the newsgroup.

That is, he couldn't have said something like:

"You idiot nigger how dare you say I'm your lapdog, even in an instance."

However, I inferred that he felt it his RIGHT to be able to say that, based on his perception of his superiority, so he had to give an explanation for not excercising his perceived right, so he said someone talked him out of it, as an explanation for not setting me straight with the "appropriate" racial slur.

Based on that chain of reasoning I concluded that Ullrich was demonstrably racist as he'd given enough information that a reasonable person could conclude that.

Of course, it's difficult to prove what another person is thinking, but that doesn't keep people from getting punished for far less evidence than Ullrich presented because the reasonable explanation is clear.

In this case, the reasonable conclusion is not only that Ullrich saw himself as so superior to me that an insult was needed if I made a statement which indicated he behaved inferior to me—even in an instance—but that it angered him enough that he was bothered two years later.

That kind of extreme position also, in my mind, is an indication of racial prejudice, as people tend to get very intensely emotional about racial issues, and it seems possible that someone could hold on to anger for that long for something racial.

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