Why atheist and skeptic groups should be inclusive, caring and supportive

by Michael Nugent on July 26, 2012

Since we hosted last year’s World Atheist Convention in Dublin, there have been escalating online debates about sexism, harassment and bullying in the international atheist and skeptical communities. Good people including friends who I respect, who have expressed different opinions about these issues, have been victims of unfair personal attacks, based on distortions of what they have said or written or represent.

This escalating hostility is now an extra problem on top of the problems that triggered the debates. It hurts people and makes them feel alienated or ostracized or fearful. And it makes it harder for us to work together where we agree, to discuss things reasonably where we disagree, and to address the underlying problems that triggered the hostility. We can and we must reverse this hostility, starting by tackling issues not attacking people.

As atheists and skeptics we should focus on the core issues that unite us, which are atheism and skepticism, where we have literally endless work to do promoting reason and secularism in society. And as ethical atheists and skeptics, we should work together to make our communities inclusive and caring and supportive. This includes actively tackling prejudice and discrimination, and also harassment and bullying, within our communities.

Why we should tackle prejudice and discrimination

As ethical people we should tackle racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudices and discriminations, both within the atheist and skeptical communities and in wider society. We each have our own unique mix of random birth advantages, based on our race and gender and sexuality and physical and mental ability and family; and personally earned advantages, based on our education and career and income and relationships. All of these factors influence how we interact with each other socially, and can cause us to face prejudice and discrimination, or to perpetuate it, often unknowingly, every day.

As atheists we should empathize with other groups facing social discrimination, because we know what it is like to face it ourselves. It is different to discrimination based on birth disadvantages, but it is analogous because of the impacts. Most religious people do not even realize that they have unearned social advantages. They see being religious as a natural default position, they genuinely wonder what we are worrying about, they believe we are attacking their rights, and they call us militant and strident. But we notice the prejudice and discrimination, because we experience it every day. And so we should take care not to act in the same way towards other groups.

As skeptics we should objectively examine the impacts of social discrimination, and identify the best ways to promote diversity and inclusiveness. By definition, prejudice depends on not having all relevant information, and as skeptics we are ideally suited to develop and promote arguments for inclusiveness and human rights, based on the evidence of the benefits to individuals and society. We could use this research to tackle the emotional and irrational thinking behind racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudices and discriminations. It’s at least as interesting a topic as many we discuss, and a more useful topic than most.

Why we should discuss things reasonably and support each other

We should discuss these issues reasonably, without unfair personal attacks or bullying. We should do this for both ethical and practical reasons. Good people and inspirational activists, who were friends and allies just over a year ago, have been personally hurt and are alienated from working together. This is unfair to these people, who have worked hard and effectively to advance atheism and skepticism, and who are now misrepresented and stereotyped on various websites. It is also unhelpful to the wider project of promoting reason, atheism and skepticism as being better approaches to reality and beneficial to society.

On top of that, some different people have written disgusting personal attacks on women activists, at times dressed up as rape jokes, which go beyond being hurtful and into the realms of hate speech. And others have defended this. This is overt misogyny aimed at specific women, and all decent people must stand together on this issue. We must not become desensitized to the line that it crosses. It goes beyond any sincere disagreements that people of goodwill may have about the level of sexism in our communities and how best to tackle it.

There is a complex tangle of causes and effects between the underlying levels of sexism, legitimately expressed disagreements about its nature and scale, misrepresentations and unfair personal attacks, people becoming hurt and defensive, escalation of the disagreements into hostility, people becoming desensitized to the escalating hostility, and the casual publication of overtly misogynistic hate speech. And this relentless pattern raises obvious concerns about where we are heading, if we cannot reassert the primacy of discussing things reasonably and supporting each other.

How we can start to be more inclusive, caring and supportive

I believe that we can reverse this pattern. I believe that we have enough reasonable people, with different beliefs about these issues, to be able to calmly reassess where we are, how we got here, where we are heading, and where we want to go. Most of us are involved in atheist or skeptical communities because we want to interact with like-minded people, and we also want to help to improve the world a little bit. We now need collective leadership to do this effectively.

I believe that we should start with first principles. If we focus on designing positive policies to make our communities more inclusive and caring and supportive, and work hard to implement those policies, then actively tackling prejudice, discrimination, hate speech, harassment and bullying will flow naturally from that. And it will be as part of a coherent strategy, not just dealing with particular examples as they arise.

Here are 25 next-step suggestions that we could consider.

Atheism and skepticism

  • Keep working together to promote the primary issues that unite the atheist/skeptical communities, which are the approaches to truth and reality that lead us to atheism and skepticism, and how reason and secularism can benefit society. We have not yet come near to winning these arguments within society, and we have to stay focused to bring about change.
  • Continue to rigorously criticize bad ideas wherever we find them. Use reason, logic, evidence, humour, satire and ridicule to undermine the bad and harmful ideas that people promote, and to positively promote better ideas and better ways of thinking.
  • Criticize or satirize people only for their ideas and behaviour, not their personal identities. And there are enough charlatans and abusers of human rights within the religious and pseudoscientific communities to keep us going for years without turning on allies with whom we disagree on tactics.

Promoting fairness

  • Discuss and take action to help to bring about a fairer society. This is an inherently good thing to do as ethical people, and we should do it for that reason. It also helps to combat prejudice about atheists and morality.
  • Take positive actions to help others through community outreach projects. Hold charitable events. Help existing charities. Visit people in institutions without preaching to them. Do something new and imaginative.
  • Objectively examine the impacts of social discrimination, and identify the best ways to promote diversity and inclusiveness, so that we can develop evidence-based arguments that can guide our ethical instincts.
  • Build alliances with other groups who also face prejudice and social discrimination. Identify and work together on specific issues of mutual interest, and generally support and empower each other.

Inclusive, caring and supportive

  • Aim to build real-life and online communities, where atheists and skeptics can enjoy interacting with like-minded people, while helping to advance reason and secularism in wider society.
  • Design positive policies to make the atheist and skeptical communities as inclusive, caring and supportive as possible for people of all races, genders, sexualities and abilities. This will include policies on how to help people to feel safe and enjoy themselves at our activities.
  • Start not by identifying specific outcomes, but by agreeing the principles upon which outcomes should be based: principles like rigorous criticism of ideas, mutual respect for people, promoting fairness, empowerment, diversity and inclusiveness.
  • Measure our responses to specific issues against those agreed principles, which in effect become independent criteria, not by our instant emotional reaction to the most recent thing that somebody has said or written that we disagree with.
  • Focus outward. Design our inclusiveness policies by finding the opinions of the people who we want to include, but who are not already involved. By definition, we who are already involved cannot accurately answer the question of why others are not yet involved.
  • Include people of diverse backgrounds on our organizing committees and event panels, so that we gain from the variety of life perspectives that this brings to our decision making and our events.
  • Try to make others feel safe and comfortable at our events. As a base line, don’t make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If we’re not sure, err on the side of caution. Read and respect whatever policies the organizers have published about this.

How we communicate

  • Online debates can magnify misunderstandings and intensify hostility, when compared to real-life conversations. Remember that we are dealing with real people who have feelings. Don’t humiliate, marginalize or ostracize people who are seeking to discuss things.
  • It’s important to be angry when anger is justified, but it’s often not helpful to publish what we feel while we are angry. Instead we could write what we feel then wait to review it before publishing it, or else share our anger privately with a friend. The best use of anger is for it to motivate us to take practical actions to make things better. We can best do this when we are thinking clearly about what we are doing.
  • When responding to something we disagree with, assume good intent. Respond to the issues. Point out what we agree with as well as what we disagree with. Ask them to also assume good intent on our behalf.
  • Don’t stereotype people who disagree with us. Engage reasonably with people who sincerely disagree with us on issues. Seek explanations and apologies from people who post disgusting personal attacks, but otherwise don’t let them dictate our agenda.
  • Try to find creative ways to advance the underlying interests of both us and the people who we disagree with, rather than just compete with them or capitulate to them on the specific examples we are discussing.
  • Be prepared to back down from our positions when we realize that we were mistaken. This can be harder to do on the internet, because our positions are permanently published not merely spoken. Do it anyway.
  • Avoid telling racist or sexist or homophobic jokes, unless perhaps if they are empowering because the target of the joke is the racist or sexist or homophobe. Don’t ever target specific real people with jokes or suggestions about rape or anal self-abuse.

Starting to heal the rifts

  • Accept that each of us is likely to be right about some issues and mistaken about others. Try to approach each issue on its merits, rather than on the basis of which side you think the person is on.
  • Accept that we might be mistaken about what other people are trying to communicate to us, and what their motivations might be. Accept that we might have made mistakes when communicating to others, and that we might have unfairly hurt people without realizing it.
  • Accept that the first step to identifying either harassment or bullying is to listen to the people who tell us that they feel harassed or bullied. The fact that they feel harassed or bullied means there is a problem to be addressed, whatever the detail and however we address it.
  • Start the process of healing the rifts ourselves. Identify something that we ourselves did that may have been unfair or hurtful, and apologize to the person who we we think we may have hurt. Do this regardless of whether or not they reciprocate.

How we can reinvigorate our atheist/skeptical communities

Adversity can sometimes build strength. If we get this right, we can heal at least some of the recent rifts, and start to build reinvigorated, positive atheist and skeptical communities. We should also focus outward. There are many atheists and skeptics who are not even aware that our communities exist, never mind being aware of the minutia of our disagreements. They may be more likely to be attracted to positive proactive groups, who combine promoting our core ideas about atheism and skepticism with an inclusive and caring and supportive value system. As reasonable people, we should at least test this hypothesis.

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{ 268 comments… read them below or add one }

1 cormac July 26, 2012 at 6:47 am

Michael,

If you are referring the the recent defamatory hysteria and witchhunt engaged in by PZ Myers and his horde of five-minute-hate skepchicks, them I think you are coming down on the wrong side. There is a lot more to that issue than a crass and stupid joke about rape.

As an atheist, the best thing I can do is not pour oil on those troubled waters. To do so would be to accept unreasoned hegemony of truly stupid ideologies. PZ and his minions are not about equality, they are the flipside of the hateful ideologies they claim to despise.

Neither are they truly skeptics. Instead they are enamoured of their own interpretation of events and of the world, and they aggressively try to silence anyone who voices an alternative opinion from their own – including the likes of Dawkins, Thunderfoot, and many many others. Their standard modus operandi is to accuse people of the most horrendous motivations, and to continue to do so over and over again in the face of the facts and ignoring any explanation, qualification, or defence by the accused.

The way things are going, and the fact that they are so profligate with the defamations they publish, sooner or later there will be a major lawsuit with negative fallout for all.

I for one will not in any way legitimise their horrible behaviour by compromising with them in order to further our aims. That is a slippery slope. It is the beginning of the road that leads to corruption and cover up.

They are unpleasant, bullying, divisive, and vindictive. They are themselves incapable of compromise. I want nothing to do with them.

Cormac

2 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 8:59 am

I agree 100% with Cormac’s position on this and I’d add that the actions of these people are not only damaging to the Atheist and Skeptical communities, but also to the feminist cause they claim to champion.

3 Kesey July 26, 2012 at 8:59 am

Nicely derailed, Cormac. You’ve just validated everything that Michael has said.

For an ass who likes to quote Orwell (PROTIP: get it right, it’s a “Two Minute Hate”), I refer to you his essay, “Politics and the English Language”: “prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house”. That was exactly the feeling I got waging through your turgid dreck this morning: “standard modus operandi” — click-clack!– “horrendous motivations” — click-clack!– “slippery slope” — clack-clack! If we hadn’t the Internet, you’d be writing letters in green ink to the “Irish Times”.

You “want nothing to do with them”? Fine, I don’t want anything to do with bumptious prigs like you.

4 Dave July 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

This is wonderful advice for anyone who is willing to take it. For those who aren’t willing, perhaps it’s better if they went their separate ways.

5 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 10:31 am

Cormac, just a tip, but when someone discussing women being upset over rape jokes talks about “hysteria”, in the process jumping over what looks like a very reasonable and balanced article, you don’t do your own side any favours.

Oh wait, there was only _one_ rape joke? That’s OK then.

P.

6 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

I said five minutes because they go on and on and on and on.

Bumptious >clickclack<

I never asked to be part of their community. They came to mine.

I am quite content to have nothing whatsoever to do with you.

7 Scott July 26, 2012 at 11:32 am

Great article, but this wouldn’t be the internet if there were not already comments here disrespecting everything you just said…

8 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

Not sure what you mean Paul.

But as it happens, I was completely unaware of that “joke” being posted until Myers declared that I and all other members of that community were “rape condoners”.

His cohorts then went on to continue to make these claims, becoming more and more aggressive. They threatened to orchestrate a campaign against the fellow who posted the joke, in the real world, in which amongst other things they’d get him labelled as a “rape condoner”. This led to one of them posting his name, address, and phone number on the website. The home where he lives with his wife and children.

The fellow in question posted a “joke” which was crass and stupid, but in its intent was aimed sardonically and sarcastically at satirising the over the top politics evident on freethoughtblogs and in particular amongst that group known as Skepchicks. It was a stupid joke. It failed in its attempt at sardonicism, at sarcasm, and at satire. It wasn’t funny. But it in no way condoned rape.

Furthermore, on what grounds could it possibly be fair, reasonable, or proportional to label every single member of that group as “rape condoners” due to the post of one person?

There is also the rank hypocrisy in Myers noting that donations are solicited to support the running of that site. He suggests that the fellow who posted the “joke” deliberately stoked controversy I order to materially benefit. The hypocrisy is that Myers does personally gain financially from his blog. He stands to benefit from this controversy that he stoked.

The other site, on the contrary has no paid advertising, and the only monies collected go to pay for the cosy of the servers. There is no financial gain. Furthermore, the site is a very small backwater site that has low traffic and a relatively small membership. Myers knows this because he is a member of the site and had posted there in the past.

And to compound his hypocrisy Myers posted a joke about the Aurora mass murder and about male rape.

9 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:35 am

Apologies for the typos. My phone “autocorrected” some words…

10 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:37 am

Scott – Are we to just accept everything that Michael says as gospel?

I deeply respect the spirit in which Michael posted his article. I simply think he is wrong.

11 Scott July 26, 2012 at 11:47 am

What part of his essay was wrong? The tolerance? Or are you just assuming that he’s taking a side here and that it’s not your side?

12 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 11:47 am

Which part is he wrong about? That “atheist and skeptic groups should be inclusive, caring and supportive” or that we should “discuss this reasonably”?

P.

13 Harry Guinness July 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

Great article Mick, it really is ridiculous to have high profile figures in the fields engaged in all-out personal attacks.

14 Tony Ryan - Coffee Loving Skeptic July 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Nice article, and I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.

It requires effort and respect on both sides though, including the FTB/Skepchick bloggers, which at the moment is not happening. Until both sides of any disagreement are willing to accept that they have made mistakes too, there won’t be any consensus formed.

15 Derek Walsh July 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Great article, Michael. Hard for anyone to disagree with, although, as expected, somebody managed to.
I’m amazed and frustrated at the lack of self-awareness that allows someone to read that and believe that it’s taking sides, then complain that the “other side” are entirely at fault – what with their hordes, minions, hysteria and witchhunts – while the commenter’s own chosen side are victims, all being collectively blamed for the actions of one individual who wasn’t that bad anyway.

16 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Kesey said: “You “want nothing to do with them”? Fine, I don’t want anything to do with bumptious prigs like you.”

Dave said: “This is wonderful advice for anyone who is willing to take it. For those who aren’t willing, perhaps it’s better if they went their separate ways.”

Paul Said: “Oh wait, there was only _one_ rape joke? That’s OK then.”

Derek Said: “I’m amazed and frustrated at the lack of self-awareness that allows someone to read that and believe that it’s taking sides”

Do any of you seriously think that these statements reflect the inclusive, caring, tollerant and respectful discourse advocated by the article you claim to be supporting?

17 Sarah boland July 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the Article Michael. It is no harm to be reminded of the ethos every now and again. Most of us can get carried away at some time or another.

18 John Moriarty July 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

That particular slagfest over on FTB has sickened me Will we soon have the atheist equivalents of catholic/ protestant sunni/ shi’ite sectarianism? The lack of proportionality is self evident. Thunderf00t did himself no favours by some of his replies, even if I agreed a lot with what he said. Myers has shown himself a demagogue & rabble rouser despite his good points. Some people you just cannot joke with, others you can. Recall Jack Lemmon got pinched in the elevator by the bell-boy! I’m out of there for a long time I reckon. Recently I had a good chat with a feminist at the Socrates meetup. Turns out we are both equalists at heart. It’s a decent place to be, especially with so many fine women in my life, and men as well.

19 Jamie Stanton July 26, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Your suggestions for how to communicate are eminently sensible. So much nonverbal communication is lost in online discussions, so we must be mindful in how we come across. and also how we interpret the words of others and not jump to conclusions.

20 Luh July 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Lol what? Citations, please? I must have read a whole different discussion.

21 Mordachai July 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

In an ideal world we could all communicate.

I’m going on 44 revolutions round our local star, and although this is a pathetically small sample, it is all I have from which to draw personal conclusions.

And one conclusion that seems inescapable: There are deep differences in what we each individually and collectively believe is right and wrong.

Libertarians are not Humanists. Folks who’re just fine with a “good rape joke” and find that to be fine humor are not compatible with those of us who see such behavior as deeply demeaning to women as a group, and inappropriate in the extreme. Are torture jokes of Jews in good taste? How about slavery jokes for African-Americans?

That there is a significant portion of the Atheist/Skeptic community that is, at their heart & core, NOT humanists is deplorable. I wish them well in their lives and hope they die out as a group, just as I want no part of rethuglicans and bible-thumping fundamentalists. Their views on right/wrong, and basic human decency leave too much to be desired.

Good riddance. Now, down to those who believe in honest equality for all human beings, let’s get on with making this a world I’m not continually ashamed of….

22 cormac July 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Derek, I don’t know how else to characterise the situation. Myers declared that ALL members of the forum were rape condoners. Apart from anything else, I was completely unaware of the existence of that post.

Neither am I responsible foe the posts of other people.

So, it is in fact as on aided as I’ve described.

23 rorschach July 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hi Mick,

we should catch up sometime soon, haven’t seen you since Dublin ! It’s regrettable that your post has attracted this kind of crowd in the comments so far, which only goes to show that there are now a lot of butthurt people, and also those who have pledged allegiance to certain factions. I pretty much agree with all of what you said here, and I hope your post can be a valuable help in making people work together again.
However, if the last 12 months have shown us anything, it is that there is a huge unsolved and largely ignored problem with sexism and harassment in our movement. No talking nice and seeing both sides is going to make it go away. It’s out in the open now, and we better tackle it. If this movement wants to remain credible, and a force for social change, then we have to sort this out. And playing nice might only help the misogynists cling on to their hateful delusions of privilege for longer. Also, it is worth keeping a close eye on the language used in this battle. “Bullying”, a term you use in your post, is being employed very shall we say indiscriminately by those who want to make us believe that disagreement these days equals harassment, and that the bloggers at for example Freethoughtblogs are bullying people by pointing out that calling people cunts or baboons or twatsons is not acceptable.

24 Hairhead July 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Ah, yes, the lovely denizens of Rationalia. I surfed there today, and looky what a found: a brand new thread!

“Re: What’s the most appropriate way to ridicule a Skepchick?

Postby Animavore » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:36 am
Well we can’t slag them for being women. We can’t laugh at the thought of them being harmed in anyway.

I think they have stupid hair. Also, their irrational fear of dissenting t-shirts makes them lose face. Which is fortunate because, have you seen their faces? They look like a pack of bulldogs slurping piss off a thistle. ”

Feminists are *ugly!* Well, that’ll show them! What eloquence! What originality!

OR:

“Re: What’s the most appropriate way to ridicule a Skepchick?

Unread postby Audley Strange » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:35 pm
Give them a Miggs.

(See Silence of the Lambs.) ”

Nothing like following up a rape joke with a sniggering semen-in-the-face joke. Enjoy the company you keep, Cormac.

25 Freki July 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Myers declared that ALL members of the forum were rape condoners.

Well, no he didn’t.

The first paragraph of Michael’s excellent post asks: “Hey, people, don’t do that”. So let’s try to leave the fallacies at home.

26 A Hermit July 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Cormac, the best way to deal with what you felt was an unfair generalization by Myers about your forum would be to make it clear that you DON’T condone rape jokes instead of leaping to the defense of someone who made one.

This is part of the problem as I see it; too many people are more upset by the angry reaction to something like that rape “joke” (which was targeted at a specific, identifiable group of women) than they are with the offense that provoked the anger in the first place. By getting defensive and defending the person making the rape “joke” you make it look like you are in fact condoning that kind of thing, making Myers comment a kind of self fulfilling prophecy.

It would be better to take a step back, ask yourself why the people responding negatively to the rape “joke” were so angry and think about whether or not they were right to be angry. Are you more upset by rape threats, or by people getting angry about rape threats?

And to turn the comment section of an excellent, thoughtful article like this one and turn it into a platform for your own personal vendetta against Myers and the people you hypocritically lump together as his “cohorts” looks petty, small minded and offers the rest of us a shining example of how not to fix the problem Mr. Nugent is addressing. Take his advice, take the time to review your comments when you’re and think about whether you are sending the message you really want to send.

27 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

And there you have it. The false dichotomy and guilt by association fallacies rolled into one.

You’re either with the rad-fems or with the misogynists. No shades of grey, nothing in between. Utterly appalling logic for a skeptic and yet something continually repeated in the Freethought Blogs echo chaimber.

28 Hairhead July 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Hey Jimbo, notice I said, “The company you keep.” I didn’t say that Cormac said those things. He defends those who make them, who provide a platform for them, and accuses people like me of being unwarrantedly upset.

Also, Cormac gets facts wrong. For one only, PZ et al. DO NOT condone jokes about male rape — in fact, that is one thing that is routinely and quickly condemned by them.

29 mythbri July 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Very well thought-out, Michael. The idea of being part of multiple movements that work in agreement with each other appeals to me very much. It makes me feel that progress is possible, and society can advance on several fronts.

Bookmarked for sharing and re-reads. Thanks.

30 Hairhead July 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Jimbo, what is “rad-fem” about insisting that women be treated as human beings?

31 Angela Squires July 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Please get over your problems people. I am both bored and disgusted by this debate in our community; it has gone way beyond reason. Most of us entered the Skeptic Community in the first place to find reason, not a diatribe of I’m right because I say so even though such sentiment is disguised by fancy words. Our economic system is utterly broken, the crooks that did it went unpunished and got financial bailouts courtesy of our tax dollars and you lot are arguing – get a life!

32 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm

His cohorts then went on to continue to make these claims, becoming more and more aggressive. They threatened to orchestrate a campaign against the fellow who posted the joke, in the real world, in which amongst other things they’d get him labelled as a “rape condoner”. This led to one of them posting his name, address, and phone number on the website. The home where he lives with his wife and children. You are a liar, Cormac. The person who posted that information was not anybody whose handle I recognized. PZ Myers removed it promptly, even before “Pappa” emailed him to complain.

33 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Blockquote fail.

His cohorts then went on to continue to make these claims, becoming more and more aggressive. They threatened to orchestrate a campaign against the fellow who posted the joke, in the real world, in which amongst other things they’d get him labelled as a “rape condoner”. This led to one of them posting his name, address, and phone number on the website. The home where he lives with his wife and children.

You are a liar, Cormac. The person who posted that information was not anybody whose handle I recognized. PZ Myers removed it promptly, even before “Pappa” emailed him to complain.

34 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm
35 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm
36 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

LOL “equalist.” The term for someone who wants to pretend that men and women are actually operating on a level playing field in terms of societal privilege.

37 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Oh, I’m sorry, were we supposed to be respectful and tolerant of apologies for rape culture?

38 Angela Squires July 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Some men are assholes Rebecca Watson – did this fact escape your attention growing up? One drunk inviting you for a 4am coffee in his hotel room at an Atheist conference and you going hysterical about it has led to the biggest storm in a teacup I’ve ever encountered. The answer Rebecca is “No thank you, I’m busy/going to sleep alone/sod off pus face/get lost or I kick your balls to bits/get a life loser” etc: You call yourself a feminist and cannot dismiss a wimp in an elevator?
You are a disgrace to us feminists! I tried watching your podcast but almost drowned in virtual vomit.

39 Esteleth July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Y’know, it always tickles me when I see the blandest statements in favor of women’s humanity getting branded as “radfem.” You know that that term actually MEANS something, right? That radical feminism is an actual ideology? That not all feminists are radfems – that radfems are in fact a minority of feminists?

In any case, I think Mordachai hit the nail on the head up there. The libertarian/humanist split is huge, and it is getting wider. I don’t entirely see this as a bad thing.

40 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

LOL, Angela. You’re a feminist like I’m Marie of Roumania.

Also, dishonesty about original ElevatorGate situation noted.

41 aleph squared July 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

One drunk inviting you for a 4am coffee in his hotel room at an Atheist conference and you going hysterical about it

Going hysterical about it? You clearly haven’t fucking watched the video. Maybe if you weren’t so busy posturing about virtual vomit, you could actually watch the thing and see where she very calmly and without any hysteria/hyperbole says “hey, guys, don’t do that.”

Also: aaawwwwww you’re calling her hysterical! How cute.

42 Esteleth July 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Angela, you seem to be woefully misinformed as to what actually happened in the elevator incident. Elevator Guy propositioned her. She said no, and then later recounted the incident and followed up with a simple statement: “Guys, don’t do that.”

Seriously.

43 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

There are no comments against this article that would lead me to believe anyone here is a rape apologist. That kind of putrid smear is reminiscent of McCarthyism and has no place in a community dedicated to freethought.

44 Freki July 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Y’know, it always tickles me when I see the blandest statements in favor of women’s humanity getting branded as “radfem.”

Also “hysteria”.

45 David Leech July 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Michael wants to herd cats, good luck with that:-)

46 Tricia July 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Angela, you clearly have not watched Rebecca’s video or you have a different definition of “hysterical” then I do.

47 Freki July 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I sincerely hope Michael knew what he was getting into, because otherwise his cheerful assessment of humanity is going to get completely trashed.

48 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Yeah, it’s totally your community, and no icky gurlz allowed unless they challenge you in no way whatsoever.

49 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

LOLOLOL, “McCarthyism.” Care to Godwin me next?

And, yes, when you claim that “both sides are just as bad,” when one side is promoting rape culture and the other side is protesting it, just because they use ~~~incivil~~~ language, you ARE defending rape culture.

50 ASTRO July 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm

This is the same thing as religious people who call criticisms of their bigotry ‘intolerance’

51 Ploon July 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm

“going hysterical”

You mean the video where Watson says “Guys, don’t do that”? It wasn’t even the main point of the video. Thanks for giving your opinion on something you apparently know nothing about.

52 Ms. Daisy Cutter July 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I doubt she’s misinformed. What actually happened in Dublin has been clarified over and over. At this point I don’t give people spreading lies about it the benefit of the doubt.

53 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Yup, to be the whole storm in a teacup was the reaction, not the video. A gentle reminder that a woman who’s not single might be freaked out by being propositioned without warning while alone in a strange country at 4am – this is somehow, er, radfem?
P.

54 Cathy July 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Angela, did you even read Rebecca’s original blog post about the elevator incident? It appears from your description that you did not.

55 cormac July 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

And here they are.

Note that I have not defended anything about that rape joke. Had I seen that post before Myers created the scandal, I would have done one of two things:

1. Ignored it, because I thought it was a stupid thing to say and something to which I did not want to add.

2. Posted to say that I thought it was not a nice thing to say even in an attempt at satire.

I did neither because I was not aware of the post at all.

Incidentally, the quotes mined above are from a thread in which people are hamming up the false characters that are being declared foe the by those on Myers blog.

Noone on Rationalia condones rape. It is defamatory to say that they do.

56 cormac July 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm

And as for Myers not advocating rape, can someone explain this tweet:

https://twitter.com/pzmyers/status/228171069146685440

…where we should have state sponsored rape?

Why is this something that can be explained away, buy Pappa’s stupid joke is not?

57 John Moriarty July 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm

@Angela
I don’t get how “guys, don’t do that” is hysterical. Its all about what snowballed after that. That’s when it got disproportionate.

58 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Mordachai said it very well above, so I won’t try to duplicate his comment.

For me, it’s really quite simple. When certain parties: (1) cease attempting to silence and degrade ANYONE with sexual threats, (2) stop responding to being called out with an ever-growing volume of the same, and (3) sincerely apologize, then, and only then, will I consider them potential allies. Until then, they’re just assholes to me.

I also want to add that the people coming over here to derail the thread (hi Cormac, Jimbo, Angela!) are clearly not the subject of Michael’s appeal for communication and respect between potential allies. People who routinely spout off falsehoods for the “lulz” aren’t skeptics at all, just trolls. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be called out for their defenses of the indefensible, of course. Just remember they get off on it.

That said, great article, Michael. I very much enjoyed reading it. I don’t have much of substance at the moment, but perhaps later when I have more time.

59 Timid Atheist July 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm

It’s too bad this thread has devolved into an argument over who is worse.

Micahael,

Thank you for taking the time to write this. It’s good to see another skeptic willing to address these things and willing to accept the fact that we absolutely do need social justice and to recognize intersectionality in this movement/community.

60 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm

You’ve missed the point entirely. There are more than two sides here.

This isn’t the hero feminists vs the evil misogynists as you’d like everyone to think. There is an entire spectrum of views among those of us who are not engaging in misogynistic behaviour.

However, those that Paula Kirby has branded as the Femistasi, have chosen to repeatedly tar everyone who has a dissenting opinion with the same brush. That IS a form of McCarthyism.

Not everyone who opposes Watson’s brand of feminism, or her behaviour for that matter, is a rape apologist.

61 Freki July 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Noone on Rationalia condones rape.

Good job no one said that.

Tell me, if you are comitted to helping us to narrow this “deep rift”, have you scolded your fellow Rationalians who think rape is jokey stuff? Or do you just scold people who notice your friends’ gaffes?

62 Cathy July 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Hey everyone, we’re letting the trolls win. As a community of mostly reasonable people, we need to:

1) Stop being so thin-skinned. Yes, abominable things are said, sometimes even couched in reasonable terms. The trolls are getting a rise out of the rest of us. As soon as we let them know we’re mad about what they said, they win. If we stop feeding them, they’ll go away.

2) Ban the trolls from our forums. We don’t need to hyperventilate over the real slurs being thrown around, but we don’t need to tolerate trollish behavior. But banning is often difficult or impossible to enforce, so we have to fall back in #1.

Don’t feed the trolls. Pretend they don’t exist. Shunning works.

63 The Arbourist July 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Had I seen that post before Myers created the scandal,

It was almost like PZ posted the rape joke himself…

No, he did not. The rape joke was correctly called out for what it was, tasteless, offensive and mired in the misogyny that plagues our culture.

You do not get to shift responsibility for the poor judgement your admins make.

64 Cathy July 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Please don’t think I’m taking the hurtful things said by the trolls lightly. Their opinions and comments cause real harm. But the only way to regulate speech on a public forum is to ignore it.

65 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Where of course “Troll” is defined as “Those who disagree with me”.

66 Robert Corfield July 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

It seems obvious to me that personal attacks against women activists including rape and death threats are not to be condoned whether you think they are OTT or not.

67 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Cathy, that’s good advice and exactly the opposite of the position taken by Skepchick who chooses instead to go from conference to conference reading out trollish comments and encourage others to respond to trolls.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSHipqT1wa8&list=UUupX3k88Z1cRYCDuCPrmxlg&index=3&feature=plcp

I guess if I earned an income from web site advertising revenue I might do the same.

BTW, holding this view in some corners of the www will get you labelled as a rape apologist.

68 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm

When certain parties: (1) cease attempting to silence and degrade ANYONE with sexual threats, (2) stop responding to being called out with an ever-growing volume of the same, and (3) sincerely apologize, then, and only then, will I consider them potential allies.

I’m posting that again, since you seemed to miss it the first time.

69 Julie July 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Good article Mr. Nugent; I appreciate your clear stand against rape jokes, your call to examine the impacts of social discrimination, and especially your call to charitble action as a practical, positive action.

Some of your communication suggestions will need tweaking though. “Assuming good intent” will not work when dealing with online personalities who use a strategy of pretended innocence to harass the humanists trying to follow your communication advice. Likewise, your call to always believe people who say they feel bullied, is highly vulnerable to people who abuse the term in online forums.

70 A Hermit July 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm

And once you became aware of the rape “joke”, Cormac, you had a decision to make. Are you going to be more upset with the use of a rape “joke” to mock, ridicule and intimidate a specific group of people, or with the reaction of the people who were the target of that abuse?

71 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm

She’s _reading out trollish comments_? Why, that’s terrible. As bad as making misogynistic jokes about rape.

*rolls eyes*

P.

72 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:31 pm

And now we fall back on the strawman arguments. How could I expect it to go any other way? :-(

We’re supposed to be the rationalists…

73 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm

You’re the one claiming that Watson, etc, are _as bad_ as the misogynistic rape-joke tellers. If that’s _not_ the worst example of her behaviour, why did you use it?

P.

74 Julie July 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm

playing nice might only help the misogynists cling on to their hateful delusions of privilege for longer.

Agreed. I’ve found the verbal and written attacks against women to be alternately very frightening and offputting over the years. One reason that I so greatly admire both Skepchick and FTB is because they actually stand up to misogynists, without apologizing, without knuckling under to the misguided pressure to ‘be nice.’ There are appropriate times to be nice, and there are appropriate times to fight for what’s right. In this discussion, I consider what’s right to be feminism/humanism.

75 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm

And where exactly did I make that claim Paul?

Strawman arguments are a lot easier to get away with when debating in person. Here we have what was written in black and white.

76 Freki July 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Strawman arguments are a lot easier to get away with when debating in person. Here we have what was written in black and white.

Yes, we do have what was written in black & white.

Unfortunately for you

77 Brownian July 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Had I seen that post before Myers created the scandal

New rule everyone: you’re only allowed to comment on things you’ve personally seen, in the places that you’ve seen/read/heard it. Reblogging things you find distasteful or downright disgusting is ‘creating a scandal’.

Gonna be hard to deal with all the bigfoot hunters and creationist out there when we’re not allowed to post about the things they say, but there you go.

78 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm

OK, Jimbo, by all means tell us what they _have_ done that is as bad as misogynistic rape jokes. I honestly have not been not been following this saga in any details. For example, my first knowledge of the aforementioned Thunderfoot was checking their Twitter feed today. Suffice to say I will not be a regular follower.

P.

79 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

“OK, Jimbo, by all means tell us what they _have_ done that is as bad as misogynistic rape jokes”

I have not at any point, not here or in any other forum ever sugested that Skepchick has done anything taht is “as bad as misogynistic rape jokes”.

You are asking me to defend a position I do not hold and have not expressed. I find your line of argumentation incredibly cowardly and irrational.

80 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm

So show me where I said it. Should be nice and easy right? Freki? You there? Didn’t think so.

81 Super Duck July 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Had I seen that post before Myers created the scandal

Ha. Yeah. PZ started the scandal by daring to *draw attention to something*. I guess the same way Rebecca caused Elevatorgate by *drawing attention to something*
It’s not like the stupid, petulant oh-my-hurt-feelings response to this heinous drawing attention of things is the actual reason for the brouhaha, right?

82 Brownian July 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

As an atheist, the best thing I can do is not pour oil on those troubled waters.

“So, I’ll spend six paragraphs doing exactly that.”

I liked the No True Skeptic™ claim too. Well done.

83 Paul Moloney July 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

So what is your point? You originally agreed with Cormac, “100%” that Michael N was “coming down on the wrong side”, and that said wrong side was, quote, “unpleasant, bullying, divisive, and vindictive”.

It’s perfectly reasonable for me to ask for instances of this side’s awful behaviour, worse than using rape jokes to silence people. There is nothing remotely strawman-like about this. So far an example of this awful behaviour was RW reading out trollish comments. Hence my eyerolling.

P.

84 Brownian July 26, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Also, Cormac gets facts wrong. For one only, PZ et al. DO NOT condone jokes about male rape — in fact, that is one thing that is routinely and quickly condemned by them.

What? That can’t be. He’s a True Skeptic&trade. He makes arguments based on fact, not his emotional agenda.

85 cormac July 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm

There are loads of women on Rationalia. Most of them utterly oppose your views.

You are now accusing me of being misogynist. You have no basis for this accusation.

86 cormac July 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I said that the best thing I can do is NOT pour oil on troubled waters.

I don’t think we should paper over these cracks.

I do think an injustice has been done, and I don’t think it is in any way fair to characterise all people on Rationalia as women hating pro-rapists, which despite statements to the contrary here, is exactly what has happened.

87 Freki July 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm

There are no comments against this article that would lead me to believe anyone here is a rape apologist.

The term used was NOT “rape apologist”, you strawmanned. Your first post in this discussion was expressing your unqualified support for someone else’s strawman collection.

You’re either with the rad-fems or with the misogynists. No shades of grey

yes, because disagreeing with Jimbo means you’re a “radfem”, becauce… not sure how that works, or what’s so bad about “radfem”

Ok, now calm down & take a deep breath. I know it’s hard to come to grips with the fact that people you know & like have managed to put their foot squarely in a meadow muffin, & then declared it roses & whipped cream. But if you really gave an airborne rodent’s left testicle about closing those “deep rifts” you wouldn’t be supporting the gaff & scolding those who noticed it.

You would be trying to get your friends to stop making gaffes

88 cormac July 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm

No, there was also the one that PZ made here:

https://twitter.com/pzmyers/status/228171069146685440

89 Julie July 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Cathy, I firmly disagree. Ignoring hateful speech is absolutely not the only way to regulate it; in fact, that is the opposite of regulation. When I’m considering a blog, the way in which the blog author and regular commenters deal with abusive/disruptive commenters is of great importance to me. If I see a forum where cruelty goes verbally unpunished, I likely wont reward that blog with my readership again.

I urge all forum moderators to both ban where necessary, and cultivate healthy commenting standards. Just because fighting trolls and sock puppets may be difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Ceding the comment threads to trolls (especially the groups of trolls our movements are dealing with at present) is my definition of letting the trolls win.

Also, I find your use of the terms “thin-skinned” and “hyperventilate” to be worrisome flags that you don’t take the concerns of the feminists in this broader discussion seriously. So I have trouble processing your further comment that trolls’ “comments cause real harm.” If you believe trolls cause harm, why would you argue in favor of not only allowing their bile to be posted repeatedly, but posted unchallenged?

90 David B July 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm

As usual Michael writes a lot of sense.

I do think it a pity that so many comments here focus on assigning blame for past disagreements within the – for want of better words – freethought community, rather than considering what we should do for the best.

What should we do for the best?

Pretty much what Michael suggests I think.

David B

91 oolon July 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm

If you cannot tell the difference between a joke that has rape in it and a joke where either the butt of the joke is a victim or rape is implied as a suitable punishment then… Well I concur with the description of you as bumptious.

92 Jadehawk July 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm

people on Rationalia have not been characterized as “women hating pro-rapists”. They were told (with links to research papers) that rape-jokes support what’s called the “rape culture”, and thus should be not made, nor should they be supported. They should be actively condemned, instead. Which is what we did.

93 Jadehawk July 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm

“they” didn’t, actually. Rationalia was mentioned by Skepchic because one of your admins at Rationalia dragged the Skepchicks into it. PZ merely commented on it ON HIS OWN BLOG, and we also commented on it ON PZ’s BLOG. we didn’t raid Rationalia or anything like that.

94 oolon July 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm

You can determine the totality of a persons views from one comment – amazing! More than that you have personally polled the women in your community and now know what their views are and that they are utterly opposed to this persons.

I’m probably wrong but it seems to me the problem is with statements and thoughts along those lines. Reality is not quite so black and white — I’ll go so far as to say the women in your community probably agree on a whole lot of the same things as the women participating in the discussions on Pharyngula. But anyway why are differences so threatening? As Audre Lorde said, it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences.

95 Jadehawk July 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

rape culture is not a synonym for rape. try to pay attention lest you continue to strawman people’s comments this badly.

96 Jadehawk July 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm

dude, learn what words mean. There are virtually no radfems on FTB. That term has a specific meaning, it doesn’t simply mean “women whose opinions I don’t like”

97 oolon July 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I thought it was just ‘feminazi’ … Anyway to defend him he did apologise about that post to Rebecca Watson and admit he was wrong – which is sort of his point.

98 Sili July 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Some men are assholes[,] Rebecca Watson

That’s rather the point. We’re trying to fix that. Why should it be okay to be an arsehole?

99 Sili July 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Perhaps that’s a needed wake-up call.

But I recall someone talking to him about the lack of social justice at the European Atheist Conference in Copenhagen, and apparently it came as a surprise to him then. So he’s had two years to mull it over.

100 Sili July 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm
101 oolon July 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm

As I said above you look like a fool for feeling this is a necessary question… If you cannot tell the difference between a joke that has rape in it and a joke where either the butt of the joke is a victim or rape is implied as a suitable punishment then… Well I concur with the description of you as bumptious.

102 Cathy July 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Julie, I agree that it’s not ideal to ignore hate speech. But at what point does it become counter-productive to genuine discussion? Trolls take over, and all we talk about, over and over again, is how wrong they are. They win when we stop trying to advance the goals of the skeptical and feminist communities, and spend all of our time responding to idiots. As I said, when we respond at all, they win.

As a life-long feminist, I’ve seen plenty of thin skin and hyperventilating on both sides of every issue. There’s nothing contradictory about acknowledging the harm hate speech causes, but choosing to act in a way that maintains a healthy discussion – even if it means not satisfying the understandable urge to react. The issues trolls raise are certainly worth discussing, at times, so why not discuss them without engaging the troll further?

103 Cathy July 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Anyone who thinks Rebecca was trying to “start something” with the elevator comments she made is wrong. She was frustrated over a minor annoyance, vented about it in a pretty calm way, and then it blew up with the Dear Muslima hyperbolic bullshit. The over-the-top reaction to her comments is pretty good evidence for the misogyny that exists in the skeptical community. “A woman said she didn’t like it when a man asked her to his room? HOW DARE SHE SAY SUCH A THING!”

104 Quine July 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Hi Michael, thank you for that nice piece of what is, for the most part, thankless work.

One thing I would add is the need for people to use their reason to understand that those who are not with you, are not necessarily against you. Yes, I know that is how your emotions weigh the balance, but the whole point of the rationalist/skeptic ideal is to think it though.

105 Cathy July 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I wish I could delete this comment. David B is correct in his comment below. This shouldn’t be about past wrongs, but about moving forward.

106 katansi July 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Shunning does not make trolls go away. Ignoring a problem does not solve it. That is a terrible approach to any problem. Wounds fester when left unwashed. Telling someone to be thicker skinned is akin to blaming the victim for being hurt by the actions of another. You say just below this comment that you think the opinions cause real harm but think that the victims of that harm should find better ways to deal with it rather than the trolls being accountable for their words and actions. That approach is not a solution.

107 Mordachai July 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Thank you! I did not know about these many and wonderful ways to derail things so thoroughly. I feel I can finally put women in their proper place without so much effort on my part! What a dream! :)

108 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Whatever rape culture is supposed to be. What you are describing is collective punishment.

109 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm

As it happens I don’t find either funny.
I simply think that collective punishment is inherently unfair.

110 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Go back to your previous post and see who is jumping to conclusions. The women on Rationalia are outspoken and confident. I don’t have to guess. They have made their views known.

111 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:10 pm

So, here we have a neat little sauce for the goose is not for the gander.

I had no knowledge that the post even existed on Rationalia, and yet I am labelled a rape confined.

Why then should I not blame you for that posting of Pappa’s details?

112 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I wonder who those people were who came to Rationalia then?

A Hermit on this page is one of those who came. But at least he/she has the grace to come and have his or her say there. Unlike PZ, who actually IS a manner of Rationalia.

But there is no money in dealing with an issue by responding on a little backwater site. Much more lucrative to manufacture a controversy on his own site where he gets paid for traffic.

113 Charlotte July 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm

@Rorschach “No talking nice and seeing both sides is going to make it go away”

With respect, I think you’re totally missing the point of Mick’s post here which is actually about facing up bullying, misogyny and macho aggression within the atheist movement. Rather than telling Mick to be careful of his language here when he mentions the word ‘bullying’ it might also be beneficial to you to remember that once you become a bully yourself then there’s a big danger of you becoming just as bad as the side that you criticize.

114 Holytape July 26, 2012 at 8:28 pm

So let me get this straight.

Person 1 say: “Won’t it be funny if person 2 got raped.”
Person 2 replies: “That’s misogynistic, and in a larger context supports the Rape Culture by trivializing actual rape.”
Person 1 the replies “You Femistasi have no sense of humor, and you’re making no effort to respect my side. Feminazis, I hope you get raped. Just joking.”

115 Horace July 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm

The main thing is that we can disagree without rancor.

I would call myself an old school social democrat (I think that questions of gender/race are diverting us from important economic questions), but I think it is possible to have a wide range of political opinions and be a skeptic.

I have said this before: go back 100 or 200 years and see how the political debate differed from that of today. Both sides quarreled about questions that now seem unimportant and agreed on points that now seem indefensible. What are the chances that at this point in history either the left or the right are correct about everything.

We need to accept ideological diversity in our movement.

116 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Member not “manner”.

117 Sili July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Whatever rape culture is supposed to be.

A link.

What you are describing is collective punishment.

“Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape.”

Through their inaction, they are indeed collective guilty. As they would be, had they withheld water from thirsting, or food from the starving. If you can prevent harm without getting in harm’s way, yourself, you are ethically obliged to do so.

118 cormac July 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm

The people who were the butt of that “joke” have a right to be angry. Noone else.

119 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Horace, with respect, ideological “diversity” of this kind is not something I, at least, can accept.

I cannot discuss issues or work with people who call me a “mangina” or a “feminist-licker just hoping to get laid” simply because I think rape is a very real issue, and “jokes” about it contribute to real harm. I’m reluctant to even venture into forums in which that behavior is tolerated (encouraged!) by other members of the community in question.

Mind you, I’m a straight white male, age 18-35. I don’t get rape threats, don’t get told to (and to try to forestall the trolls, this isn’t JUST about some post on some random corner of the internet. This is about VERY public communication via FB, Twitter, and yes, forum comments by MANY PEOPLE).

Frankly, I have no interest in maintaining ideological diversity with people who so completely disrespect the humanity of others, and I see no value in trying to engage them.

120 Jimbo July 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

“So what is your point?”

JFC are you that thick? Need me to come round to your place and read the thread to you?

It’s about the best way to deal with trolls! I agreed with Cathy’s position on that. That’s it. Until you butted in nothing was said, either explicitely nor implied, that would suggest anyone thinks reading troll comments is worse than making rape threats.

Who’s the real troll here? The person expressing a view or the one actively twisting and strawmanning that view?

“It’s perfectly reasonable for me to ask for instances of this side’s awful behaviour, worse than using rape jokes to silence people.”

You are as entitled to ask me that as I am to ask you when you stopped beating your wife.

“There is nothing remotely strawman-like about this.”

No, not at all… apart from the fact that it’s a position I don’t hold and did not at any point express. That’s kind of the definition of strawman isn’t it?

“So far an example of this awful behaviour was RW reading out trollish comments.”

NO IT WAS NOT! That was an example of Rebecca Watson FEEDING THE TROLLS!

FFS, I really hope you don’t work in a job where reading comprehention is a large component.

121 Brownian July 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm

You mean, like how atheists and skeptics’ sites post comments from other sites, such as creationist ones?

As you’re fond of pointing out, we’re not in this together, Cormac. You and the members of Rationalia don’t automatically earn more graciousness than creationists and bigfoot enthusiasts.

122 Brownian July 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm

“I wonder who those people were who came to Rationalia then?”

I dunno. I’ve never been there. No one’s told me I should.

Aren’t you supposed to be a skeptic?

123 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Wait, have you been reduced to arguing that people should just stand idly by? That just because we weren’t the targets we have no right to point out how unbelievably stupid it was to post that?

Wow. Just…. wow. Your trolling has hit an epic low.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I consider it important to [i]call out inappropriate behavior towards other members of the movement[/i]. And I believe it is important to [i]rationally examine and address issues of sexism in the skeptical movement[/i]. A whole lot of people agree with me!

That’s really all this is. It’s beyond ridiculous how people are so exercised by this. If you don’t want to be labeled a jerk….. don’t act like a jerk.

124 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

And curse this evil site that doesn’t allow tags. :)

125 Brownian July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Kesey said: “You “want nothing to do with them”? Fine, I don’t want anything to do with bumptious prigs like you.”

Do you remember the context of the comment that this replied to?

Or is this sort of quote-mining and half-truthing the sort of thing Real Skeptics™ do?

126 John Moriarty July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm

On our playing field they DO. Madam, I thoroughly object to the innuendo of insincerity. Do you adhere to the charitable interpretation maxim? Well you should, we all should, and if not, begone, I do not wish to converse with your kind.

127 oolon July 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Referring to my post below – you are a fool if you cannot see the difference between the categories of joke and why one is not acceptable.

Collective punishment? WTF! PZ is now so important that his criticism is now punishment! Or maybe invoking the attention of the Pharyngulite horde is the ‘punishment’… What are you on about?

128 Horace July 26, 2012 at 9:10 pm

PatrickG,

I don’t think that you should be abused my being called a “mangina” or a “feminist-licker”. As a slyme pitter myself, I did not like the way people on our side made “Rebecca Twatson” jokes.

Unfortunately a number of people on your side are extremely abusive while being careful not to use a narrow range of “gendered” insults.

They can callously pile up on posters that they disagree with e.g. 10 people tag team abusing a single poster, distorting their opinions and
insulting them continually. A single “gendered insult”, which can be as mild as calling someone a bitch, and they talk about hate speech.

I used to contribute frequently to Pharyngula until I saw this happen (about a year ago) to a kid who was posting who I suspected had emotional problems. The dispute had nothing to do with sexism, the kid had had a bad time doing his B.Sc., complained that professors (and by extension PZ) were dishonest and was torn to shreds by the comments on Pharyngula. He alternately defended himself and tried to befriend the people who were attacking him. If you read the timing of his posts it was clear that he went without sleep for about 3 days. PZ was away and I think he thought that when he returned he would put his foot down. Instead he was thrown off Pharyngula.

We need to be able to disagree with each other without thinking that the other side is evil. We also have a problem with the way that we communicate with each other on the internet that has nothing at all to do with sexism or racism but is a question of simple good manners.

129 John Moriarty July 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I would hate to have either label attached to me.

130 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 9:24 pm

You describe a real problem, Horace, and I think the OP made a couple of salient points regarding how to deal with this.

As to the Pharyngula comments, I’d make two comments to that:
1) the blog explicitly invites people to let their inner beast out, and does post warnings about that;

2) it has been very on edge over at FTB in general (in my limited observations, at least, not speaking for anyone else), precisely because people like Jimbo and Cormac (in this thread) appear to take pleasure in derailing conversations, deliberately ignoring points, misquoting and misrepresenting others, etc. In today’s thread in Pharyngula, in fact, someone apologized for jumping too quickly, and cited the hair-trigger impulse that comes from dealing with people who have no interest in actually having a discussion.

As to the response “gendered insults” bring, I also want to comment that Pharyngula is visited by a number of people who come there specifically for a place where they can be openly gay, or trans, or female, or whatever without having to deal with trolls or hostility; as such, it tends to be rather hostile towards people who are unfamiliar with the norms.

For me, the solution really comes to the community regulating itself. There are definitely very substantive issues to be discussed, and lots of room on the Internet to discuss them. However, I have zero interest in engaging with people who not only refuse to treat others even remotely decently, but actively work to harm others.

131 Lewin July 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Have trouble with reading comprehension? He’s very obviously decrying both things.

132 jupitaur July 26, 2012 at 9:37 pm

The charitable interpretation maxim requires that you believe that people are arguing in good faith and can be swayed by facts without injecting bias. Neither seems correct in this situation.

133 Horace July 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Patrick G,

I don’t have time to argue this point much more, I guess the only thing that I can tell you is that I will try to be more civil in future. If I have been guilty of anything it is enjoying the rabid vitriol from the PZers. I have a suspicion that a lot of them enjoy loosing their tempers, if it was not for people like me and other slime pitters they would simply find someone else to rage against.

Perhaps the relationship is more symbiotic than either side can admit ?

Article below was recently posted on the Slyme pit.

all the best,

Horace

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-is-everyone-on-the-internet-so-angry

134 Gaebolga July 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Because the idiot who posted that info (not a regular at Pharyngula) got roundly denounced by the regulars as being a nasty piece of work for doing it and PZ Myers took the post down as soon as he saw it.

You know, BEFORE Pappa complained to him about it.

Remind me, when did you denounce that rape “joke” over on Rationalia? How swift was the condemnation of said “joke” by the regulars there?

How long did it take Pappa to “apologize” for it? And was that significantly more time than it took for Pappa to prove just how worthless his “apology” was by starting a thread soliciting other ways of mocking the Skepchicks?

You don’t seem to have much of a point beyond “Pharyngulites bad! Rationalia good! No evidence required!” Some of us deal in facts, not wishful thinking.

135 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Thanks for replying! If I was unclear, I was not accusing you of being uncivil. Far from it, or I would have resorted to my own incivility as in my responses to the trolls I named.

I do differ from you on the position of what’s acceptable to “leave out” of a skeptical movement, but, you know, that’s a conversation worth having. Preferably not on this thread, which has been derailed quite enough, I think….

136 Gaebolga July 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Yep. That about sums it up.

Except that Person 2 is obviously a bully.

‘Cause, you know….well, I guess Person 1 wasn’t particularly effective in making that case, but that sure didn’t stop him/er from saying it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and….

137 Gaebolga July 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Really? Where is this wondrous playing field of which you speak?

Surely it must be beautiful, but I’ve never seen its like outside of dreams and sickeningly sweet melodramas.

138 Gaebolga July 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Avoiding the misogyny label is easy: treat women like people and don’t used gendered insults.

Avoiding the rad-fem label is equally easy: just smile and nod when a misogynist “jokes” about how it might not be morally wrong to rape a Skepchick because they’re so annoying, or when s/he calls a woman a “bitch,” or “cunt,” or “twat,” or claims that saying “guys, don’t do that” counts as “hysteria.”

So avoiding both labels is trivially simple. All it will cost you is your dignity and self-respect.

139 Gaebolga July 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Insisting that women be treated as human beings.

Duh.

140 jupitaur July 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm

“PZ Myers and his horde of five-minute-hate skepchicks”

Because women have to be guided and/or owned by a man. LOL.

141 A Hermit July 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I actually got there via Steph Zvan’s blog, which referenced PZ’s. It was a slow day and I thought I would express my opinion. I also acknowledged right from the start that many of the members of Rationalia had expressed disagreement with the “joke”. Sadly one of them was consequently jumped on so hard she quit the forum.

Remember that?

142 A Hermit July 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Really? If you suggested that raping my friends might be a good idea I’d be plenty pissed off at you. And quite rightly so, I think. That was the whole point of the article that brought me to your little forum…

I don’t personally know any of the Skepchicks but I appreciate a lot of what they do, and to see them lumped together and verbally abused like that makes me angry. Don’t tell me I have no right to express that anger.

I know what bullying looks like. I know that those who stand silently by and ignore it are almost as bad as those who engage in it. So I’m sorry but when I see something as vicious as that “joke” I’m going to speak out against it, even if it wasn’t directed at me personally.

143 PatrickG July 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Very well said.

144 John Moriarty July 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm

thanks that was a very insightful article, and IMHO implies the desirability of well let’s hope, light touch moderation.

145 Dave July 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I think the basic problem is that people are more concerned with “winning the argument” than convincing the other side*. Sometimes I think both sides imagine they’re playing a grand game in front of a stadium of internet readers. They play to that audience. They want to score points instead of change minds. It becomes a bloodsport, where a cutting insult or a cheap shot is as good as a thoughtful argument. If, instead, commenters thought of their audience as the person they’re actually responding to, maybe internet discussions would be a little more productive.

I don’t know. We go through life with so few opportunities to really tell people what we think. Some people have more difficult lives than others, but we all have this existential frustration of constantly having to think so much and say so little. Especially for atheists, whose views have been marginalized by the dominance paradigm of religion.

It can be a little liberating to log on to your favorite internet account and cry havoc and let loose the dogs of flame-war. I get how easy it can be to surrender to the frustrations of the real world and puke your id all over the virtual world. The irony is that we’ve created an environment where the strictures of face-to-face communication don’t look so bad.

If this doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s because I’m struggling to make sense of how a loose affiliation of people who claim that they want to abandon the vices of religion have succumbed so easily to religion’s worst impulse: sectarianism. Michael’s post exactly describes the necessary ethos to overcome the problems of religion. But look at the reaction: “You’re absolutely right, Michael. If only those Misogynists/Bullies on the other side could see it!”

The best I’ve been able to come up with is that a) there need to be spaces on the internet where people can let the crocodiles loose a little and have some gladiatorial fun and b) there also need to be spaces where bitter ideological foes can treat each other like human beings. Best of luck finding that balance.

*It’s an oversimplification to even say there are sides; the conflicts in the nonbeliever/skeptics community are larger than that. Sometimes a good way to solve a problem is to look at a simplified version of the problem, though.

146 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm

1. I told Pappa I didn’t think it was funny, when I discovered it.
2. My problem is that Myers has branded me a rape confined, when nothing could be further from the truth.

147 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm

*condoner.

148 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm

? I am responsible for the judgement of an admin on a forum I visit?

149 smhll July 26, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Your blog post is excellent. It’s hard to understand why discussions become diametrically opposed so quickly. (The ways we are kind to people we “know” online and cruel to people we don’t know would be niteresting to study.) I do think both Twitter and the headlines of blog posts can be hyperbolic and tend to pour fuel on the flames of whatever flamewar is flaring up ATM.

A study in which a case study is presented in a blog post and then summarized by people of differing views would be interesting. There are some fairly strong filtering effects taking place.

150 J. J. Ramsey July 26, 2012 at 11:38 pm

“How swift was the condemnation of said “joke” by the regulars there?”

Within about eight hours, going by the timestamps of the posts on the thread in question. The first post in protest of the “joke” even made it to the first page in the thread, and was shortly followed by a couple other posts disagreeing with Pappa. By comparison, PZ posted a couple days later, and he didn’t even have word in support of those members of the Rationalia forum who had already voiced their disagreements. Instead, he made the broad-brush claim, “Another purportedly rational forum that thinks rape is a joke,” as if those members had not even written a word.

151 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Yes, but you should also note that several people expressed regret about it. I don’t think you could characterise it as being jumped on so hard, per se, but that the whole thing was very upsetting for her.

You can also see on that thread where people spoke up for her point of view. Later in that same thread, the other party in that disagreement expressed regret and openly explains what he had thought, and he apologised.

Look. Making while like that is not to my taste. I would not make a joke like that. But human beings make mistakes. Also, it is not reasonable to blame an entire group for the actions of another – which is what happened. See how quickly the thread in pharyngula moves to lumping everyone together.

Try putting yourself in the position of the average member of rationalia. Rape is a vile and disgusting crime. To be declared guilty of condoning it is one of the worst insults that can be levelled against a person. I know that noone on that site condones it because I’ve learned a lot about many of their life stories over the years.

That is not to say that the “joke” was not something upsetting, and intact vile and upsetting to those who were the targets. I can see clearly how it would be. I can also.see how anyone who has ever been physically or sexually abused would find it upsetting. Of course this is the case. Rape is a violent, disgusting, vile crime, committed by the lowest form of scum that humanity produces.

But Pappa didn’t intend that upset. He has apologised. People make mistakes. He did. He has apologised. There is not much more he can do.

152 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I did not derail this thread. Mine was the first response to Michael’s ARTICLE.

People were free to respond or not.

I posted something I thought was pertinent to the article. It is not a derail to disagree.

I have responded as best I can to.the points made in response to me, but I also have to work, and I also have a family. So I’ve done the best I can.

153 cormac July 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm

The sad thing here us that people on both sudes of this have experience of being bullied. They each see bullying behaviour in the other, and polarisation occurs.

To me, many of the posts here and on Pharyngula seem bullying. Maybe that is not how you see it. But it looks to me like a lot of people hammering down on a group of people who had nothing to do with the “joke” in the first place.

Anyway. I am going to try to respond to a few more people and then I will stop posting here on this topic.

154 John Moriarty July 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm

heartily suggest you read that scientific american article, it is quite enlightening.

155 cormac July 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

Yes, he did. Read his post again.

156 cormac July 27, 2012 at 12:03 am

There are gay, bi, and trans people on Rationalia by the way where, rightly, they are just another human member of the forum, and there is no “hostility”

157 cormac July 27, 2012 at 12:04 am

Ok. I am finished. Goodnight.

158 Freki July 27, 2012 at 12:05 am

But look at the reaction: “You’re absolutely right, Michael. If only those Misogynists/Bullies on the other side could see it!”

the first few replies were on how evil Michael was for siding with FTBullies, & there have been many such since.

This kind of misrepresentation is why we can’t have nice things

159 PatrickG July 27, 2012 at 12:08 am

Cormac, as one of the people who came down hard on you, if I did so in error, I will extend full and heartfelt apologies.
I will simply state the following, and hope a productive conversation follows:
– Sexism is very much alive in the skeptical community.
– There has been a definite entrenching following the TAM harassment policy/Thunderfoot @ FTB incidents, to name two
– There are many well-documented cases of public abuse directed towards female skeptics.

It is my position, and I think it fair to say the position of many others, that a very specific “joke” about rape is a truly horrible thing. And yes, Pappa apologized for it, rather graciously. However, for me, this does not excuse the horrific behavior of many, many other commenters in the discussion that followed.

And that’s what it comes down to. Cultivate your own garden, and all of that. It only hardens MY attitude, at least, when the first response of so many people seems to be “How dare you criticize us, because PZ posted something once”. We’re trying to build a movement, and the fact that so many people take this so seriously should be indication that something is seriously wrong with that effort.

So, there’s that. Put together rapidly and I’m sure not very coherently, but that’s what it is. I’ll just close by saying that if I was wrong about my assessment of you, I would be happy to publicly apologize.

160 emitc2h July 27, 2012 at 12:08 am

Quoting ouf of context are you? Lost all credibility you have… Forgive the Yoda speech. I’m French Canadian and a bit drunk.

161 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 12:09 am

‘Frankly, I have no interest in maintaining ideological diversity with people who so completely disrespect the humanity of others, and I see no value in trying to engage them.’

Well said. I fail to see how the skeptical/atheist community suffers from differentiating between those who want to do something about misogyny and those who don’t.

162 Brownian July 27, 2012 at 12:13 am

8 hours?

Check the timestamps of the comment posting personal details and the comments denouncing it (and emailing PZ to let him know to take it down).

163 PatrickG July 27, 2012 at 12:13 am

John, just a quick note, but my major takeaway from that was simply that the Internet removes barriers that were otherwise present. I would absolutely agree that lack of real-time feedback (eye contact, body language, the ability to interrupt, etc.) has an impact, but we shouldn’t just forget that humans are really, really contentious.

It’s just we didn’t have the ability to speak to this many people before. :)

164 Brownian July 27, 2012 at 12:16 am

Here, I’ll link it for you: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/07/22/rationalia-isnt/comment-page-2/#comment-407919

Regular commenters were all over it within minutes.

165 Dave July 27, 2012 at 12:44 am

If there have been “many such since,” I don’t see how I’m misrepresenting things. Did I misunderstand you?

166 Freki July 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

look at the reaction: “You’re absolutely right, Michael. If only those Misogynists/Bullies on the other side could see it!”

If there have been a large number of posts that are not that, then yes, you are misrepresenting things. This short-circuits the process of trying to have a conversation.

167 Dave July 27, 2012 at 1:02 am

I hope if anything came across in my post it’s that I don’t want to short-circuit the conversation. I should have acknowledged that some of the posts have been really positive and on point. I don’t think they were representative of the general tenor of the discussion, though, and I think that’s worth pointing out.

168 cormac July 27, 2012 at 1:16 am

I had stopped posting to this thread, and had just come back to unsubscribe to it. I am glad I did.

Thank you for having the decency to engage in conversation. I mean this sincerely.

I am not all that familiar with what has gone on since “elevatorgate”. I know of all the main protagonists, but not so much of the details.

People have got severely up each others noses. This is not a good thing. But it is not real able to think we can forge friendships amongst all member of such a huge group.

Anyway. It is a shame that this happened. A shame that we all reacted as we did. It is embarrassing that we have given yet more ammunition to the enemies of secular humanism.

For what it is worth, it seems absurd to me to be labeled as I was. I come from a family of strong and successful women, about whom I am very proud, and from whom I am proud to descend. My grandmother was principle of a secondary school, and she was a university graduate. My other grandmother owned a post-office and shop, and helped run the family farm. She was the heart of her community. When she died, her wake went on for a week, and an elegy running to several pages was written for her and was publicly read out . My mother and all her sisters went to university and qualified in their chosen profession – teaching. My mother faxed down rank misogyny throughout her early career – mostly from nuns who felt that married women should not work.

I have four sisters, all of whom are highly educated, and all of whom are professionally qualified (two chartered accountants (one of whom also has a masters in IT), a lawyer, and a doctor).

For me it is a natural as breathing the men and women are equal. Obviously, human beings have a long way to go before we have established an optimal level of equality, (100% is probably not possible, because there will always be assholes, male and female).

Anyway, I’ve gone on too long. Thank you for your post. I appreciate it

169 Freki July 27, 2012 at 1:23 am

I don’t think they were representative of the general tenor of the discussion, though, and I think that’s worth pointing out.

Unfortunately the general tenor of the discussion (not you!) has been “FTBullies are mean!” and fallout from that derailing. The latter part of this thread has been more on track, but the thread as a whole hasn’t been.

I did contribute somewhat to that, I have SIWOTI syndrome.

170 Freki July 27, 2012 at 1:28 am

Dave, I’ve run out of reply levels, new comment

171 Maria Silvia Possas July 27, 2012 at 1:45 am

Well, I read. He didn’t, but there was a link to Rationalia and the rape joke thread, and I checked it. And frankly, it disgusted me. Anyone can judge for themselves.
http://rationalia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=38220
If Rationalia is a small site, I can only hope it either stays small or changes in a way this kind of thread is clearly rejected.

172 J. J. Ramsey July 27, 2012 at 2:01 am

“Regular commenters were all over it within minutes.”

That’s certainly speedy, but quite frankly, given that the commenters have to do things like work, go to school, etc., eight hours is nothing to sneeze at. Think about how long a typical workday is.

173 Freki July 27, 2012 at 2:06 am

I am not all that familiar with what has gone on since “elevatorgate”.

you claimed that you did: There is a lot more to that issue than a crass and stupid joke about rape.

Forgive me for taking you at your word.

174 smhll July 27, 2012 at 2:36 am

He said ” Ho hum. Another purportedly rational forum that thinks rape is a joke.” And then linked to the rape-y, joke-y post by Pappa on Rationalia that ‘joshed’ about raping Skepchicks, people who are PZ’s friends.

Generalizing about an entire forum may be kind of inaccurate, but it’s not deliberate and personal insult.

175 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 2:51 am

While I agree with much of what you’ve stated in principle, Michael, it doesn’t account for what is a significant problem on many of these issues: that so many people are not honest interlocutors, and are instead arguing in bad faith and using obstructionist tactics (like hyperskepticism, or ‘rules lawyering’) in order to appear reasonable while in fact being exactly the opposite.

The act of ‘assuming ‘good intent’ is something this kind of person takes advantage of. What, other than scorn or shunning is the solution when dealing with people like that?

And as for hostility: I tend not to judge people for getting angry about things that I only have to contemplate as abstract concepts rather than face as genuine concerns.

176 smhll July 27, 2012 at 2:55 am

I’m struggling to make sense of how a loose affiliation of people who claim that they want to abandon the vices of religion have succumbed so easily to religion’s worst impulse: sectarianism.

I think even religious people often find each other’s arguments unpersuasive. It may be human nature to highly value one’s own thoughts and deride those of others.

177 Julie July 27, 2012 at 2:56 am

If you think comments are hateful, then it’s time to ban that commenter, with a public announcement so that everyone knows you are standing up for decency. If a commenter repeatedly lies, derails, uses fallacies, etc. then it’s time to ban. Leaving damaging comments hanging out there unanswered has the very real potential to drive away those who come along later to read them.

178 Horace July 27, 2012 at 3:27 am

Freki,

“Ftb bullies are mean” is one side of the debate; “Slyme pitters are sexist beasts” is the other.

Both can be seen as an oversimplification, but we have to address both to resolve things and move forward.

179 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 3:36 am

Horace wrote:’“Ftb bullies are mean” is one side of the debate; “Slyme pitters are sexist beasts” is the other.’

Both of these are demonstrably true , and yet one is far more serious a problem than the other.

To say otherwise is a profound act of false equivalence, much like claiming Christians fighting to uphold laws denying LGBQT people equal rights are ‘just as bad’ as those calling them bigots for doing so.

180 Michael Nugent July 27, 2012 at 3:39 am

Thanks for the feedback, both here and on PZ’s post.

I’ll follow up with another post soon, in which I will analyze the feedback and address any specific questions that anyone has asked me.

181 Horace July 27, 2012 at 3:56 am

Wowbagger,

Your side’s definition of sexist beast is pretty broad.

Would you call Abbie or Scented water sexists ?

More importantly you feel that by posting against us you are fighting sexism/homophobia/racism. Because of this any politeness on your part would be a compromise with the forces of evil; something like offering an SS officer a cold drink half way through a genocide so that he can get his strength back. (sorry for the Godwin).

I have two problems with this:
-this is the internet. Even if you were right and I was as evil as you think I am, nothing that you say to me is going to change this. Imagine, as a thought experiment, that you could chat by internet to a 1938 Nazi or dedicated Maoist in the 50s. Assuming that they were evil it is unlikely that anything you could say to them would change what they were going to do. The most useful thing that you could do would be to listen to them and understand how people become this way. It would be instructive in the same way that reading “the Cleanest race” would be. And if they were misguided rather than evil, ranting at them would be counter productive.

Second, you are wrong. We are not committed to evil, we are less sure of what the right thing to do is. Look at the positions that left wingers and feminists held 100 years ago and compare them with present discourse. More recently think of Cesar Chavez beating up illegal immigrants or reformers making sure that women were not allowed to work in mines.

You can argue that they were wrong and we are right; it is more likely that we are also wrong about many things. A good skeptic should realize that they are probably wrong about many things and be more willing than the general public to consider other points of view.

182 Freki July 27, 2012 at 4:00 am

Certainly it should be addressed, but on this thread it counts as derailing, IMHO.

183 NotASkepdick July 27, 2012 at 4:01 am

FYI, there is no “rape culture”.

184 Freki July 27, 2012 at 4:07 am

A good skeptic should realize that they are probably wrong about many things and be more willing than the general public to consider other points of view.

How many times have we heard this from a pyramidiot or UFOlogist? Our minds should be more open to other ways of knowing? Skeptics are just not open-minded enough?

How about we agree that some “PoV”s are just plain wrong. Creationists. Racists. Homeopaths. People who think a year of violent threats is the proper way to discuss “Guys, don’t do that”.

185 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 4:08 am

Horace wrote: ‘Even if you were right and I was as evil as you think I am, nothing that you say to me is going to change this.’

Interesting. Why do you presume it’s YOUR mind I, or anyone else on the wider Pharyngula side of this issue, is concerned with?

186 Horace July 27, 2012 at 4:23 am

Freki,

I think that we can be much surer of questions about science (e.g. existence of god, creationism, UFOs) than we can about questions of social science (role of the state in the economy, best way to improve the position of women in society). Look at the positions that the left and right held a hundred years ago, our own positions are probably equally stupid.

A good example, I saw a Newsweek article several years ago asking why European women’s participation in the Labour force was lower than in the states, asking what they had to do to catch up to the Yanks. It turned out that the reason there were more women at work in the US was a lousy social safety net, the women had no choice but to work.

Wowbagger-If you take me on in online debate you can either do so to educate me or bystanders or learn from me (see reference to thought experiment above). Neither is helped by being rude and confrontational.

You can also yell at me online as a form of therapy, but their are dangers to this, I think that it can become addictive and your default mode online. On the previous page I mention the case of a kid who wandered onto the Pharyngula site who you guys pulled to pieces, as much out of force of habit as anything else.

I don’t think that you realized how unpleasant you were being and this sort of behaviour means that many people (myself included) have trouble taking you seriously when you talk about women being treated mysogenystically.

The things you complain about are often minor compared with the stuff you routinely do.

all the best from the Slyme pit,

will check this again tomorrow.

187 Lymie July 27, 2012 at 5:21 am

No one addresses anyone as Madam in this culture and conversational context unless they are trying to trivialize the object of their contempt. You are an ass to do so.

188 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 6:14 am

Horace: Wowbagger-If you take me on in online debate you can either do so to educate me or bystanders or learn from me (see reference to thought experiment above). Neither is helped by being rude and confrontational.

You mean except for all the cases where people say that’s exactly what changed their minds. It happens.

I don’t think that you realized how unpleasant you were being and this sort of behaviour means that many people (myself included) have trouble taking you seriously when you talk about women being treated mysogenystically.

I don’t see the link between those two. It sounds like it’s a convenient excuse for you to handwave away a completely unrelated issue. “Well, those people at Pharyngula sure are mean; I guess that means all those women who said they don’t go to conventions because they don’t feel safe are mistaken.”

That doesn’t seem very reasonable to me.

The things you complain about are often minor compared with the stuff you routinely do.

I’ve talked elsewhere about the problem of the abstract concept – in that, for you, like me (since I’m also a male), misogyny in the real world and being insulted on Pharyngula are identical in terms of how much they affect us, i.e. not a great deal. You can get up and walk away from your computer, and not be bothered by it anymore.

But that’s not true of everyone; it’s flat-out ridiculous, and an error of false equivalence to equate the two for those people who it does affect. Misogyny has real, not abstract, consequences for some people, and it’s those people for whom I, and the Pharyngula people in general (since many of them directly affected by it), are fighting.

189 Zachariah July 27, 2012 at 6:40 am

I think you misread cormac. He was referring to the rationalia incident when he said that “There is a lot more to that issue…” rather than elevatorgate.

Cormac, I think I might understand where you are coming from. My family is filled with strong women. I was most of the way through highschool before I learned that most people with Ph.Ds were men. My awareness of feminist issues was shrouded by that background: I thought we lived in a “post-feminist age” where women had equal rights and equal lives. It made me feel that while things like rape jokes were distasteful, that they weren’t really bad.

But that changed through college. I went to an engineering school and met a great woman (eventually married her). She is smart and motivated, but her experiences at the engineering school caused some amount of doubt about her abilities. By that, I mean people made jokes about how she (and all the women) were there on ‘boob scholarships’ and jokes about how girls can’t do math. Individually comments like that can be shrugged off, but they build up a culture that discourages women to be capable.

Through that experience I started noticing how women are marginalized and discouraged, especially in the sciences. Because I believe that all people should be treated fairly, regardless of their gender (whatever that means), I started to get angry about all the bad treatment I saw. So I did what any rational skeptic would do: I researched it. And it turns out that there is a whole lot of crap that women have to deal with that I hadn’t even thought would be an issue.

So the rape jokes stopped being ‘unfunny but ignorable’ to flat out intolerable. There are a lot of people who haven’t made that transition, but are otherwise rational skeptical people. And I’m harsher toward those people than maybe is necessary. You might find that difficult to deal with from your end though.

I think crommunist got this one by quoting Mitch Hedberg, “If you had a friend who was a tightrope walker, and you were walking down a sidewalk, and he fell, that would be completely unacceptable…”

http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/07/16/talking-the-tightrope/

190 Zachariah July 27, 2012 at 7:01 am

“You can get up and walk away from your computer, and not be bothered by it anymore.”

I don’t think this is a far characterization of the argument you are responding to. Horace was making a point about levels of vitriol by referencing a kid who was really stung by pharyngula commenters, but not trying to equate that with the real world effects of misogyny.

The point is that there are people in the rational skeptical movement who want to do something about sexism, are willing to agree that is a problem, but feel backed into a corner by with-us against-us rhetoric.

Despite the fact that I take the position that misogyny is a huge problem, especially in the skeptical and scientific community, I feel that by even voicing concerns about rhetoric that I’m going to get plastered as an appeaser. There are people who want to learn about rational inquiry into racism/sexism/transphobia/etc, but are afraid that when they voice questions they’ll get attacked as trolls/misogynists.

191 Zachariah July 27, 2012 at 7:02 am

And sorry for the typos. that’s what I get for replying at 2 AM.

192 David Leech July 27, 2012 at 7:17 am

Hmmm that went well:-( Perhaps you were being a tad ambitious starting with the atheist wars, next time start with something easier like the Arab-Israeli conflict and work your way up.

193 harriet July 27, 2012 at 8:25 am

Strewth you lot could turn an Atheist to religion ….wow.

194 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

Great. Now all you have to do is show me where I am guilty of points 1 and/or 2. I’m still waiting.

195 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 8:42 am

try ctrl-f

196 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

Zachariah wrote:The point is that there are people in the rational skeptical movement who want to do something about sexism, are willing to agree that is a problem, but feel backed into a corner by with-us against-us rhetoric.

The problem there is that amongst those making this kind of comment are those who most definitely do not want to do anything about sexism, but keep on insisting, ‘Let’s talk about it some more before we do anything’ and ‘Let’s look at this from both sides before we go making any changes’, aiming to put change off indefinitely. And it’s very hard to distinguish the genuine from the fake.

Also, despite the dishonest characterisation regarding what Pharyngula and its posters are like, actual honest conversation that isn’t JAQing off or hyperskeptical rules-lawyering happens all the time, particularly on the issue of sexism.

But, like I’ve already said, you’ve got to remember it’s not an abstract concept, and many of the commenters there are vicious and intemperate when it comes to sexism because they can’t escape it.

Not getting emotional about social justice is a luxury only those who don’t need it changed in their favour have.

197 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

If the conversation taking place here is anything to go by, our movement is fucked.

The assumption that there are two sides in this tea-cup storm is probably the most damaging factor. It precludes any real discourse from taking place.

From what I can gather, we have trolling idiots going around leaving misogynistic comments on one hand and at least two waring factions of feminists on the other. Then outside of that disagreements on how to deal with trolls (ie. ignore the troll or feed the troll). On top of that libetarians vs those who want to enforce social change.

If we want to get anywhere here, the first thing to do is acknowledge that, because we’re a group of people brought together for our views on religion and skepticism as opposed to feminism/politics, there are going to be diverse views on the latter.

That’s exactly what I’m not seeing. Through the use of straw man arguments, I’m seeing feminists being asked to defend positions they don’t hold, where the assumption is that if you don’t support Watson and Myers, you’re on the side of the misogynists.

This kind of bullying isn’t constructive in any way. Lets acknowledge that there a differences of opinions in our community and that a person with a different view to your own is not necessarily an evil misogynist. Then maybe we can find a common ground on which to combat the actual misogyny in our community.

198 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 10:23 am

*face palm*
How is a rape-culture apologist not also a rape-apologist by extension?

199 John Moriarty July 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

Dear Michael
I wondered if you were aware of 16 or so uses of the word “should” in your article? Apropos herding of cats, that’s a tall order IMHO 😉
I do not identify myself as (what I think I perceive) the typical left leaning feminist/humanist atheist, and would not wish to go in that direction either, no more than I would recommend my politics to atheism in general. By analogy, I recall the Green party developed quite a lot of secondary baggage as part of their political platform, and probably lost a few supporters as well.

Apart from this minor criticism, I would suggest Atheist Ireland downplay all “bundled” ideologies, and stick to the single issue as much as possible. Do other movements do this? For good reasons many do.

Best Regards from an atheist futurist environmentalist centrist :^)!

200 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

+ 1

PZ can afford to be part of a fringe group with followers from around the world supporting his causes. AI is a geographically based organisation that does not have the luxury of alienating half of our membership to persue every cause that presents itself.

Furthermore, we should be distancing ourselves from those who author, profit from and insist on the continuance of this rift.

201 M July 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

I have to strongly disagree.

I think it’s a good thing there are rifts and I think it’s important for atheists, if they want to ever get anywhere, ever have any real clout, to galvanize around progressivism.

Non-progressive atheists exist, sure. But they frankly do more harm then good to the cause and we should cut them loose. Let them form their own groups, the atheist equivalent of log cabin republicans, who vote against their own interests.

Inclusiveness is in regards to world-wide atheism a weakness more then a strength. Atheism alone just isn’t something you can really run with politically and it IS necessary to run politically on account of the religious right types of the world. And you can’t do that with an anchor of non-progressives weighing the atheists down like a millstone.

By far most atheists are at least somewhat progressive/left-wing and I’d say we ditch the right-wing minority and move a step further.

Mind you not that you have to do that by ditching. I think rationality, the facts and the evidence support progressive idea’s. You can easily for example demonstrate with numbers that things like trickle-down economics result only in record deficits and the gap between the rich and everyone else widening. You can easily demonstrate laissez-faire capitalism led to the banking crisis. And that idea’s like that are not rational.

But I’m fine with just ditching the right-wingers too and I’d frankly NOT keep them on board. You just have to pander to them all the time and it muddles everything and weakens the atheist cause by making it impossible to take any productive stances and even making it impossible to actively fight religious political loonies other then sneering at them ineffectively.

202 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 11:44 am

If you think the rift-mongers are in the majority you spend too much time in the FTB circle jerk. You should get out more.

203 John Moriarty July 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm

What terrible sentiments, M.
Now that I think of it, I am not all that active for the cause of Atheism, but am inclined to support it, without buying a bundle of all that other stuff. I do not want any other political identity from my support of AI, I’ll keep my own thanks anyway. So go ahead and try to throw me out! I’m not a right-winger either, I fly on two wings. And I do agree with you the financial gnomes have put us where we are, and that it’s all going to end in tears. The bubble of all bubbles will burst someday, unless there is radical change. We need a world economic model predicated on reducing economic activity and population, and environmental conservation, not that there is any socioeconomic politically saleable solution at present. My cause(s) relate to future environmentalism. That’s what I am passionate about. Will we make all that good stuff part and parcel of our platform as well?

Do I want to be in a club that would throw me out? nah! And you don’t have to pander to me, don’t want that. We either have agreed aims and stick to them, or we line up against each other. The weakness of your position is the entailment of the concept of bundling issues that YOU think are inseparable. If you agree with the separation of Church and State, how hard is it to separate atheism from arguably only loosely related social/ economic/ environmental issues? Selling bundled deals, as we may experience in other situations, does not always benefit the punter.

The KISS principle anyone?

204 Jimbo July 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm

“Hey Jimbo, notice I said, “The company you keep.” I didn’t say that Cormac said those things”

That was exactly my point WRT Guilt by ASSOCIATION Fallacy.

FFS

205 John Moriarty July 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

“decent human being” would be my preferred label/identity, earned by (willingly) following both your suggestions. If you were to insist on calling such desired behaviours by a different label, it could be accurate in your eyes but not in mine.

206 Wowbagger July 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Jimbo, how is the movement ‘fucked’, exactly? Are atheists turning back to gods? What, really, is the worst thing the can come of this turmoil?

Some people in the atheist/skeptic movement consider that it’s better to schism on issues of social justice than it is to pretend those problems don’t need fixing in order present a façade of unity. So far no-one who’s been crying about the danger to ‘the movement’ has managed to come up with anything resembling a scenario for what that different groups of atheists focusing on their own preferred issues might be – which suggests to me it’s desperate, baseless fearmongering.

Then maybe we can find a common ground on which to combat the actual misogyny in our community.

Except that some of us aren’t prepared to wait – particularly when there are many using this kind of approach as a deliberate stalling technique – and are moving on this issue already. If you don’t want to be part of it, don’t. But either way, it seems more than a little dishonest to claim it’s ‘harming the movement’.

207 Gaebolga July 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Because most rape-culture apologists don’t condone ACTUAL rape.

They just don’t see a problem with laughing at rape “jokes” like the one Pappa posted, or buying into the bullshit that what a woman was wearing or how many sexual partners she may have had has any bearing on whether or not she was raped, or believing that denouncing rape culture is some sort of “hysterical” reaction and that people doing it should just shut up and grow a thicker skin or get a sense of humor.

You can also be anti-violence but still be a apologist for a culture of violence; in fact, I’d say that many Americans are (myself included, when I’m not monitoring myself closely).

See, if you were raised in a culture that trivializes rape, as American culture does to a fair degree (although not nearly as much as some other parts of the world), it seems normal to you. It takes work to change your attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors, and one of the first things it requires is RECOGNIZING THE PROBLEM. Not coming down like a ton of bricks on nasty “jokes” like the one Pappa made means that, on some level, you see that “joke” as part of the set of behaviors that qualifies as normal. You see it as unremarkable, therefore, to wonder if it might be okay to rape some specific women because they’re annoying, as long as the person saying it is “joking.”

That’s how rape culture gets transmitted and reinforced. If you’re not working to change that, then you’re working to perpetuate it.

But there’s a HUGE difference between that and actually saying – and truly meaning it – that it’s okay to rape someone.

And if you can’t see that difference, then you’ve got some serious problems.

208 PatrickG July 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I know of all the main protagonists, but not so much of the details.

This, here, I think is part of what’s contributing to so much of the furor. I don’t mean that as a personal attack, or slur, just in case it comes across that way.

However, there are dishonest actors in this debate who are aware, who are deliberately misrepresenting, who are trolling simply to get a rise, and so forth. I know I at least have gotten very used to just leaping to assumptions as to motives. And I’m not the one receiving rape threats via twitter and email.

For me it is a natural as breathing the men and women are equal.

This is definitively not the experience of others. With all due respect, your personal opinion on this matter is not shared by others. You may find it unreasonable that this is such an issue/debate, but the takeaway message here really should be, as the OP says, to LISTEN to what people have been saying with regards to their personal experiences about sexism and bullying and respond respectfully, not dismissively.

That has not happened.

209 Freki July 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I think that we can be much surer of questions about science (e.g. existence of god, creationism, UFOs) than we can about questions of social science (role of the state in the economy, best way to improve the position of women in society).

So we should just ignore social justice issues because we don’t know for 100% surely-sure-sure that *those people* aren’t *really* inferior?

Reason stripped of its humanity is nothing more than dead logic, a minor art.

210 PatrickG July 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Look at the positions that left wingers and feminists held 100 years ago and compare them with present discourse.

Respectfully, you keep bringing this up, and I feel it’s a very bad way to view the conversation. What we did 100 years ago, or 2 years ago, should inform our debate, but should not be used as an excuse for vile behavior.

The goal is to rationally address problems we have now. There are problems! The OP acknowledges this, lays out suggestions for how to handle it, and this thread has by and large been nothing more than a debate about tone and how awful PZ and Rebecca Watson and others were for saying something once.

To be very clear, I am certainly not calling all people who don’t frequent FTB sexist and/or vile. But I’m certainly willing to call some of them that. And non-FTBers should be willing to do the same.

In other words, let’s be “inclusive, caring, and supportive”. Part of doing that is calling out reprehensible behavior, again, as the OP suggests.

211 PatrickG July 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I don’t think I was quite clear, and don’t want to be misconstrued.

This post has devolved into a discussion of the Rationalia thread specifically, and the responses to that.

It’s important that we return to the broader situation, and realize that this instance was nothing more than…. an instance. It was one example of intolerable behavior that has been directed at a number of parties. It’s the pattern of behavior that needs to change, and that’s what the OP was trying to start a discussion of.

212 Freki July 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

would, or should, AI (& other local groups) downplay “bundled ideologies” like “don’t punch black people because they are black”?

213 A Hermit July 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

“The things you complain about are often minor compared with the stuff you routinely do.

all the best from the Slyme pit, “

So which is worse in your opinion; the slymepit proudly perpetuating that meme about kicking a woman in the c*nt or people getting angry at the slymepitters for perpetuating a meme about kicking a woman in the c*nt?

`cause that’s kind of how the debate looks from where I sit…

214 John Moriarty July 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Freki, If I wanted to identify PRIMARILY as a human rights activist then I could easily do so, I don’t, It’s my choice, you have yours, and that’s ok as well. And since you ask, best not punch anyone for whatever reason, n’est-ce pas?

But like, what about so many other good causes? I am making a case to keep to the AI script. One of my all time favourite critics of religion, Thomas Paine who wrote “The Age of Reason”, was a deist, what, are we to rule such people out as unorthodox? An ally is an ally. My agenda outside AI is intergenerational responsibility, http://www.if.org.uk/ & http://www.intergenerationaljustice.org/ and those aims allow people of diverse political and religious views to co-operate productively one would hope. Great if you share these aims, as I hope many more will. In the meantime, if such things mean little to your personal priorities, I won’t hold it against you.

215 Michael Nugent July 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I am preparing a follow-up to this proposal.

I think I now understand some of the concerns about parts of it.

Can I ask what parts you think were most accurate or useful?

Also, how do you feel about the overall combination of being inclusive, caring and supportive; working together on the issues of atheism and skepticism; tackling prejudice and discrimination both within our communities and wider society; objectively examining the impacts of social discrimination; working with other groups to make society fairer for everybody; discussing these issues reasonably without unfair personal attacks or bullying; and using the 25 specific proposals as a starting point to discuss how best to do all of this?

216 Quine July 27, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Michael, I think it is extremely complex. If it weren’t so, a large community of smart people would have converged on some answers, by now. You don’t have religion to dictate moral fiat. You do have people such as Sam Harris trying to analyze what morals mean in the first place. To date, I have seen no viable work that does not recognize a starting point of something like “we hold these truths to be self-evident” which, of course, is problematic for all who don’t consider themselves included in the aforementioned “we.”

217 Horace July 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I will try to keep this short,

PatrickG, I keep mentioning the errors of progressives 100 years ago not to congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, but to remind us that there is a good chance that we are equally wrong.

Read Paul Erlich predicting famine in the 1970s, read about progressives fighting for international disarmament in the 1930s, or Sidney and Beatrice Webb talking about Soviet Russia in the 1920s.
Are you so sure that comments about rape culture in the US and white privilege will not seem equally stupid in 20 years ?

Even if you are right on these issues future progressives may see these questions as distractions in the far more important fight against climate change or for animal rights. The economies of developed countries looks to many as if they are about to fall apart. Would you like it remembered that while this was happening atheists were divided by the question of whether you should try to pick up a woman in an elevator ?

I do not think that women should feel unwelcome at atheist gatherings. A code of conduct that is as unambiguous as possible to ensure that they are welcome is great, but we should not insist on ideological conformity on the existence of rape culture or other questions of feminism.

If your side wins there is a good chance that the atheist movement in the early 21st century will be remembered for being wronger and more dogmatic than many religions.

all the best,

Horace

218 John Moriarty July 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm

+1 to Horace and climate change. Dunno about animal rights, I like eating them I guess. Horace this is OT but have you considered the welfare of generations yet to exist? I have, seeing as we are nearing the planet’s physical limits (for our preferred standard of living).
The important thing is that survival trumps morality.

219 Horace July 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Moriarty,

I used to think that while climate change was uncertain, the evidence for Peak Oil was much stronger. Much of what we should be doing for climate change would also help us conserve energy for the problem of energy shortages. Then I read Monbiot who says that Peak Oil will not be a problem because of fracking. Not sure what to think now.

I am worried about food supply and shortage of other natural resources. There was an author Anthony Young who said that the problem of shortage of arable land was underestimated. His arguement was that economists treat all farmland as the same, when in fact the good land is in use, arable land out of production is usually unproductive and needs careful management to avoid destroying it’s productive capacity.

Saw the links that you sent, look interesting and I agree in principal. I suspect that we may disagree from issue to issue, but there is a problem of sustainability and population growth.

Why not check out the slyme pit at:

http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=138

We are trying to set up a place where atheists can talk about politics
without rancour.

I will post more there this weekend.

220 PatrickG July 28, 2012 at 12:06 am

Horace,
I can’t track down my original comment (weird nesting), but my point was more that as rationalists/skeptics, we should be very conscious of what is happening now. To me, it felt like your point about what went wrong before feels like a dodge on that. Sorry If I misunderstand.

A code of conduct that is as unambiguous as possible to ensure that they are welcome is great

I’m really glad you feel that way. A lot of people don’t, and a lot of people got very angry at the very idea, to the point of irrationality (cf Thunderf00t). Here as well, it’s not just one incident, it’s a pattern, and it’s been ongoing.

In short, the questions of rape culture and other questions of feminism raised by the Rationalia post aren’t the only questions here. The OP laid out the problem quite nicely.

If your side wins…

This isn’t a zero-sum game. We all win if we take each other respectfully and build a movement towards rationality. However, at this point, I’m kind of left with nothing to do but throw my hands up in the air, because yes, I consider questions of humanism highly relevant to my skeptic/atheist identity.

The message I’m consistently getting is that that’s just not worth talking about, and, well, that’s a little unfortunate, don’t you think?

221 Freki July 28, 2012 at 1:09 am

“don’t punch black people” is now *activism*?

When did that happen?

222 Freki July 28, 2012 at 1:14 am

Would you like it remembered that while this was happening atheists were divided by the question of whether you should try to pick up a woman in an elevator ?

Because we can only care about one thing at a time?

And, of course, there is absolutely no link between social justice and economic justice….

223 Dave July 28, 2012 at 1:20 am

Michael-

I found the items under “Starting to Heal the Rifts” particularly useful. In a community that puts such a premium on intellect, virtues like humility and patience sometimes get under-emphasized. Putting your advice to good use will require a lot of both.

In my first comment on this post I wrote that it might be better for some of the factions in the ongoing conflicts in the skeptic/nonbeliever communities to go their separate ways. If there’s to be a “schism” in the community, however, it would be irresponsible not to first try the approach Michael suggests before deciding the differences are truly irreconcilable.

224 A Hermit July 28, 2012 at 5:18 am

“I keep mentioning the errors of progressives 100 years ago not to congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, but to remind us that there is a good chance that we are equally wrong.”

So what’s your point? We shouldn’t try to do anything to improve the human condition as we perceive because future perceptions may change?

And can we get over this idea that we can’t deal with the problems of sexism and disrespect in our community because there are bigger issues out there? I would argue that we won’t be able to effectively deal with those larger issues if we are allowing obstacles to full participation to exist in our own back yard.

“If your side wins there is a good chance that the atheist movement in the early 21st century will be remembered for being wronger and more dogmatic than many religions.”

Now who’s being hysterical? This isn’t the Spanish Inquisition, it’s people asking to be treated with a reasonable level of respect. It really shouldn’t be so difficult.

225 PatrickG July 28, 2012 at 5:32 am

A Hermit says it very well… I came into this forum perhaps with a bit if vitriol, but I tried to tone down given the nature of the OP’s content.
At this point, as I said in response to Horace earlier, I’m just throwing up my hands. This is about respect.

Let me repeat: it’s about respect. This isn’t hard.

226 Linda July 28, 2012 at 8:59 am

It would also be helpful if Atheist Ireland didn’t invite the femistasi to spew their hate at Atheist in the pub events.

227 MaxDWolf July 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

“There are no comments against this article that would lead me to believe anyone here is a rape apologist.” And Ms. Daisy Cutter did not write that. She wrote that they were apologists for rape culture. It’s an over-the-top term I don’t approve of, but it only takes a minute to get up to speed on what she meant. I understand that it’s a lot easier to mischaracterize your opponent and you’re a busy man. But people just aren’t going to fall for it. Ms. Daisy Cutter is reactionary and I frequently disagree w. her. But you’re off on this.

228 MaxDWolf July 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I’m afraid I have no sympathy for you here. Yes, PZ’s post can reasonably interpreted as painting the forum with too broad a brush. But I’m afraid I can’t get by the fact that you seem to think this is a more important issue than the rape “joke” itself. In fact, the main focus of your initial comment seems not to be so much about your offense at that but your general hatred of PZ and “scepchicks” (whatever you may define them to be). I’m afraid if you’re looking for an ally in this you can count me out.

229 MaxDWolf July 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Your factual errors have already been addressed by others. I’m wondering at the point of your comment being here at all. Complete non-sequitur. I’m pretty sure Michael Nugent is not Rebecca Watson in drag. Even were that the case, this has nothing to do with the original post, except perhaps as an example of what’s going wrong.

230 MaxDWolf July 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Very well Cathy. Would you please be so kind as to whom the trolls may be on this thread so that we may shun/ban them? I’m certain that you shouldn’t have too much trouble as we have some of the major players in the drama that has been going on write here.

231 Horace July 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Hermit, PatrickG,

My point is that we are probably wrong about a lot of what we believe about society. That is not an excuse for inaction, it is a reason for atheists to tolerate a broad range of opinion about issues like feminism, socialism and racism.

We should treat each other with respect even if we think each other’s opinions are not worthy of respect

232 Sally Strange July 29, 2012 at 12:33 am

I find the claim of the existence of “the femistasi” to be highly implausible. As skeptics, we should question such claims.

233 John Moriarty July 29, 2012 at 12:47 am

Wrong conclusion, its a strained politeness, and certainly not any “objectification”. I do not appreciate the name calling. You devalue the debate, Sir/Madam, by your the word “ass”. I hope you get banned for name calling.

234 A Hermit July 29, 2012 at 6:31 am

“My point is that we are probably wrong about a lot of what we believe about society. “

On the other hand we’re also probably right about a lot of it. People have been right about things in the past too haven’t they? I’d like to think that where we’ve been wrong in the past on issues like race and gender equality we’re more right now and have been moving in the right direction. Let’s keep moving that way.

The thing about taking a skeptical approach is you base your opinions and your actions on the best available evidence relating to the issue at hand, not on a skewed reading of unrelated past events.

As for tolerating a broad range of opinion…well…I’m always willing to listen to an opinion, but I don’t see why we should be expected to be tolerant of opinions based on nonsense, like most racist, sexist opinions. Do you draw any lines at all yourself, or do we think we should be welcoming even to an avowed Nazi’s opinions on race or to Talibanesque opinions about women? And the people using rape imagery to try and intimidate and silence women, for example, aren’t just expressing an opinion. They re trying to silence the opinions of others and that is something we need not tolerate or respect.

If you really believe what you say about treating people with respect and tolerating a broad range of opinions you should be joining “our side” and speaking out against the rape jokes and the threats and the contemptuous and dismissive attitudes those women are facing. Because none of that has anything to do with respecting people or fostering debate over differing opinions. It’s all designed to shut people up.

I keep coming back to this same point in these arguments; I think at some point you have to decide whether you’re more offended by the people standing up and loudly demanding respect or by the people trying to shut them up.

I know where I stand.

235 Richard Green July 29, 2012 at 9:30 am

“Ethical”: a weasel word. “As ethical atheists, we …”: does this imply that all people (ergo all atheists) are ethical, that all atheists (but not necessarily all people) are ethical, or that only ethical atheists qualify for inclusion in “we”?

An ethic – an intuition or emotion that governs a person’s actions, and reactions to others’ ethics – is individual-specific, the particular ethical meme that happens to inhabit that person’s mind and programmes those actions. It ranges from altruism to egoism and from reciprocation to exploitation. It is the product of whatever society-specific probability distribution has been shaped by memetic evolution (which also shapes the emergent structure of that society) and of the randomness of memetic propagation.

No ethic is any more or less “ethical” than any other, just different. To believe otherwise is still to think with a religious mindset, invoking some transcendent order of ethics and some secular deity to ordain it.

236 John Moriarty July 29, 2012 at 10:38 am

Concerning many (but not all) blogs and bloggers I have had the time wasting misfortune to visit and being sucked into replying to, these thoughts come to mind:
http://www.skepticsfieldguide.net/2005/12/weaselly-bloggers.html

Daniel Fincke at FTB is going to get it right I think.

237 Jimbo July 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm

for the record, I wasn’t always an atheist
under my Dad’s roof, you have to believe that a god exists
can you tell me how anyone could ever stand for it?
kent hovind, enthusiastically praised and shit
yesterday I was told that I must be a socialist
others demand that I follow the way of the feminist
unbelief has fallen away from its happy medium
meek is the future, meekness garnished with tedium
you can call me a bigot, keep going until your face turns red
ecclesiastical certainty, a nasty bi-product of your big head
remember that time before the rift in our community?
safe and secure in knowledge and reasoned impunity?

238 Zachariah July 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm

“No ethic is any more or less “ethical” than any other, just different. To believe otherwise is still to think with a religious mindset, invoking some transcendent order of ethics and some secular deity to ordain it.”

That kind of moral relativism is crap. Ethical systems, as codes of behavior, can be judged based on real human outcomes. Some ethical codes cause pain and suffering (sociopaths, racists and misogynists are examples). Other systems lead to a better world for all (Humanism is an example, as are altruistic ethics in religious doctrine). You don’t need to invoke transcendence in order to arrive at these conclusions, you can go out into the world and measure the results of behavior.

Denying the existence of god is not permission to be a douche canoe. Or are the religionists right?

239 ischemgeek August 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Horace, it has been argued by Ian Cromwell at the Crommunist Manifesto (and I agree with him, but it’s his area of expertise so he argues it far better than I can) that the concept of “a sexist” or “a racist” or “a homophobe” etc is not very useful in context of our society, which is immersed in sexist, racist, homophobic and other prejudiced attitudes.

If all you’re ever exposed to is creationism, odds are very high you’ll grow up to be a creationist and have a hard time throwing away creationist attitudes and assumptions. Same with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. So the idea of “a sexist” is unhelpful because it demonizes and others something that everyone in western society has absorbed to some degree. Those who think of themselves as exceptionally fair and egalitarian are often victim to large blind spots because they don’t stop to examine their attitudes: Case in point, my partner has a similar history to people in the thread (as a man brought up in a family of strong women), yet he recently passed me a line of evo-psych bunk about how men can never be as good at cleaning as women. He never investigated this attitude until I challenged him on it because such attitudes are normal in our society.

I would say that Abby has made sexist comments (particularly gendered insults) and responded in a sexist ways to people relaying their experiences as victims to sexual harrassment. Is she “a sexist”? Inasmuch as anyone else who has grown up in this society, yes. But everyone is “a sexist” to some degree: Back to the cleaning example, it’d be fair to say that a cleaning supplies commercial where a man was cast in the lead role and treated as competent with cleaning would probably throw most people for a loop at least momentarily (myself included). That’s because we’ve internalized the idea that cleaning is women’s work and that men either aren’t as good at it or don’t trouble themselves with it. A pickup commercial with a female voiceover talking in macho terms about how awesome the truck is would throw people for a loop just as much, because women in truck commercials are there to ornament the truck, not to talk in informed language about how cool it is.

As a final note, I’d suggest you read Ian Cromwell’s 8-part series on system justification theory at the Crommunist Manifesto. It’s fairly common for a person in a disadvantaged group to support the status quo that oppresses them and puts them at a disadvantage. Cromwell talks about it in the context of racism, but the concept applies just as much to sexism.

240 Richard Green August 3, 2012 at 8:48 am

“That kind of moral relativism is crap”.

It is not moral relativism; it is moral skepticism, but Zachariah would still call it “crap”.

There is no such thing as moral knowledge, only the powerful illusion of it – like the illusion of design in nature – engendered by the memes that inhabit people’s minds and propagate between them, evolve in the population and programme people’s actions towards each other.

241 Zachariah August 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm

“It is not moral relativism; it is moral skepticism, but Zachariah would still call it “crap”.”

You’re right, I would. Moral relativism has its place in anthropological studies, but you have taken it to an absurd extreme. You also failed to address my key point: that we may judge the quality of an ethic by its human outcomes. This doesn’t mean that it is always clear what ethic is better or worse, or even imply that ethics have clear differences in outcomes. But there are some ethics which can be clearly labeled as worse than others (human sacrifices are worse than no human sacrifices, for example).

You’ve taken an absurd philosophical position. If you take the position that you can’t distinguish between the quality of ethics, why do you take the ethics you have? Have you ever changed your ideas of what is right and wrong? If so, why did you make that change? How do you feel about priests raping children? If you are opposed to it, why? If you aren’t… well then you aren’t worth talking to.

242 Katie August 6, 2012 at 2:24 am

Rebecca Watson is an attention addicted fool, bringing shame on all feminists, both male and female.

243 Angela Squires August 6, 2012 at 3:52 am

I agree Katie but do not want to slag Rebecca Watson. The fact that men are stupid should not overwhelm us, we’ve been coping with it for centuries. However when their stupidity descends to violence or the threat of violence, we must cry foul. When I can camp in the bush with no fear of animal predators but a very real fear of humans, we have a problem.
Please men, get over your penis complex, go find a hole in a wall if you just have to and stop regarding women as your property or semen dumping ground; we are equal people; get over it!

244 PatrickG August 6, 2012 at 4:58 am

Thank you, Katie, for showing us all how to be inclusive, caring, and supportive.

Did you not even read the actual post here before engaging in your (apparently vile) regurgitation of talking points?

245 Jimbo August 6, 2012 at 7:02 am

Thank you, Angela, for showing us all how to be inclusive, caring, and supportive.

Did you not even read the actual post here before engaging in your (apparently vile) regurgitation of talking points?

246 John Moriarty August 6, 2012 at 9:21 am

@Michael
please consider the policies being implemented at Daniel Fincke’s Camels with Hammers on FTB, he is heading for a serious cleanup of the blogoshpere, as I mentioned already in this thread.
this is the link:
http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/08/05/i-am-not-against-emotions-i-am-against-epithets/
I would hope that commenters here would be considerably more respectful IRL.
It would be enough for you should you so wish, to say the same policy applies here, otherwise the slagging will go on.
As for me, life’s too short, which is why I refuse to engage much.

247 PatrickG August 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Sigh… can’t even write your own refutations now?

248 callistacat August 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Thank you for this article Michael. We seem to have a lot of work to do, but it’s great that more people are seeing that there is a problem.

249 Jimbo August 7, 2012 at 8:01 am

LMAO. Your words demonstrate your bias better than anything I could write.

250 Paul Moloney August 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm
251 Jimbo August 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm
252 Paul Moloney August 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

So you think his actions were ethical? Interesting, since you yourself use a pseudonym.

P.

253 Jimbo August 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm

It clearly isn’t safe for detractors of FTB to use their real names.

I don’t know what the extent of his actions were, so it’s difficult to say. But I’m a utilitarian. I do think it’s ethical to steal a car to stop a murder. Whatever Thunderf00t’s actions were, it seems he may have unveiled some very unethical behaviour on behalf of FTB and in the process helped someone out who had become a target of what I consider to be bullying.

254 Zachariah August 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Yes, because talking about how somebody has pissed you off is EXACTLY like planning to murder somebody.

TF broke into a listserv and disseminated information for the purpose of damaging peoples reputations. That is horrible behavior and can’t be defended.

255 jimbo August 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Wow you guys sure do struggle with the
Concept of analogy

256 Zachariah August 11, 2012 at 12:11 am

I’m not the one who used a bad analogy. An analogy actually needs to contain the same element of truth as the reality. You used committing a crime to prevent a worse crime (car theft to prevent a murder).

My point was that obtaining and releasing private communications (and illegally no less) is a worse offense than backchannel bitching, so your analogy sucks. Is that clear enough for you, or do you require more detail?

257 PatrickG August 11, 2012 at 12:27 am

Good lord, Jimbo is still here? Just walk away Zach, and he’ll go back under his bridge.

258 PatrickG August 11, 2012 at 12:28 am

Though I’m irritated by how phrases like “good lord” can still trip off my tongue/fingers. Damn childhood upbringing. :)

259 Jimbo August 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

No, you’re one of these idiots who thinks an analogy has to be exact in every measure of scale even where scale has NOTHING to do with the point being made.

The point of my analogy was not to demonstrate utilitarian ethics which suggest it could be ethical to commit a minor unethical action in order to prevent a major unethical action.

If thunderfoot commited a minor unethical act to expose a number of major unethical acts, then what he did WAS analagous to stealing a car to prevent a murder.

To demonstrate that concept via analogy does not in any way imply that what thunderfoot did is equivalent in scale to steaking a car, nor does it imply that what the FTB bloggers did is equivalent in scale to murder! FFS

You’re probably far too enveloped in your little bubble of FTB rage to think clearly on this topic, but please try to quell your ignorance.

Please also pass this on to those in your hierarchy who made the same mistake as you in response to Paula Kirby coining the term Femistasi.

260 Jimbo August 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

In the interests of ever being able to have any kind of fruitful conversation with you people, I will attempt to educate you on the concept of analogy.

Many others at FTB made exactly the same mistake in response to Kirby’s coining of Femistasi.

In the case of my analogy, it’s the concept that was analagous, not the scale.

The concept of commiting a minor unethical action in order to prevent a greater one.

If you have any interest in ever debating anyone on any topic at any point in the future, I suggest you read this…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy

261 Zachariah August 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

“No, you’re one of these idiots who thinks an analogy has to be exact in every measure of scale even where scale has NOTHING to do with the point being made.”

Are we straw-manning to win arguments now? Because if you really think that is what I said, then you didn’t read very carefully.

The point I made is that your analogy is bad not because of the difference of scale, but because of the inversion of scale. Most people would agree with the utilitarian principle for car theft and murders.

But here is the kicker: breaking into private communications and disseminating that information publicly is WORSE than bitching on some back channel e-mail list. The FTB folks were exercising their freedom of speech, TF violated trust and possibly broke the law to expose their speech. It’s more analogous to a stalker taking voyeuristic pictures and then trying to pass them around to make the victim look like a slut.

See, I can play the analogy game too!

262 Jimbo August 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

OMFG, you cannot seriously expect me to buy that.

THIS…

“Yes, because talking about how somebody has pissed you off is EXACTLY like planning to murder somebody.”

…is a clear reference to scale. It’s very clear that your problem with the analogy was that you didn’t consider the magnitude of the unethical behaviour in the analogy matched the magnitude of the unethical behaviour in the real life example.

If the content of those emails as reported by TF is accurate, then the people in the mailing list damaged their own reputations by conspiring to engage in a vicious bullying campaigns.

As far as I’m concerned, trying to get someone fired from their job for the crime of sending a single dissenting tweet is utterly reprehensible. Far more reprehensible than any kind of whislte blowing.

But as I said, we don’t know exactly what it is that TF did or how he got hold of the information he did. Nor do we know that he has accurately and completely reported his side of the story or the content of those mails. So I don’t claim to know anything.

263 A Hermit August 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm

“As far as I’m concerned, trying to get someone fired from their job for the crime of sending a single dissenting tweet is utterly reprehensible”

Except that wasn’t what happened. No one tried to get anyone fired, they just discussed how best to respond to an ignorant tweet, this is just a lie TF has invented in a desperate attempt to justify his own despicable behaviour.

Thunderfoot has done exactly what the “climategate” hackers did; illegally stole other people’s private communications and dishonestly used selected excerpts to try and smear them.

And he was reading and passing their private mail around BEFORE the discussion bout the CFI guy’s tweet, so its dishonest of hi to use that as a justification for his ethical lapse. He’s not a whistleblower, he’s more like a peeping Tom.

We do know exactly what he did, by the way, you can read all about it here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/2012/08/11/thunderf00ts-illegal-immoral-crusade/

Try educating yourself before shooting your mouth off.

264 Anon August 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm

The comment about talking things in person is better. I agree but it’s not foolproof.

I think I will go ahead and say it. The skeptical community is full of aspergics. I have so observed so many weird behavioural things when attending meets and cons. The thing is that aspergic people are prone to meltdowns over nothing. Rageful shouting and accusations of harassment during friendly discussions.

This isn’t of course every skeptic, nor is it all people who have aspergers, but a subset who will cause trouble because their social skills are horrendous. A lack of listening and jumping to conclusions half way through a balanced discussion e.g. Explaining the pro and cons of a touchy subject, finishing explaining the pros, about to start with the cons and having that responder suddenly start screaming their tantrum. Also the situations where you explain a thing maybe a bit of woo to someone and they will (because of poor listening and social skills) just think you are advocating what you are explaining. Also the whole aspect of aspergics explaining what is right to people in their harsh and half-empathic manners is an off-putter generally to anyone, especially newcomers.

There is the harsh and abrasive put downs and hubris that comes across in the podcasts. I mean what better way to dictate what morality as aspergics use logic to compensate for a lack of knowing how to socially empathise.

Calls to not criticise our own are not likely to be fulfilled with critical thinkers, thinking critically, about their contemporaries. Face it, the true believers are wonky headed in their ways, but the skeptical freak parade is wonky in their own ways. You can make those calls and their is validity in it, however trouble and calls for calm will cycle over and over again.

As a neurotypical and like the Dude, I try to abide, but the Walter’s of this world are as difficult as they are.

As for ‘anal self abuse’ -how is that a topic that has emerged and why can’t I laugh about that.

265 Rebecca 9000 August 28, 2012 at 1:34 am

I will always be an individual atheist. Fuck anyone who wants to superglue atheists together with some manifesto.

266 mofa January 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Michael’s article is hard to fault..he says sensible things. FtB and A+ are not the means to acheive the noble objectives that Michael points to, they are one of the serious problems. They are devisive and the puppeteers of this group are talentless, bland, maniacle, conceited, autocratic, megalomaniacs.

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