Richard Dawkins’ nuanced memoir and the unjust personal smears against him

by Michael Nugent on November 26, 2013

An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins is a generous, nuanced and ethical memoir, and the recent personal smears against Richard by some atheists are unjust, hurtful and irresponsible. Some other atheists have disagreed with Richard in more considered terms, as should be expected and encouraged in any freethinking community.

Some critics may dislike his outspoken criticism of religion, his distillation of complex arguments into the 140-character limit of Twitter, and his use of ridicule as a weapon of choice against what he sees as ridiculous. But the recent pattern of personal smears against him is disproportionate to any reasonable disagreement that his critics may have with him on issues, and it grossly misrepresents the man conveyed in his memoir.

Richard’s memoir

When Richard Dawkins recalls losing his virginity he concludes “But I’ll say no more on the subject, and will betray no confidences. It isn’t that sort of autobiography.” And indeed it isn’t. It is a generous and empathetic recollection of the first part of a remarkable life, in which he gives credit to those who helped him to channel his sense of wonder into science, expresses regret and guilt about some things that he feels he could have done better, and tries to see in a compassionate way the faults of those who have hurt him. It could not be further from the cold caricature of Richard that some of his critics, within and outside the atheist movement, like to inaccurately convey to the public.

His parents traveled widely throughout Africa before bringing Richard to England. Many of his childhood memories recall his natural gullibility, and his willingness to believe tall tales told to him by adults, including a man who convinced Richard that he had become invisible while playing hide and seek. He was terrified by ghosts, and he prayed to God to help him in various ways, before becoming an atheist after his confirmation. A common theme in the early part of his memoir is the need to teach children critical thinking skills, and to evaluate plausibility. He adds a caveat that he did not keep a childhood diary, so he may be mistaken in some recollections, and he reminds us that false and true memories can be indistinguishable.

Early schooldays

Richard compares his schooldays in England with some aspects of the movie ‘If’. He writes of a headmaster who caned boys with such severity that the bruises took several weeks to fade, turning from purple to blue to yellow on the way. Yet he does not believe that this man was guilty of cruelty or sadism, but sees this as an example of the speed with which customs and values change. He recalls that the same man was also capable of great kindness. He read stories to the boys, comforted frightened boys during severe thunderstorms and, on Sundays when parents took their children out for a day, he and his wife would take boys whose parents were absent for a picnic with their own children.

Richard writes of the cruel bullying that took place between boys at school, and declines to name one boy who was badly bullied in case he happens to read it and the memory is still painful. He recalls being empathetic towards boys who were in trouble with the school authorities, and thanks to reading Doctor Dolittle he was empathetic with nonhuman animals, but he expresses retrospective guilt that he did not have the empathy to try to stop the bullying between boys at the school. He compares the dynamic of this school bullying with the verbal cruelty and bullying in some internet forums today.

Because academic ability was not admired among his peers, Richard would sometimes pretend to know less than he did. Also, he disliked saying out loud when he got ten out of ten, because he had a stammer that made the word ten hard to say. He tells of a teacher who once put his hand down his pants, and when he told his friends, he discovered that many of them had the same experience. He writes that he doesn’t think that this teacher did any of them any lasting damage, but that some years later he killed himself. He also tells of his extracurricular immersion in beekeeping, poetry and music.

Life at Oxford

Richard’s life was transformed when he started to study at Oxford, where undergraduates tried to act like adults, dressing in waistcoats and listening to Bach. He forgot a pen at one lecture and was unable to take detailed notes, which led him to realize that he got more out of lectures when he was free to think and to watch the lecturer thinking out loud. The tutorial system inspired him to discover facts rather than learn them, and he lovingly recalls some of his best tutors and mentors. He describes early experiments on the behaviour of chicks, testing his predictions with a drive threshold model which he considered more important as a model in itself than for its particular application. He also confesses his developing addiction to computer programming, using early computers that were far more time consuming to program than today’s.

He married and moved briefly to California, where he worked as an assistant professor, marched against the Vietnam War, and noticed some of the flower-power sexism that he is glad has changed today. He regrets having failed to stand up against activists who bullied staff into canceling lectures, and he again compares the dynamic of this bullying with bullying in today’s internet forums. He returned to Oxford two years later for a job that with hindsight he feels should have gone to a competitor, but which he thinks he grew into and was worthy of in the end. He describes in detail some fascinating experiments including measuring the wave peaks of musical notes, trying to demonstrate the existence of fixed action patterns in animals, coding a computer program to try to understand linguistics, measuring how much crickets like particular songs, and examining how goals can be hierarchically embedded within each other.

The Selfish Gene

The 1973 miners’ strike in England was the genesis of The Selfish Gene. With electricity being rationed, Richard could no longer focus on his experiments and so he turned to his manual typewriter to begin the book that would explain and popularise Darwinian evolution for a new generation. His aim was to counter the false notion that that natural selection makes species good at surviving. This may happen as a fortunate by-product, but natural selection has no foresight, and it takes place at the level of the gene, not the individual or the species. He introduced the phrase ‘survival machine’ to describe the role of mortal individual organisms vis-a-vis their potentially immortal genes. He did not see this idea as being novel, but as being misunderstood.

He stopped writing the book when the miners’ strike ended, and returned to it some years later in a frenzy of creative energy when Desmond Morris introduced him to a publisher who tried to convince him to rename it The Immortal Gene. In retrospect, he agrees that would have been a better title. Desmond Morris also designed the book jacket, and Richard used his advance to purchase a painting by Desmond. Early reviews were positive, more so than you might expect from the later controversies it inspired. Richard sees the publication of The Selfish Gene as marking the end of the first half of his life, and a convenient point at which to pause and look back. He does just that in the final chapter of his memoir, pondering what he has learned about himself.

Unjust personal smears against Richard

In stark contrast to the nuanced individual that his memoir conveys, some atheists have recently been publishing increasingly irrational and hostile personal smears about Richard. These range from implicit to explicit claims that he is Islamophobic, racist, bigoted, sexist, misogynistic and an apologist for pedophilia. These personal smears are inaccurate, unjust, unkind and hurtful. Sometimes critics also describe him as being white, male, heterosexual, old and/or wealthy, instead of focusing their argument on whatever actual disagreement that they have with him.

The smears typically follow parts of the following pattern. Some people place the most uncharitable meaning they can on a comment by Richard, or else exaggerate it out of proportion to reasonable debate, and continue to do so even after he clarifies what he meant. Then, instead of correcting these false allegations, which are pounced upon by his enemies, some people either ignore the clarification or else blame Richard further for allowing himself and/or atheism to be misrepresented.

Some people might then formally demand an apology, which they might in turn analyze and criticize further, as if they are the moral arbiters of not only the need for but also the content of apologies, to be made by people other than themselves, to different people other than themselves. The escalation into moral melodrama often happens quickly, with some people seemingly reluctant to check facts or consider the issue over time before publishing allegations.

Smears about Islamophobia, racism and bigotry

Last August, I addressed some of these personal smears against Richard in a BBC radio interview with Daniel Trilling, editor of New Humanist magazine, who had written an article associating Richard with Islamophobia, racism and bigotry.

You can listen to that interview here.

You can read the transcript of the interview here.

I argued that, as Daniel was basing his piece on comments made by Richard, the interpretation could be that he was suggesting that Richard is racist or bigoted. I said that this was clearly untrue; that Richard is a gentle, decent man who is very ethical, and he speaks the truth as he sees it without any racism or bigotry. I said that if, as I suspected, Daniel’s position was that Richard is technically correct in what he is saying, but that Daniel doesn’t like the way that he says it, then it might be more helpful if Daniel focused on Richard’s later clarification, and corrected that misinterpretation rather than repeat it.

Also in August, Owen Jones wrote an article in The Independent titled: “Not in our name: Dawkins dresses up bigotry as non-belief – he cannot be left to represent atheists.”

Owen wrote: “Dawkins has a habit of talking about Muslims in the most dismissive, generalising and pejorative fashion. “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are?” he once tweeted. Another of his tweets accused UCL of “cowardly capitulation to Muslims” because it “tried to segregate sexes” in a debate between Lawrence Krauss “and some Muslim or other.” ”

Actually, the “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are?” was not a generalising comment about Muslims. It was specific to the Muslims involved in the incident that the article describes as “another of his tweets”. The full tweet in question said: “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? At UCL of all places, tried to segregate the sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and Muslim.”

Owen wrote in his final paragraph: “As a non-believer, I want the atheist case to be made. I want religious belief to be scrutinised and challenged… But I feel prevented from doing so because atheism in public life has become so dominated by a particular breed that ends up dressing up bigotry as non-belief. It is a tragedy.”

Actually, not only was Owen not prevented from making the case (that he said he wants to make) for atheism and challenging religious belief, but he had more opportunity than most people have to do so, as he was writing for a credible national newspaper. But instead of using that opportunity to make the case he said he wants to make, he instead attacked somebody who is actually making that case. To quote Owen himself, it is a tragedy.

Richard’s clarifications

This particular wave of smears began when Richard tweeted the following:

  • “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

Richard responded on Twitter to some of the misrepresentations. He wrote:

  • “A statement of simple fact is not bigotry. And science by Muslims was great in the distant past.”
  • “Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.”

Richard then published a more detailed clarification on his website.

He said that Muslim spokespersons often cited that there are 1.6 billion Muslims, and that they are growing fast; and that Islamic science deserves enormous respect as the Quran anticipated modern science and Muslim scholars kept the flame of Greek learning alight while Christendom wallowed in the Dark Ages.

He said that putting these two claims together, shouldn’t you be able to point to some pretty spectacular achievements emanating from among those vast numbers? If you can’t today but once could, what has gone wrong for the past 500 years? Whatever it is, is there something to be done about it?

He responded to several categories of attacks made against him on Twitter.

  • He said that Islam is not a race. However you define race, if you can convert to something (or convert or apostatize out of it) it is not a race.
  • He said that the Jews are not a race. You can argue about whether Judaism is a religion or a cultural tradition, but whatever else it is it is not a race.
  • He said that there may be sociologists who choose to redefine words to their own purpose, in which case we have a simple semantic disagreement.
  • He said that he doesn’t think skin colour has the slightest bearing on ability to win Nobel Prizes, whereas it is highly probable that childhood education in a particular religion does.
  • He asked how can the assertion of an undeniable fact be bigotry? And whether, and under what circumstances, we should refrain from stating uncomfortable facts for fear of giving hurt and offence?
  • He said that he did not imply any innate inferiority of intellect in those people who happen to follow the Muslim religion. But he did intend to raise in people’s minds the question of whether the religion itself is inimical to scientific education.
  • He said that he had no comeback to such devastating arguments as “Your a dick,” “I’m an athiest but you make me ashamed to be an athiest,” and “Your a disgusting piece of shit.”

It is important to restate that other atheists who disagree with Richard have expressed their disagreement in more considered terms. The pattern of personal smears makes it more difficult to discuss these reasonable disagreements in a constructive way.

Personally, I have had the same experience as Richard, when I have debated Muslims who rely on arguing that Islam has brought major contributions to science, not alone in the Middle Ages, but with claims that the Quran foresaw modern scientific discoveries. They promote far-fetched interpretations of the big bang and embryology, and assert nonsense like mountains being pegged into the earth to keep it stable, and freshwater and saltwater not mixing.

And those type of claims, in conjunction with the turmoil that Islamic science is in in the Middle East, with leading scientists complaining about the Islamic world’s failure to fund the science contributions that it has promised to over recent years, shows that Richard was making a comment that is factually correct. He was saying it in a thought-provoking way, and within the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter, but it in no way suggests that he is bigoted or racist.

Smears about attitudes to pedophilia

In September, the publication of Richard’s memoir led to a new wave of personal smears. This time it was a disproportionate controversy about attitudes to pedophilia, built on uncharitable interpretations of one recollection in his memoir and of unscripted comments made to an interviewer in The Times.

This is the quote, from the interview in The Times, that triggered much of the subsequent criticism:

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

Several online publications, including Huffington Post and Salon, misrepresented what Richard said in this interview. Typically, they reported that Richard “could not condemn” what happened to him at school, without adding his qualification “by the same standards as I or anyone would today.” The misrepresentations continued on Twitter.

Several atheist commentators joined in with these unjustified smears. I will focus on one example, a blog post by PZ Myers, partly because I have previously defended PZ against smears made against him.

PZ published a blog post that was melodramatically titled “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, please stop”.

  • PZ wrote that Richard “seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children.” This is an unjustified extrapolation to make from Richard’s comments, particularly when PZ is aware that Richard has actively campaigned against the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up by religious institutions.
  • PZ asked: “Should I have raised my children with such a lack of self-respect that they should allow dirty old men to play with their genitals?” This suggests that Richard as a child lacked self-respect because he allowed himself to be abused, and also implies that Richard’s parents are responsible for his lack of self-respect. It also suggests the same about other victims of child sexual abuse and their parents.
  • PZ asked: “Just when did it stop being okay for acquaintances to put their hands inside Richard Dawkin’s shorts?” But Richard had never said that it was okay for anybody to put their hands inside his shorts. What he said was: “It was extremely disagreeable (the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling, creepy way it is almost worse than painful) as well as embarrassing.”
  • PZ wrote: “Should we be giving pedophiles the idea that a ‘mild touching up’ is reasonable behaviour? It’s just a little diddling…. It does no ‘lasting harm’. Christ, that sounds like something out of NAMBLA.” Well, that may well sound like something out of NAMBLA, but it is not what Richard said. It is what PZ made up as his interpretation of what he chose to convey Richard as saying.
  • PZ wrote: “We do not excuse harm to others because some prior barbaric age was indifferent to that harm.” But Richard did not excuse harm to others. He said that he would not condemn what happened 50 years ago “by the same standards as I or anyone would today.” A reasonable inference is that he would condemn it by a different standard, not that he would not condemn it.

There was a range of different comments under this post, including the following three outrageous personal smears:

  • “If no one else is going to say it I will… Someone needs to tell Dawkins that if he’s not actually a child molester he’s dangerously close to wearing the uniform of one.”
  • “Are you fucking kidding? A racist misogynist piece of shit who thinks child molestation doesn’t count unless there’s rape or murder? That’s not “fucking good”. We can do better.”
  • “Dawkins and his rape cheerleaders can fuck a power socket.”

These smears were not representative of the variety of comments by different people. But PZ did not remove any of these three smears, while he banned another commenter, who was defending Richard, by telling them:

  • “Goodbye. We don’t need your petty resistance to any dissent from the sacred position of your great heroes around here. Fuck off.”

Richard’s clarifications

Richard responded on Twitter to some of the misrepresentations. He wrote:

  • “Non-consensual sex is always bad. But raping an 8-year-old to death is quantitatively worse than “touching inappropriately”. Shades of grey.”
  • “There seem to be people here who seriously deny that some degrees of crime are worse than others.”
  • “Is anyone seriously denying that raping an 8-year-old to death is worse than putting a hand inside a child’s clothes? Are you that absolute?”

Richard then published a more detailed clarification on his website.

He said that the criticism of his comments, that he would not judge that teacher by the standards of today, represent a misunderstanding which he would like to clear up. He said that the standards of today are conditioned by our increasing familiarity with the traumatising effect that pedophile abuse can have on children, sometimes scarring them psychologically for life. He said that only slightly less culpable than the abusers themselves are the institutions that protected them.

He said that his own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s did not deserve the sympathy due to a victim who had been truly damaged for the rest of their life. He said that to frame it in such a way would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. He said that to excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from his intention.

He said that he was perhaps presumptuous when he said that he did not think that the teacher’s fondling had caused lasting damage to his school companions. He said that he could not know that for certain, which is why he said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”. They had discussed it on many occasions, especially after his suicide, and there was general agreement that his suicide was more traumatic than his sexual depredations. He said that if he was wrong about the effect that it had had on any of his companions, he apologized.

He also tweeted a link to this clarification, saying:

  • “If anybody seriously believed that I ‘defended pedophiles’ please read this.”

In my opinion, Richard is correct to acknowledge that he may be mistaken about the impact on his companions. If so, that is a matter between him and them, not between him and other people on the Internet who do not know any of them. While I am not asking anybody to apologize for anything, I believe that if there are any further apologies to be made arising from this controversy, they should be made to Richard and not by him.

Smears about sexism and misogyny

Many of the personal smears by some atheists against Richard have their origins in a comment that Richard made two years ago on PZ’s blog.

It was one of many comments made by many people on many websites, about an escalating series of issues that began when Rebecca Watson made a video about an incident at a conference in Dublin and then criticized, from the podium of a later conference, a woman in the audience who had made a response video.

There have been so many interpretations of that series of incidents that I am not going to attempt to add to them here, other than to say that I think that the escalation is an extreme example of some of the patterns I have already mentioned, and that I reject the personal smears that Richard is sexist or misogynistic in the same way as I reject the personal smears that he is Islamophobic, racist, bigoted or an apologist for pedophiles.

Many people, including some atheists, have made unjust, hurtful and irresponsible personal smears against Rebecca. I have previously defended Rebecca against these smears, and will continue to do so.

Rebecca has recently made two significant unjust comments about Richard.

In a video interview on AOL, she said that Richard’s intervention:

“was also insulting to Muslim women and women from Muslim dominated cultures who are basically being used by people like Richard Dawkins. He pretends to be interested in their personal human rights but it seems like all that he is actually interested in is using them as a tool to further his own gains, in this case putting a western feminist in her place. So after Dawkins weighed in of course the harassment took another upwards spike, and Dawkins fan-boys to this day continue to chase after me. They make new Twitter accounts every time I block them, they harass me by email on Facebook, they post photoshop images of me naked, pornographic images that they draw and post online.”

And in an interview with Macleans, she said:

“If Richard Dawkins hadn’t weighed in, I wouldn’t be getting half the abuse I get. If Dawkins says attack, they attack.”

It is unjust, hurtful and irresponsible to suggest that Richard ‘pretends to be interested’ in the personal human rights of Muslim women while ‘basically using’ them ‘as a tool to further his own gains’, or to suggest that Richard has told people to attack Rebecca, or to suggest that ‘Dawkins fan-boys’ are posting photoshopped naked pornographic images of her online.

I appreciate that Rebecca has been hurt by many things said by many people, and that this has contributed to her unfair comments about Richard. I believe that the last two years have led to a situation where good people with sincerely held beliefs have been unfairly criticizing other good people with sincerely held beliefs, with the added seasoning of some people wanting to stir up division.

This has developed into a complex interacting set of issues affecting some (mostly American, mostly online) atheist and skeptic communities, including sexism and harassment, ideological disagreements about issues including feminism and free speech, personal abuse and bullying, and a tendency to hype up disagreements and attribute malign motivations and escalate hostility.

Earlier this year, I and others tried but failed to address these issues through an online dialogue process. The attempt to do is archived here.

Summary

I am summarizing these issues, along with a review of Richard’s memoir, in order to have on record in one place a contrast between what Richard has said and what some people have misrepresented him as saying.

It is important to repeatedly emphasize that some other atheists have expressed disagreements with Richard in more considered terms, as should be expected and encouraged in any freethinking community.

But, in my opinion, the pattern of personal smears against Richard in recent times is disproportionate to any reasonable disagreement, and is instead unjust, hurtful and irresponsible.

It is both an example and a warning of how people can use online media to unfairly harm the reputation of a good person, and how joining in with that process can accelerate and intensify the harm.

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{ 277 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sabina Brennan November 26, 2013 at 2:28 am

Well done Michael. A balanced and well reasoned article.

2 brive1987 November 26, 2013 at 8:43 am

That works for me.

Now realize that these criticisms represent the broader ongoing tactics of the online social justice movement. How do you keep your studious neutrality in the face of such intellectual rubbish.

At some point you need to draw some general conclusions, not just defend a friend.

3 Matthew Robson November 26, 2013 at 9:06 am

Well….after reading the above I can see that you would make a good PR man that dawkins could hire when he next puts his foot in his mouth. Although an idiot he at least had the courage to stand by his convictions the absolute garbage of a review above reaks of sycophant apologetic horse manure

4 Skepsheik November 26, 2013 at 9:06 am

A fair reading of the situation, Michael.
One point of order I might add is regarding the undisclosed reason behind the failure of the online dialogue process. As a participant in part of this process I think it should be noted that the reason it ground to a halt was directly related to the tendency to ‘elevate hostility’ that you have mentioned – namely the deliberate doxxing of the chairperson of our side of the dialogue and the subsequent implied threats to damage her career in medicine. This kind of no-holds-barred approach to dialogue can only lead to a destructive outcome, especially when one approaches the process not in terms of nuanced issues, but as one of black and white thinking – an ‘us and them’ approach where any slight deviation from the official party line gets you lumped in with the worst online harasser. Even if you happen to be a feminist yourself (as I and others on our side of the dialogue happen to be.) That said, I will halt now, as I’d prefer not to derail the comments on your excellent article.

5 Talitha November 26, 2013 at 9:11 am

Nice article. Very fair and thoughtful.

6 Cian November 26, 2013 at 9:48 am

Thanks for the review Michael – sounds interesting.
I hope you are not “fair game” for the pharyngula/social justice people now …. disagreement usually turns into personality assassinations in this arena. L Ron would be proud of them …

7 Jonathan November 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

Matthew Robson:

what specific objections do you have to what Michael wrote? Drive-by insults are less than helpful.

8 Paul Burnett November 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

This piece reflects my sentiments precisely. Thank you for defending a man who cares. I have been disappointed to hear “I’m an atheist but not as strident, fanatical, abrupt, etc as Richard Dawkins” Richard’s approach, tone, great use of the English language along with his passion for reality has calmed my anger with theology and replaced it with a very fine example of how best to approach religion in our society. As for Owen Jones’ position on Richard, I’m sure that a small amount of time spent with Richard would dispel most of what Owen utters. It is important to me because I subscribe to most of what Owen writes but I can’t help thinking that he likes to weigh in to Mehdi Hassan’s rows with the Professor. Mehdi is another man and very able to debate with Richard Dawkins without assistance.

9 Coel November 26, 2013 at 10:52 am

A good and fair article, Michael, well done for saying it.

As you say a lot of this comes from “mostly American” online communities. I wonder whether this is a reflection of the highly polarised and fractious politics in America these days, with a highly extreme religious “tea party” wing of the Republicans, and highly aggressive and polarising radio “shock jocks” such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, that could be summed up by the words “freaking loons”.

This seems to have produced, as a reaction, a highly aggressive and polarising mirror image of the sort exemplified now by Pharyngula, with PZ in the Glenn Beck role. I’m an Americophile, I really enjoyed the years I lived there, but there does seem to be in American society and politics divisions and a breakdown in willingness to work together and to accept differences that are way beyond anything in Europe.

10 Nick November 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Well done.

11 Edward Gemmer November 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The comments from PZ Myers and Greta Christina about Dawkins’ reaction to being molested were just disgraceful. Thank you for speaking up.

12 Coel November 26, 2013 at 12:38 pm

But PZ did not remove any of these three smears, while he banned another commenter, who was defending Richard, …

I’ve just reviewed that thread, and the fact that PZ banned me for those posts on it shows clearly that nowadays you get banned from Pharyngula simply for disagreeing with PZ (and for pointing out that PZ had greatly exaggerated the fault he attributed to Dawkins).

Michael does a good job above of explaining why PZ was unfair to Dawkins, but I wrote a post that highlights one issue that Michael didn’t point out: Children matter as children: why Dawkins did not say that child abuse is “zero bad”.

13 Matthew Robson November 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Jonathan:

My problem with this article is that Dawkins is very much a high profile figure and just like any politician, religious figure, etc anything that he.consents to being published, aired etc or anything he writes on his twitter wall for public consumption should be open to critical analysis and debate. I think it is intellectual dishonesty/cowardice to post something on twitter/say something in an interview that is clearly meant to stir the hornets nest (or inspire critical thinking) and to step back like a deer in headlights and claim no harm no foul when it gets to heated, all the time with your fingers crossed behind your back. What’s even worse than this is that some people think this is commendable behaviour and feel like they have to be dawkins white knight. Taken out of context/misinterpreted or not I can tell you as a teacher if I said something along the lines of mild paedophilia causes no harm I would be shown the door quick smart. No one would be defending me and I would be condemned rightly so. Why make dawkins out to be a matryr for espousing such similar garbage?

14 Coel November 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Matthew Robson

I said something along the lines of mild paedophilia causes no harm I would be shown the door quick smart. … Why make dawkins out to be a matryr for espousing such similar garbage?

But he didn’t say that mild paedophilia “causes no harm”, that’s the point! Yes indeed Dawkins is a public person and his comments are fair game for criticism, but is it too much to expect that people (whoever they are) be criticised for what they actually say?

15 Justin Vacula November 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Excellent piece, Michael. It was a pleasure to meet you in Dublin.

16 Colin Morrison November 26, 2013 at 2:00 pm

An excellent summary of the situation, Michael.

If Matthew Robson would like to reconcile these statements, I’d be most grateful:

“the absolute garbage of a review above reaks of sycophant apologetic horse manure”

” I think it is intellectual dishonesty/cowardice to post something on twitter/say something in an interview that is clearly meant to stir the hornets nest (or inspire critical thinking) and to step back like a deer in headlights and claim no harm no foul when it gets to heated”

No harm, no foul, eh Matthew, or intellectual dishonesty/cowardice?

17 Richard Sanderson November 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm

A very sensible, nuanced, and calm criticism of certain sections of the atheist/secular/skeptic community. Sadly, intelligent articles like this will enrage the dishonest and malicious aforementioned sections, and will no doubt lead to you being placed on certain lists, held and updated on certain backchannels at a certain blog where thought is not particularly free.

The fact is, some atheist/skeptic bloggers have long discovered that shallow hit pieces on Dawkins and other “big names” equals hits and publicity. Not only that, but some of the bloggers are some of the most actively vindictive and nasty bullies you are likely to encounter inside and outside of the movement.

However, their influence has waned, and outside of the echo chamber they are regarded as a complete joke. One of the big names called out above, a certain Minnesota resident, recently released a book. It flopped – big time.

18 Hugh November 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

◾He said that the Jews are not a race. You can argue about whether Judaism is a religion or a cultural tradition, but whatever else it is it is not a race.

Slightly paradoxical, is it not, that anti-Semitism is a form of racism, if Jews are not (in any sense) a race.

19 Rolf Venema November 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

My English vocabulary is small, but I do understand the difference between the name calling nonsense of Mr. Robson c.s. and well documented criticism spoken in a hard thus clear manner. When you don’t agree with the words, but agree with the content, then say so. You are comparing two different things: form and content. Just saying: I am also an atheist is not an explanation, nor an excuse to insult a person, at all. If you can’t answer with arguments, then hold your peace. In my country (The Netherlands) is freedom of speech. I thought in England and America too. But that does not mean freedom to insult the bearer of the content. A man should always keep his dignity, if you can’t you lose the right to take part in any kind of discussion about content, atheist or not!

20 dh November 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Whilst a lot of the criticism directed at Richard Dawkins has been unjust and at times ridiculous (honeygate anyone?), some of it has been reasonable and justified.

The way he expresses criticisms of Islam does, sometimes, descend into cheap and generalised insults. His attitude to what he would call ‘political correctness’ is too dismissive of issues which do need addressing, and which do lead to bigotry – and on these issues I’d suggest it is he who displays an ignorant absolutism.

Dawkins has done an awful lot for atheism, but in recent years he seems to have slipped into a dogmatic arrogance, which brooks no criticism or critique from anyone. He dismisses any argument he does not like, or which he feels casts aspersions on his own perfect character, with a sneering rudeness which does become such a fine thinker. His apparent inability or unwillingness to accept his own human faults, which we all have and of which we all need to be made aware when they lead us astray, is why my personal opinion of him has fallen so low in recent years.

21 oolon November 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Dawkins post in regard to the child abuse comments he made did acknowledge he got it wrong. He generalised in saying someone shouldn’t have their life ruined by a “mild touching up” … Rather dismissive of people who do have their lives ruined. I saw someone say that this could well be because of the reaction of his peers. No one shamed him for what the teacher did to him. So he was totally wrong to generalise that and to his credit he retracted that generalisation. He clarified that he misspoke and he meant only for him it was not a big deal. So a lot of the criticism came *before* this retraction of his and in fact likely precipitated it. Shall we in the community not criticise our “leaders”? This was a positive outcome, albeit with some vitriol expressed in the meantime. (_freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/09/12/richard-dawkins-apologizes-for-statements-on-childhood-sexual-abuse/)

I won’t trust his views over Islam as long as he endorses Pat Condell as his go-to person on the subject. Pat has supported the EDL and tweeted support of a nastily racist screed about “Gypsies” for two fairly recent examples … Let alone his rants about Islam. So a lot of Dawkins pronouncements are viewed through that context for me. If he distances himself from Pat’s racism I may change my mind.
(_freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods/2013/08/29/i-get-mail-pat-condell/)

As for the Rebecca Watson thing… Michael should know better there given the dialogue he tried to set up. Dawkins attacked RW with a condescending fallacy laden comment, the infamous “Dear Muslima”. It is reported that he refuses to speak at any conference where she is speaking, even going so far to put pressure on AA to exclude RW from AACon13. Although she was not on the roster so a pointless exercise. I know Michael doesn’t support this action as he has spoken out against keeping people off conference speaking engagements.

So Dawkins could be pure of heart and completely lacking in any sexist bias, incredibly unlikely given we are all subject to bias, but lets assume it is true. However he has (at least) inadvertently encouraged and continues to encourage, by his silence, misogynistic attacks on RW and other feminist women in the movement. He knows his supporters make these attacks – as does Michael – he has blogged about the nasty misogyny at the Slymepit. If Dawkins spoke out against the attacks as a bigger issue than his dislike of Rebecca Watson then I’d have a lot more respect for him on this subject. He doesn’t.

Michael has spoken out against misogyny and the need to challenge it (_michaelnugent.com/2013/02/24/sexist-photo-makes-facebook-joke-200-times-more-popular/ One of many posts) so I respect him a lot more than Dawkins on this issue. Who is maybe thinking they are no big deal, much like his experience of child abuse. Or he is letting his dislike of Rebecca Watson rule his actions. Or some other third option, many choose misogynistic dick in the absence of a clear position here. I can’t say I blame them and until he speaks out on the subject they’ll continue to do so as his silence causes harm.

Silly a clarification is needed but I have a lot of Dawkins books and will personally continue to say they are a great read on the subject of evolution and his atheist focussed books on science and atheism. Someone who is a leader in one area shouldn’t be free of criticism when they start pontificating in others. Respect is not all or nothing, I have a LOT of respect for his views on science, biology and evolution. Very little for his views on Islam, misogyny and child abuse. None of his cock-ups (IMO) detract from his books on other subjects. It’s not an all or nothing dichotomy, love him or hate him, honey or marmite 😉 … I may even buy the book you are reviewing here!

22 let's be far November 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

So oolon has urged people to visit FTB to find out why Dawkins’s comments about child molestation were offensive. This is ironic because there are a couple FTB threads in which a member confesses to some VERY inappropriate actions and thoughts. He or she is treated with far more kindness and openmindedness than the FTB crowd will give to Dawkins, who has never done anything of the like.

After you visit oolon’s FTB links, visit this one. It’s a fascinating discussion: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/30/stunned-silence/comment-page-2/#comment-682206

The whole schism is a pity; Myers and Watson, et. al. were interesting at one point and now they are causing terrible harm to the movement.

23 YCT November 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Longtime observers of the north american atheist community have seen this problem coming for a long time.

Due to its growing infestation with radical feminism and other extremist ideologies since late 2011, the Freethoughtblogs network has become a vocal minority bastion within the atheist community, whose most vicious personal attacks are now exclusively directed at christians and at prominent atheists, secularists and skeptics who don’t publicly bow to their ill ideas of what they like to call “social justice”.

For Richard Dawkins, it must’ve been a huge personal disappointment to see his former acquaintance and perceived ally PZ Myers, who leads the Freethoughtblogs network behind closed curtains, orchestrate most of the recent heinous attacks against him.

It’s really a shame how public intellectuals are treated these days.

24 Damion Reinhardt November 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Great post, Mick! Fair and balanced and free from personal attacks. Good luck weathering what happens next.

25 Zenspace November 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Michael,

Really well researched and written expose in support of one of the most important personalities in the atheist movement. Really well done. Most appreciative of the fact that you really took the time to dig in and see who the players are and what their methodologies are. Good to know that the self-righteous sjw haters are becoming increasingly transparent in their misguided actions and their motivations.

It gives one hope that rationality might yet prevail. Thank you.

26 L.B. Pearson November 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It’s heartwarming to see the likes of the elite SJW crowd, Oolon, appear on this comment thread to post a wall of text in which those at FTB can do no wrong. Meanwhile Oolon and his cohorts are running around Twitter, blocking people for such insidious reasons as “being annoying”. Phew! Glad we have such a warrior defending us.

We are to sit here, as adults, and try to understand the reasoning why FTB and Skepchick are to be believed for everything, such as the noted Dawkins pressuring AA to exclude Watson bit? AA has come out to note that it didn’t happen. Why ignore the bits that don’t suit the narrative? Oh that’s right. It’s just like reading the Bible. Throw away the bits you don’t like, and keep the stuff that sticks to your ribs.

Who knew that of all -isms, Atheism would fall prey to group think.

27 Pogsurf November 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Thank you for an excellent book review, Michael, and an insightful look at a couple of Dawkins’ detractors.

Oolon at #21 says:

Dawkins attacked RW with a condescending fallacy laden comment, the infamous “Dear Muslima”.

which I read as a satirical note to a fictitious female muslim comparing real world suffering of muslim women to the momentary imagined suffering of real world women. I’m not sure how satire like this could be fallacious. Perhaps Oolon will enlighten us.

At the same time he alleges:

… he has (at least) inadvertently encouraged and continues to encourage, by his silence, misogynistic attacks on RW and other feminist women in the movement.

By referring to causing things to happen via silence it seems like he is ascribing a magical power to Dawkins. In the absence of any evidence to demonstrate causation, isn’t Oolon using the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy to spread lies about Dawkins?

28 David Leech November 26, 2013 at 8:33 pm

That was an excellent post, thanks Michael.

29 tina November 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Fair play Michael.

I don’t think we need to wuwwy about it overly much.

The PZ clown car is virtually a write-off now.

I’d divert all power to your shields though…. and enjoy the pretty fireworks 😉

30 Pogsurf November 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Apologies, a quote mark fail at #27. I think it is clear the second last paragraph is being quoted.

31 markus koebler November 26, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Thx for this artcle. Mr. Dawkin’s critics are willfully ignorant. One of the worst qualities I can think of.

32 Matthew Robson November 27, 2013 at 12:49 am

Rolf Venema:Please. Calling some one an idiot hardly constitutes name calling in public forums this day and age. Thank you though you have proven my point exactly Dawkins more often than not gets a free pass when espousing blatant vitriol on a regular basis and is more often than not widely lauded for it. I mildly chastised dawkins and you are all over me like a cheap suit. Like it or not dawkins is and will continue to be scrutinised both rightly and wrongly at times I imagine get used to it.

33 Eleanor Thomas November 27, 2013 at 1:32 am

I am very pleased to have read this article. Some of the alarming messages I have read recently about Richard Dawkins have been alarming, to say the least. Thanks for the context, Mr. Nugent.

34 Stuart M. November 27, 2013 at 3:37 am

Thank you for a very good “go to” summary of this tempest in a tea pot. It’s a shame that the atheist movement is losing its wheels so soon after it just got started. Richard Dawkins is one of the greatest thinkers of our time. There isn’t a racist or misogynist bone in his body. I can only think the incredible hostility aimed at him from some in the atheist camp comes from very envious individuals or those who seek to enlist atheism in their own pet ideological cause.

35 Lady Mondegreen November 27, 2013 at 4:06 am

PZ Myers posted a link to Dawkins’ IAmA on Reddit, and evidently there was a claim from certain quarters that “PZ was sending his horde after” Dawkins.

*sigh*

PZ’s response:

I don’t give a damn what the slymies say.

However, if you look over the questions posted on the IamA, you’ll see that they’re polite and friendly throughout. Kinda gives the lie to the idea that the horde was sent out “after” Dawkins, don’t you think? I also suspect that the majority of the readers here, like me, respect Dawkins for his expertise and merely do not endorse the idea that he’s infallible, and are willing to call him out on differences of opinion.

I’m sure that response will be a huge disappointment to some people. (Others will ignore it altogether, as it doesn’t fit their narrative.)

36 regina November 27, 2013 at 9:38 am

Richard Dawkins is not just a scientist. He is also a very famous public figure and he is aware of his influence. Especially in this field he holds a great amount of power for us nonbelievers from every country. So he needs to act more responsible than he is doing now.

If he continues to use his power for selfish ends, which he did when he prevented another atheist for speaking in a conference because he just didn’t want to see her there- well too bad for Dawkins atheists, you just have some spot light loving celebrity in your hand.

Dawkins could have written a heavy piece to Rebecca Watson, he could have criticised her behaviour, he could have reasoned with her, but ‘the defender of the reason’ chose none of the above and instead acted like some butthurt pastor goading his own crowd to shout higher to spew death and rape threats to someone he didn’t agree by making some obscene move.

He made a highly inappropiate, passive-agrressive public post to some muslim poster and basically caused the whole thing got out of hand by using his power on a troll mass THEN blackmailed that he wouldn’t be there if she was, and prevented her from speaking at a conference. He basically gave an ‘order’ as some aristocracy. If you don’t see nothing wrong with that then stop calling yourself free thinkers, skeptics, humanists…etc.

If you really support Dawkins, learn to criticise his actions and give responsible reactions when he did something wrong. “There isn’t a racist or a misogynist” is a teenage fan girl response. Dawkins is a human being and he is bound to make mistakes, esp. in his position.

But acting like a public figure of his scale did nothing wrong and how wonderful he is just supporting idolisation of a human being, loading him with a power nobody needs in the first place. This is what we all are against to begin with.

37 Jonathan November 27, 2013 at 10:21 am

Regina:

“If he continues to use his power for selfish ends, which he did when he prevented another atheist for speaking in a conference because he just didn’t want to see her there-…”

Except he didn’t, since she wasn’t invited to speak there in the first place. The organisation in question issued a statement saying as much.

38 Skepsheik November 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

Regina, those are rather serious charges you have laid at the feet of Richard Dawkins.
Your claim that he engaged in:
“goading his own crowd to shout higher to spew death and rape threats to someone he didn’t agree by making some obscene move”, if true, means that Richard Dawkins would have contravened the Serious Crime Act, 2007:
“Encouraging or assisting an offence believing it will be committed: under section 45 of the Act, someone will commit this offence if they engage in an activity that encourages or assists the commission of an offence; and they believe that the offence will be committed and their act will encourage its commission.”
This is a criminal act that, if proven, can result in the offender being sent to prison for several years.

Would it be hideously impolite of me to ask for some proof?

I understand that there are is a fashion in some parts of the atheist blogosphere to dispense with trivialities like evidence, due process or libel laws, but I wasn’t aware this trend had reached Michaels blog.
By the way, Regina, if you provide proof of your claim I will personally ring up the Oxfordshire police to report the crime.

39 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 11:28 am

“Dawkins could have written a heavy piece to Rebecca Watson, he could have criticised her behaviour, he could have reasoned with her, but ‘the defender of the reason’ chose none of the above and instead acted like some butthurt pastor goading his own crowd to shout higher to spew death and rape threats to someone he didn’t agree by making some obscene move.”

I don’t recall any such goading, as far as I remember he pretty much disengaged after a couple of missives. I didn’t think they were particularly well thought out or constructive missives, but nevertheless they were a cut above most of the responses to the thread in question. They could have made for food for genuine discussion on whether or not the elevator incident amounted to much had they been answered in the spirit they were given.

It seemed to me that Rebecca squandered an opportunity to engage with him in an adult fashion on the issue – she could have made a very valid point about the fact that she had not claimed her problems were comparable to those suffered by women in Saudi Arabia, but that nevertheless she felt rightly entitled to complain about being euphemistically propositioned in an enclosed space.

Instead I would submit that it was her who reacted in a “butthurt” fashion by choosing to write an angry blog in which she swears off his products and indulges in a rather childish interpretation of his message and motives which stands as more evidence of the overstretched cynicisms Michael mentions in the post above.

The short term gain of attracting attention through a dramatic blackballing strikes me to be at the long term cost of her reputation.

40 Coel November 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm

To Oolon etal,
Re: Dawkins, Watson, “Dear Muslima” etc.

It is fairly ridiculous that people are still pursuing a multi-year vendetta against Dawkins over “Dear Muslima”, and shows a complete lack of any sense of proportion.

I’m willing to bet that Dawkins hadn’t seen the original RW “Guys, don’t do that” video, but was instead reacting to the reaction to the reaction to it. The original video was innocuous and nothing to object to. The original reaction was mild and unexceptional. Then RW over-reacted to Steff McGraw’s reaction to it; then people over-reacted to RW, et cetera.

Into that fest Dawkins stepped, somewhat ineptly, but saying nothing to take much exception to; the essential point he was making was fair, but he likely misjudged what the whole storm was about (again, it was about the reaction to the reaction, not about the original video!), and thus slightly misjudged his contribution.

Of course the FtB/RW faction totally over-reacted to that and have been doing so ever since (Dawkins meanwhile quickly stepped out of the issue, which is very sensible). Can the people still pursuing the vendetta please get a life and a sense of proportion?

Can’t we be grown-up enough to accept that different people see things differently and sometimes think differently, and that we should accept people discussing these issues sensibly without regarding them as beyond the pale for what are actually fairly minor differences of opinion?

41 dh November 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I’m fascinated how people could call the article ‘balanced’ – it’s an utterly uncritical defence. Just because the author occassionally slips in a 1 line assertion that he’s previously defended from criticism people whose criticisms he’s now defending Dawkins from, doesn’t mean he’s being balanced.

Some of the criticism of Dawkins has been over-the-top rubbish, and some of it has been hysterical nonsense.

But the people who beatify him as a flawless paragon of intellectual virtue, and excuse everything he says – no matter how cheap, insulting, and at times plain wrong – they are just as much part of the problem as those who find fault in everything he says.

42 Jonathan November 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

dh:

“But the people who beatify him as a flawless paragon of intellectual virtue, and excuse everything he says – no matter how cheap, insulting, and at times plain wrong – they are just as much part of the problem as those who find fault in everything he says.”

Who, exactly, has done this?

43 Cian November 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The proof was mentioned up above … it was silence apparently. But the the A+/FTB people have clearly shown their mind reading capabilities before.

The suspicious thing in all of this is that once there is a disagreement with them on any issue ( in particular in relation to feminism ), the person who disagrees suddenly finds their character destroyed.

Dawkins, Vacula, Shermer, Thunderf00t, Paula Kirby, Mayhew … etc have had this happen to them. … I haven’t paid too much attention to it all, but as far as I can see the disagreements instantly go to ad hominem. I don’t see much difference to the techniques of fair game used by scientology.

Its playing the man and not the ball … and its a clear attempt to silence different opinions.

44 Coel November 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm

dh:

But the people who beatify him as a flawless paragon of intellectual virtue, and excuse everything he says …

This sentence exemplifies what is wrong with the Dawkins critics. They hugely exaggerate Dawkins’s faults, and then they hugely misrepresent anyone who suggests that they are being unfair. Wouldn’t it be nice if we returned to the days of being fair to our critics and criticising what they actually say, not an exaggerated and distorted version of it?

45 Michael Nugent November 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Regina #36,

You have alleged that Richard “goaded his own crowd to shout higher to spew death and rape threats to someone he didn’t agree by making some obscene move.”

That is an allegation that Richard has committed a serious criminal offence.

Can you please either substantiate it or withdraw it?

46 tina November 27, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Michael

I think you’ll find it was a metaphor (or something). Like if I said ‘Michael addressed the Dublin Union whipping his audience into a frenzy of inconsequentialism.

No malice aforethought. *cough*

47 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Right, but even if it were a metaphor (looks more like a simile to me) that would still imply that Richard had done something akin to being a preacher goading people into making rape and death threats.

Which he did not.

A valid simile might be:

“He made a couple of inflammatory statements and then cut and ran like a devious Iago sure that ruin and disorder would flourish in his wake.”

That would be harsh and partisan, but at least it would have some pertinence to what people saw him do regarding the topic, because I can recall him being a bit inflammatory, in a manner that could be interpreted as unconstructive (if you wanted to take side against him and him alone), and then dropping the subject, in a manner that could be interpreted as lacking courage (again, if you want to pretend the stuff coming back at him was valid).

But I can’t recall anything even akin to goading, or encouraging of rape or death threats.

48 Allison November 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm

As a woman I thought Dawkins struck the perfect tone with “Dear Muslima” in response to Watson’s absurd histrionics. Dawkins does not owe her or anyone else an apology for “Dear Muslima”.

49 oolon November 27, 2013 at 8:17 pm

(Content Warning, child rape) I hesitate to mention this as I know it will lead to an outburst of nasty smears from the Slymepit in this thread. But Michael you should know that the comment at #22 is part of a campaign from the slymepit to paint a victim of child abuse as a rapist. He was groomed and forced to engage in rape of other children for adults pleasure. To literally call him a rapist as the pitters are doing, when forced/groomed as a minor (<12) to do these acts which he then repeated at the age of 12, is a disgusting distortion of the truth of the matter. His candid description of this is quote mined and interpreted by the pitters in the worst possible light to hurt the "#FTBullies". All they do is make themselves look like utter shits, as usual, but also potentially hurt this person as well as managing to lower their already shitty rep. Preferably you can delete this comment and #22 as bringing in totally irrelevant crap into your discussion. At least add a content warning for the link as it's pretty graphic. Sorry for derailing your discussion, unfortunately it's impossible to have pitters in a thread without a load of nasty lies.

50 Esterhase November 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm

…THEN blackmailed that he wouldn’t be there if she was, and prevented her from speaking at a conference. He basically gave an ‘order’ as some aristocracy. If you don’t see nothing wrong with that then stop calling yourself free thinkers, skeptics, humanists…etc.

Even if the ‘blackmail’ accusation were true – which it is not – why would Watson want to appear in any capacity with Dawkins? She had already made her position very clear.

Personally, I don’t feel she should ever have been on a panel with somebody like Dawkins. She has no qualifications relevant to science or scepticism, but I suppose if pushed there must be acts of charity.

51 Brive1987 November 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm

It’s not that Myers and Watson simply ‘got it wrong’ (in this instance).

It’s not that a couple of commentators lapsed into obscenity and need to be pulled back across a line set by civil society.

Myers and Watson’s views are perfectly reasonable logical extensions of their ideological premise – that society is best explained via the patriarchy/privilege model. Their commentators express exactly the same views – couched in the language of the oppressed and dispossessed.

Your OP finds their discourse offensive. Rather than focus on the tone and misrepresentation, why not go the next step and interrogate the warped world view that underpins the message? Do the same for MRAs as well for balance.

Suddenly everything from ‘old white men’, lifts, Shermer and grenades of all descriptions start to form a pattern…..

52 Phil Giordana FCD November 27, 2013 at 8:34 pm

oolon, stop digging, really.

[name deleted] said:

“But I didn’t stop before raping three young girls (all were, give or take, the same age as ‘S’, the girl I was forced to abuse while a scout)”

Go on, justify that shit.

53 Phil Giordana FCD November 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm
54 Allison November 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Despite oolon’s attempt at a defense the admitted child rapist in question makes no mention of any adult being present and “forcing” him to rape those three children during the incident linked to above.

55 Brive1987 November 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Oolon, don’t be ridiculous. The basis of adult society is that you take responsibility and ‘own’ your actions. These actions can be mitigated or understood against a context, but they aren’t then absolved. Otherwise every extreme MRA can also claim they are ‘just’ a victim of their privilege.

The problem here is that one ‘sides’ ideology requires minorities to largely renounce personal responsibility in the face of the patriarchy and privilege model.

The other ‘side’ denies this interpretation (often offensively esp when viewed thru the SJ value system) – and is accused of supporting the base crime and victim blaming.

Your post is a case example of this.

56 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Not that I really want to defend oolon, but is he talking justification, or diminished responsibility?

Seems to me that if someone is essentially saying “I was so corrupted as a youth that I behaved in a sexually depraved way” then those who seek to console such a person don’t necessarily stand as hypocrites if they condemn others allegedly making light of childhood abuses.

The error does not seem to lie with the attitude towards the guy who was led into sexual depravity through abuse (provided he’s not making light of it or being insincere) – rather it remains the original error – which was the assumption that Richard’s judgement of his own sexual abuse was that it was no big deal for him or (as far as he could tell) his classmates was somehow harmful.

So if – as the FTB bunch seem to – you think “one must always treat childhood abuse as a heavy matter” then the guy satisfies that criteria – he stands as an example of one who has been heavily traumatised by it.

So the sensible thing to push for – rather than condemning hypocrisy where there may not be any – is that people who are victims of abuse are entitled to their subjective view and that those who cope easily need not be ashamed and those who cope poorly deserve sympathy.

57 Phil Giordana FCD November 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Nope, admitting to having raped 3 young girls does not deserve sympathy. Not a shred of it.

58 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I think that’s a merciless attitude to take to someone who was a child at the time.

59 Brive1987 November 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm

True, a charitable interpretation would be that Oolon doesn’t want [name deleted] called a rapist because [name deleted] is himself the victim of rape culture.

However it is also fair to say that despite being white male, [name deleted]’s assault on children was not also treated as a horrific rape – because he sought and received absolution from the FtB community.

It’s the strange ideological lense that gets applied to real world issues that makes the SJ outlook so surreal. And that in turn gets us back on topic to the “odd” interpretation of Dawkins detailed in the OP.

60 Phil Giordana FCD November 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Dawkins says he didn’t mind his sexual abuse as a child = bad! Pedobear!

[name deleted] says he raped 3 girls = fine, good guy, I’ll let you babysit for me.

61 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 9:15 pm

“True, a charitable interpretation would be that Oolon doesn’t want [name deleted] called a rapist because [name deleted] is himself the victim of rape culture.”

I didn’t see him object to the guy being termed a rapist in and of itself.

I am assuming that the apparent dispute is over whether or not FtB can be called out over their gentle treatment of the guy as a matter of hypocrisy given their rough treatment of Richard Dawkins.

To which I would begrudgingly agree with oolon. I don’t find it wrong to sympathise with people led into bad behaviour as children.

What I do think is wrong is their mad equivalence of someone saying “I was abused and I got over it” with an attempt to undermine the effort to stamp out rape.

62 Frank November 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm

And don’t forget that Watson was THRILLED when Dawkins dissed her. As I recall, she mentioned all the hits her website had gotten and tweeted “Score!”. She loved the attention then, and now maintains that Dawkins sent his “fanboys” over to harass her, which is manifestly untrue.

63 Brive1987 November 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm

No, this issue in itself is important because it helps defines opposing values systems – and is therefore relevant to the Dawkin’s discussion.

To call [name deleted] a “rapist” is, according to SJ canon, ‘victim blaming’. Dawkins on the other hand is a rape enabler. Go figure.

64 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 9:29 pm

“Dawkins says he didn’t mind his sexual abuse as a child = bad! Pedobear!

[name deleted] says he raped 3 girls = fine, good guy, I’ll let you babysit for me.”

Strawman innit? Did anyone in this thread call Dawkins a pedo, or [name deleted] good? No.

Look – try this as an equivalent sort of thing, child soldiers in Africa are often coaxed into doing a very evil thing, right?

But they are not beyond sympathy in my opinion.

Would you agree?

Would you also agree that just because they deserve sympathy this does not absolve them or even necessarily imply clemency?

Rather it would seem to me that in comparison to adult soldiers (in general) there is something about the very circumstance of a child forced to do that kind of thing that

If so perhaps you will also agree that whilst a child who rapes commits an evil act their circumstances may well warrant a rather different attitude to that shown to an adult committing the same act.

This isn’t to absolve them of responsibility – that would be clemency rather than sympathy – but if I were to meet someone who had spent their life as a child soldier who then came to a realisation of what they had done and were traumatised by it I would have nothing but sympathy for them, and I don’t see what’s different in regard to [name deleted] provided he was being sincere.

65 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 9:40 pm

“No, this issue in itself is important because it helps defines opposing values systems – and is therefore relevant to the Dawkin’s discussion.”

Sure, and I agree with you that it is a mad value system. In that you have my full support.

“To call Obvorbis a “rapist” is, according to SJ canon, ‘victim blaming’. Dawkins on the other hand is a rape enabler. Go figure.”

It wouldn’t surprise me to find that the general attitude is somewhat more nuanced. I don’t think most of the SJ people are beyond viewing someone as both a rapist and a victim in certain circumstances.

So what I’d figure is the same thing I figured earlier really.

66 MadMike November 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm

There is a curious difference in how the FtB members treat their own in-group compared to how they perceive out-group, especially if the out-group is famous, male and white. One would hope that we were to the point in society that a person’s contributions should be judged more that the color of their skin or their gender.

As to [name deleted], has he sought forgiveness from the children? Has he informed the parents that trusted him of his transgressions? And why the soft touch for him, as opposed to the brutally harsh treatment of Dawkins? For a confessed child rapist, sympathy, for a victim of sexual molestation, the ridiculous claim that he is endorsing pedophilia. Something is very wrong there.

67 Brive1987 November 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm

“It wouldn’t surprise me to find that the general attitude is somewhat more nuanced. I don’t think most of the SJ people are beyond viewing someone as both a rapist and a victim in certain circumstances.”

I was a rapist because [fill in the blank] made me one.

That’s about all the nuance you will find in the SJ narrative. That’s because they operate from clear base principles.

I’d be happy to engage with you on your more nuanced values based interpretation. But that’s not the issue here, and obviously there is no objective answer to hunt down. The question is what do the Dawkins critics think, why and how does that inform their wider dialog.

68 tina November 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Why, is the question. It’s a tribal thing now.

It will be a big struggle for them to say anything complementary about Dawkins and others perceived as performing ‘bad think’ now….including probably Michael very shortly…without the little snide remark or outright insult being directly or tangentially aimed.

Case in point. http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/11/self-interviewing-and-followers/

69 A Bear November 27, 2013 at 10:20 pm

oolon wrote:

(Content Warning, child rape) I hesitate to mention this as I know it will lead to an outburst of nasty smears from the Slymepit in this thread.

oolon: I thought for a minute you were going to say that some Slymepitters were going to say you have admitted to uploading child porn on your computer!

70 tina November 27, 2013 at 10:22 pm

….and according to Oolon on that thread, we’re mostly in it for the honey.

Who knew?

71 Dave Allen November 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm

“I’d be happy to engage with you on your more nuanced values based interpretation. But that’s not the issue here, and obviously there is no objective answer to hunt down. The question is what do the Dawkins critics think, why and how does that inform their wider dialog.”

There’s no objective answer here either. I don’t think they really operate as a gestalt.

I mean even with individual people like PZ and Rebecca – at times it seems pretty ideology driven and heartfelt, at times it feels like finding a niche within which to be an authority, at times it seems to be about the chance for some money and fame.

I dunno – who could possibly say?

72 Brive1987 November 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm

True, there are post by post differences in motivation. Post modernism anyone?

I would argue their core values and base worldview is fairly clear and that they don’t wander too far from this. I’m happy though to agree to disagree.

73 tina November 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm

We just have to accept that the Lard works in mysterious ways.

74 Richard Sanderson November 27, 2013 at 11:19 pm

If he continues to use his power for selfish ends, which he did when he prevented another atheist for speaking in a conference because he just didn’t want to see her there.

No he didn’t. You’re thinking of a certain blogger at FreeThoughtBlogs, who threatened not to attend conferences if a certain female scientist was invited.

Dawkins could have written a heavy piece to Rebecca Watson, he could have criticised her behaviour, he could have reasoned with her,

It is obvious you can’t reason with Watson, or any of the clique who treat her as a goddess. They are petty, snark-filled, spiteful and malicious. Look at Ophelia’s latest piece of pure hate for Edwina Rogers.

but ‘the defender of the reason’ chose none of the above and instead acted like some butthurt pastor goading his own crowd to shout higher to spew death and rape threats to someone he didn’t agree by making some obscene move.

That is quite simply, a lie. Dawkins has not spoken about it. Various bloggers and commentators at FTB, Skepchick, and beyond most certainly have. THEY are the ones who have turned the environment hostile. THEY are the ones who have attacked feminists in the movement who dared to disagree with them. THEY are the ones who have launched witch hunts and campaigns of malicious gossip.

He made a highly inappropiate, passive-agrressive public post to some muslim poster and basically caused the whole thing got out of hand by using his power on a troll mass THEN blackmailed that he wouldn’t be there if she was, and prevented her from speaking at a conference. He basically gave an ‘order’ as some aristocracy.

This was denied by the organiser of that conference. Unless, of course, you are calling him a liar. There is also a picture and a caption of the person who made this original allegation, standing next to Dawkins, smiling and talking about how great he is. Now, a couple of years later, and her story is mysteriously different. This person, BTW, is a close associate and friend of Watson. Go figure…

If you really support Dawkins, learn to criticise his actions and give responsible reactions when he did something wrong.

We do, but we have higher standards than the spittle-spewing horde that childishly attack him with ad homs and joke about how he is “a dick”. They laugh themselves silly at a trivial incident such as honeygate, but when Ophelia complained about airports, or Surly Amy cried about jewellery, suddenly, it was, like, totally serious dude.

But acting like a public figure of his scale did nothing wrong and how wonderful he is just supporting idolisation of a human being, loading him with a power nobody needs in the first place. This is what we all are against to begin with.

When the fandomania of Watson ceases, people might listen.

75 Anonymous Bystander November 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Let it be noted that slymepitters’ have become so bad at defending Dawkins that their only remaining resource seems to be to completely twist a random FTB commenter’s confessions that as a child he was molested and had various awful sex experiences into “rape confession”. And not just that, but that this random comment , one of 702 in a comment thread , a comment made by an anonymous user unaffiliated with FTB bloggers somehow implicates not just all of FT blogs.but also, somehow, Rebecca Watson.

Michael, this is the sort of vile, nasty, terribly manipulative bullshit that Rebecca Watson has to go through all day. This is the sort of attacks that RD dismissed as totes not a big deal because Muslim women have it worse. This is the sort of thing RD has never took a stand against. Even though he has this responsibility as the big atheist figure he is. He is passive at best regarding all of this. At worst he is an active enabler of these people. When atheist leaders did the “speaking up against sexism in atheism” thing, where was him?

76 ianfc November 28, 2013 at 12:11 am

Anonymous Bystander nicely disappears the 3 girls and their experiences. [name deleted] admitted raping these girls.

77 ianfc November 28, 2013 at 12:25 am

And the Broken, failing, hurting [name deleted] is no random FtB user who just swaned in to make a comment on that thread.

78 Lady Mondegreen November 28, 2013 at 12:37 am

For a confessed child rapist, sympathy, for a victim of sexual molestation, the ridiculous claim that he is endorsing pedophilia.

The “confessed child rapist” was a child at the time he victimized other children, and himself was a victim of child rape. One who acknowledged his victimization of others.

Michael, do you really want to let the Slimepit use your blog for these ugly little tribalistic games? Seems counterproductive.

79 ianfc November 28, 2013 at 1:06 am

Lady, who knows what would come out of ugly little tribalistic games, you know emergent stuff.

80 Rcreative1 November 28, 2013 at 1:32 am

Regarding unjust smears, I’d blame the Web itself in two ways: 1) The well-known problem of expressing oneself clearly in text without the aid of body language and tone; 2) The tendency for us all to perform rather than communicate. For example, after Rebecca posted her famous video, the Dawkins-related portion of the ensuing mess could have been avoided with a phone call or private e-mail exchange between them. They really are 99% on the same side, so the on-going dust-up has been especially regrettable.

81 Pogsurf November 28, 2013 at 1:48 am

Lady Mondegreen’s use of “confessed child rapist” in quotation marks and substituting the less pejorative term ‘victimized’ for ‘raped’ implies that a child cannot commit rape. This is not consistent with legal practice. Without knowing where the offences occurred, but to give some perspective, the current minimum age for which a child could be convicted of rape in the UK is 10, having been lowered from 14 in 1993.

82 MadMike November 28, 2013 at 1:59 am

The dust up is because DRAMA. Blog hits, defining us vs. them. Because some people thrive on drama and believing themselves of the One True Faith. Tribalism with a profit motive, as drama=blog hits. It is regrettable that people feel the need to demonize Dawkins and mock him relentlessly, rather than simply criticize those statements that they disagreed with, such as “Dear Muslima.” Sad does not even begin to cover it.

83 Notung November 28, 2013 at 2:45 am

This ‘random commenter is/isn’t a child rapist’ derail is rather irritating. Anyway…

Great post. I find it puzzling why there’s this rather large mob who seem to have such hatred for Dawkins and seem so desperate to find something offensive in his tweets. I’m pretty confident that if anyone else (even someone of equal or greater fame) were to say exactly the same things, they would receive a mere fraction of the hatred that Dawkins gets.

It also means that if there is any legitimate criticism of something he’s said, it’s often completely drowned out by the noisy outrage.

This is the same problem with the hatred that other people you mention in the post receive. The legitimate criticism (and there’s plenty) is often drowned out by the reflexive abuse dealt by rabid haters.

84 David Leech November 28, 2013 at 3:08 am

As a self confessed fan of Richard I really am perturbed by the vitriol he is getting off some posters here. If you want to understand evolutionary biology you could do worse than pick up one of his many excellent books on the subject. If you are not British you wouldn’t really know how much influence he had on science education. His book the Selfish Gene influenced me to study biology at university. Not many people realise it but off line he is usually the only well known atheist and when called upon represents the position well.

I can vouch for how popular he is with ex-muslim atheists as to Turkish groups I’m with have contacts with other ex-muslim atheist groups around the world. To them he is an inspiration and a hero to people who can’t always be open about their atheism. He continues to reach out to atheists all over the world and this works and talks that can be found all over the Internet. I certainly have no knowledge of ever being told to send any rape or death threats to anybody, either by text, words or telepathy and to even think Richard would behave such a way is childish and pathetic. Talking of which Richard has promised to do another reading of the threats he has received soon and I hope it will be as funny as the last one.

85 Lady Mondegreen November 28, 2013 at 3:40 am

Lady Mondegreen’s use of “confessed child rapist” in quotation marks and substituting the less pejorative term ‘victimized’ for ‘raped’ implies that a child cannot commit rape.

You are incorrect. The quotes were because I was quoting a previous commenter. (And the behavior, as described, would certainly not have met the legal definition of rape.)

Nice try, Pogsurf.

This ‘random commenter is/isn’t a child rapist’ derail is rather irritating.

I was responding to previous commenters, who spent quite some time on the subject. The derail already happened.

If you can’t tell the difference, intellectually and morally, between criticizing a world-famous man for perceived dismissal of the harm certain kinds of child molestation can cause, and going after a stranger who confessed to having molested smaller children when he himself was a child being molested–there’s no point in my trying to explain it to you.

MadMike, yup. Bloggers make oodles and oodles of money!

86 Brive1987 November 28, 2013 at 5:17 am

Lady. The self described rapist described his actions thus:

“But I didn’t stop before raping three young girls (all were, give or take, the same age as ‘S’, the girl I was forced to abuse while a scout). I was older. The age difference was even greater. I knew it was wrong even as I joined in and I still did because it may be wrong but its what I was used to.”

Doesn’t sound like he is using the “but I was a corrupted innocent” line.
Quite the opposite. No he is using the “I did it, but only as a broken cog of rape culture”. It wouldn’t matter to the above if he was 13, 16 or 21.

Nice troll though Oolon. A classic misdirect – the topic here is PZ and Watson’s mischaracterisation and warped world view. Not [name deleted]’s stuffed up life.

87 Pogsurf November 28, 2013 at 9:17 am

Nice try, Pogsurf.

Thanks. As any fule knows, a try is worth 5 points. Now we must go for the conversion. Thanks also for being explicit in what you meant, which as Brive points out, is wholly inconsistent with the stated facts of the confession.

Anonymous Bystander tries a similar derail at #74,

Let it be noted that slymepitters’ have become so bad at defending Dawkins that their only remaining resource seems to be to completely twist a random FTB commenter’s confessions that as a child he was molested and had various awful sex experiences into “rape confession”. And not just that, but that this random comment , one of 702 in a comment thread , a comment made by an anonymous user unaffiliated with FTB bloggers somehow implicates not just all of FT blogs.but also, somehow, Rebecca Watson.

It is very unclear who you are referring to when you say ‘slymepitters’ unless you make this explicit.

I can find several comments in this thread where the FTB network is implicated collectively as you say, but precisely none where Rebecca Watson is. Since FTB is a network that does some things on a collective basis, it not necessarily unfair to treat them in this way. However, aren’t you generalising about the Slymepit (most of whose members cannot possibly be commenting in this thread) in the same way that you claim it is unfair to generalise about FTB?

More importantly though, if Watson, who is not formally connected to FTB, were implicated in some perceived wrong-doing on FTB in this thread, it would indeed be a slur on her. If she has not been slurred thus, as I believe, you are making a slur on ‘slymepitters’, whoever they may be.

Would you kindly care to provide the comment numbers where Watson is ‘somehow’ being implicated so that I and others may verify what you say?

88 Phil Giordana FCD November 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

HA! Pogsurf being optimistic about evidence again. Cute.

(BTW, get your ass back to the Pit, I kinda miss you.)

89 Pogsurf November 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

Thanks Phil, your comment is very sweet on many levels.

This whole sad débâcle is about evidence, and the difference between seeing your opponents’ arguments in the best or worst possible lights.

90 Phil Giordana FCD November 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

These days, I really try to see the opponents’ views in the best possible light. At some point, I just have to go WTF.

Regarding RD (the main subject of this post), I can only say that he has brought to me more knowledge with his books and talks than any butthurt SJW bullshit could erase. I still think he has done nothing wrong in any of his internet forays. That’s my two cents (adjusted for inflation).

91 Pogsurf November 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

To use a common metaphor*, you have to allow your opponent just enough rope that they can hang themselves.

Having read most of his books I’d say Dawkins is the best example I have ever come across of someone demonstrating how to think better using science. Not that I agree entirely with everything he says, I believe his parable that religious thought is a virus doesn’t work, chiefly because real viruses leave a physical trace as well as whatever ever malignant forces they may exert. Perhaps it’s just me over-interpreting it, but whatever your views, he makes you think, which must be a good thing.

*No one could possibly misinterpret this as a death threat, could they? Could they? O damn, it’s the internet…

92 John November 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Rebecca Watson hasn’t any intellectual or moral depth. Were she interested at all in the plight of Muslim women, she’d be contributing to the financing of the growing numbers of shelters being set up to house and protect mulis women from the predations of their own co-religionists and family members…including some pretty vicious female family members.

She hates Dawkins for no other reason than that he’s a straight White male.

93 Coel November 28, 2013 at 3:55 pm

John:

She hates Dawkins for no other reason than that he’s a straight White male.

While I think one should not be unfair about or exaggerate the faults of Dawkins, I also think one should not do that about RW. As far as I’m aware she doesn’t “hate” Dawkins. Hate is a strong word, “dislike” might be fairer.

94 Jonathan November 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm

John:

“She hates Dawkins for no other reason than that he’s a straight White male.”

She might dislike him, but she’s dependent on him too. Articles and manufactured controversies about him are a guaranteed source of hits and donations from her fans.

95 Michael Nugent November 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Some commenters have been discussing somebody commenting on another blog that he was raped as a child and also raped other children as a child.

I have now read the comments on the other blog, and the situation as described is distressing and disturbing from many points of view.

I don’t think that the details of that issue are relevant to this post, although I accept that the differing reactions to that issue and to Richard’s comments are indirectly relevant.

Until I decide how to deal with this, I’ve deleted all references to the name of the person involved, even though it a pseudonym. Please do not name him here again.

96 Phil Giordana FCD November 28, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Michael: you’ve left out the link I posted to the original comment. Might be a good idea to remove it as well?

97 Brive1987 November 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I’d be happy for all comments related to this incident to be removed as off topic. Obviously mine included.

I’d also point out the elephant in the room – that Oolon introduced this topic as a classic destructive troll. Complete with trigger warnings.

That at least has some relevance to the OP’s theme of how ideological narrative subverts reasonable debate.

98 Tribble November 28, 2013 at 10:26 pm

How did He Who Shall Not Be Named’s rape admission:

“But I didn’t stop before raping three young girls (all were, give or take, the same age as ‘S’, the girl I was forced to abuse while a scout)”

Suddenly become “SlymePit Propaganda?” Those are HIS words. They have been completely documented and linked, multiple times, in these discussions.

Yes, we’re aware he was molested. We are also aware he’s admitted to raping FOUR children. We’re also aware that YOU (the people at Myers’ blog) GAVE HIM HUGS and embraced him, whole-heartedly, into you community while we ‘immoral’ SlymePit denizens think he’s a disgusting creature FOR HIS ADMITTED ACTIONS.

Do y0u people EVER tell the truth? At least on purpose?

99 Badger3k November 28, 2013 at 10:48 pm

You might delete this to, Michael, but this outraged me enough that I thought you at least should know who you are dealing with. This was a comment from today over at PZs:

“The ‘pitters are merrily naming names in this regard over on Michael’s blog. Their smug, priviledged ignorance is stinking up the thread there. How fucked up must one be to hold a child victim responsible for acting out the brutal abuse he or she has suffered ? I cannot understand why Michael gives them a platform”

So sexual assault of three girls is “acting out the brutal abuse he suffered”? What about his victims? Don’t they matter? That is the hypocrisy and the reason that many people can’t stomach that particular hole of the internet.

As an aside, from reading that individual blog and other things, it sounds like he is claiming to have remembered this through recovered memory, so in all likelihood it never happened. He still needs help if he is doing this to himself, but you can be cynical and think it all a ploy to fit in and gain victim points. But it does point out the oddity of going after Dawkins for his comments when they have an attitude of supporting someone not only being a victim but victimizing others, something Dawkins has never done. It’s all tribalism, and it’s sad and pathetic, and sometimes disgusting.

Hopefully this doesn’t get edited too much, or just deleted. I think it’s important to look at evidence and take it where it goes, rather than make my decisions based on ideology or previously determined narratives.

100 Pogsurf November 28, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Michael has graciously provided his blog to host this discussion, and I am just a guest here, so I am more than happy to abide by any housekeeping decisions that are felt necessary to keep the place shipshape.

101 Anonymous Bystander November 28, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I don’t think that the details of that issue are relevant to this post, although I accept that the differing reactions to that issue and to Richard’s comments are indirectly relevant.

No, they are not.

Richard Dawkins embraces the attention the media gives him as an atheist leader. And a lot of atheists look up to him as that. As a leader, public figure and public speaker for atheists, it is perfectly fair that other atheists hold him to a very high standard. What’s ridiculous around here is how some of his fan boys expect people to do the opposite. To hold Dawkins to a very low standard and give him a very extreme benefit of the doubt. No. Just no.

And the derail is an absolute non-sequitur. What some anonymous commenters have to say about another anonymous commenter’s troubled sexual experiences as a child has really nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Dawkins. It does not make any sense to claim othewise. There is little backslash against this commenter because a) Almost nobody actually knows of this; Except of course the slymepitters who’d do and believe anything possible to be able to derail any criticism against the insides of the atheism mvoement. b) The person in question does not intend to speak on behalf of all atheists, not even in behalf of any other pharyngula commenter. c) The situation is very complicated and not as simple as the vile slymepitters want to make of it. d) We got to consider the possibility that the person does not even exist.

Let’s take it this way, Michael. If somebody posted a comment in your blog that he raped 3 young girls while a child after being molested. Would that somehow implicate not only you, not only anyone in your blog network. But even everyone you ever agreed with, like one time you agreed with Rebecca Watson and boom, suddenly you are all somehow have something to do with this? This is so ridiculous, it is really so absurd to see such a prominent atheist like you giving room to this slymepitter BS of a discussion.

Are all atheists really supposed to monitor every single comment thread in every blog for random people’s rape confessions and if you are ever not outraged about a single one of them suddenly you lose all moral authority to talk about the topic anymore? I felt so absurd just by typing that. This is the sort of clever rethoric you are giving room for. Really Michael, stop all this circus. Admit that you must have done something wrong to attract all these pitters and get them to so happily welcome your blog post and pull the plug off this ridiculous BS.

102 tina November 28, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Yes, admit you’ve done something wrong Michael!

You’ve committed ‘Bad Think’

Three Our Fathers, One Glory Be and a grovelling apology should cover it.

103 John Greg November 28, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Anonymous Bystander said:

“There is little backslash against this commenter because a) Almost nobody actually knows of this; Except of course the slymepitters who’d do and believe anything possible to be able to derail any criticism against the insides of the atheism mvoement.”

Oolon, who is not Pit person, introduced the topic as an attempt to derail the thread.

“b) The person in question does not intend to speak on behalf of all atheists, not even in behalf of any other pharyngula commenter.”

Irrelevant.

“c) The situation is very complicated and not as simple as the vile slymepitters want to make of it.”

The “vile slympitters” are just quoting the original poster’s comments, in an attempt to correct Oolon’s distortions and lies, and to derail Oolon’s derail.

d) We got to consider the possibility that the person does not even exist.

No, we don’t, not really. There are no gounds on which to base such a witless statement.

AB, You do not really know what you’re actually talking about, do you? You haven’t exactly been following this at all, have you. So, maybe, just maybe, because you do not know what you’re talking about, you could oh, I don’t know, talk about something else?

104 tina November 28, 2013 at 11:55 pm

It is sinful to speculate why RD (among others) is subject to character assassination out of all proportion to anything he might have said or done over the last half century. Quite sinful. Stoppit. By order.

105 tina November 29, 2013 at 12:01 am

Why don’t these people get that we don’t have leaders? Never have, never will. Don’t want them.

Down with that sort of thing.

106 Guestus Aurelius November 29, 2013 at 12:13 am

@Anonymous Bystander

MN’s post here is partly about PZ’s smears against Dawkins. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you either forgot that or hadn’t actually read the post when you commented.

Now that ignorance is no longer an excuse, please explain how the reassuring reactions of PZ and his commenters to a confessed (albeit abused) child rapist are completely irrelevant to a discussion of PZ’s vitriolic reaction to Dawkins’s well-intentioned but poorly worded airing of his personal experiences as a victim of child molestation.

Certainly Dawkins was being presumptuous when he spoke on behalf of his classmates who were likewise abused by the teacher in question, but he admitted as much and emended his statement accordingly in response to reasonable criticism of the sort found on the Friendly Atheist blog. PZ’s criticism, on the other hand, compared Dawkins—a pedophile’s victim sharing his story—to NAMBLA. How is it a non-sequitur that PZ and his online community welcomed a child rapist (who got away with it!) with open arms? One commenter even declared that the person in question would be an ideal babysitter. Not a peep from PZ, who is well known to censor and ban left and right.

Sorry, but the fact that Dawkins is famous (and white and male and straight and cis and able-bodied and wealthy) doesn’t justify crucifying him when reasonable criticism will suffice.

107 Tigzy November 29, 2013 at 12:43 am

Interesting post there from Anon Bystander – and I agree that our atheist ‘leaders’, be however large or middling their particular audiences might be, ought to be held to a relevant moral standard. Especially if the said atheist ‘leader’ in question has a history of damning other people for their moral failings. Like, say, PZ Myers, for example – as can be gleaned from the snippets in the OP.

The same PZ Myers, I might add, who condemned those who do not share his particular take on feminism as ‘anonymous monsters on the internet who shriek affrontedly about women and feminists and moan that any feminist allies are ‘manginas’ — to me, every one of them has the name Marc Lépine, and is just hiding it in shame and fear and hatred and cowardice.’

The same PZ Myers who felt it a moral duty to name another prominent atheist as a serial sexual harasser on the basis of what was essentially hearsay. This led to one regular and respected Pharyngula commentator, Nerd of Redhead, to proclaim outright that said prominent atheist was a rapist – and last I looked, there was no condemnation from either commentariat or Myers himself.

The same PZ Myers who remains in a state of perpetual antipathy towards Abbie Smith, because she once ran a blog that allowed people who he disagreed with to speak.

And even more pertinently, the same PZ Myers who condemned an entire atheist forum – Rationalia – on the basis of one nasty joke made by one of the members. ‘Ho hum,’ pronounces Myers. ‘Another purportedly rational forum that thinks rape is a joke.’ Yes. He held the entire forum to account. Not the poster in question. The entire forum.

And with all, his commentariat largely agreed with him.

So now comes along Anon Bystander, who says:

‘Let’s take it this way, Michael. If somebody posted a comment in your blog that he raped 3 young girls while a child after being molested. Would that somehow implicate not only you, not only anyone in your blog network. But even everyone you ever agreed with, like one time you agreed with Rebecca Watson and boom, suddenly you are all somehow have something to do with this?’

Again – Myers as regards Abbie Smith and Rationalia: He has history of condeming either a figurehead or community for the actions of one or a few of the relevant plurality – so why should he not be held to the moral standard he demands of others?

I mean, why shouldn’t Myers be condemned for fostering a community that would give succor to someone who confessed to raping children while not under any duress at the time? And furthermore, allowed such succor to continue by staying silent on it?

And yet, I agree – it is ridiculous to implicate the head of a blog for the transgressions of the commentariat.

But Myers still keeps on doing it, doesn’t he? Thundering from his perch atop the squat towers of FTB with all the vehemence of a biblical demagogue, to a herd of baying acolytes all too eager to condemn those others for the very transgressions they so blindly and eagerly wallow in.

108 brive1987 November 29, 2013 at 12:51 am

“I believe that the last two years have led to a situation where good people with sincerely held beliefs have been unfairly criticizing other good people with sincerely held beliefs, with the added seasoning of some people wanting to stir up division.”

I’m not sure if this wonderfully fair equivalency is actually a reasonable generalisation.

Society is based on an expectation that there is enough shared commonality of belief to provide a stable structure within which we can then express diversity – which is not in itself destructive to said commonality.

A complex dance which relies on not “too much” change at once and shared values springing from commonly accepted value terms.

When you change those terms while at the same time claiming an objective truth you have a problem. And it doesn’t matter how well intended or sincere the motives are.

That’s the problem here.

Rebecca Watson may have received some push back at a personal level for her perceived podium arrogance. But EG exploded only after the trivial incident was conflated as being indicative of rape culture and male privilege – ideological terms not commonly accepted by wider society.

The SJ world is predicated on a specific and atypical ideology and values system and seeks to redefine common terms to be consistent with this ideology. Adherents then demand unilateral conformity by the wider society to the truths predicated on this worldview – conference policies, shut-up and listen tropes, consent etc.

More insidiously the SJ word bearers also initiate actions against transgressors who are quickly labelled and depersonalised as ideological enemies.

Doxxing is OK if you are an enemy. So is disregarding the law and making public allegations of rape, or labelling men as sexual predators based on interpretations supplied by people also holding SJ views. It’s fine to be non-judgmental about self-professed rapists – if they are an ally..

Further it’s considered intellectually rigorous to encase oneself in silo’ed discussion forums with metaphorical ‘banhammers’ while labelling the opposition into obscurity – as slimeys.

Vocal white Oxford students are fine if they parrot the company line. Older white Oxford dons are privileged enemies endemic of the wider Patriarchy.

Certainly the push back contains offensive and unpleasant individuals and messages. It also embraces mocking tactics which aim to, and by definition, offend the sensibilities of target groups and individuals.

The push back is not however powered by a counter-culture ideology.

And for this reason, Mr Nugent, I believe you cannot maintain a false equivalency.

109 David Leech November 29, 2013 at 1:13 am

Anonymous Bystander says.

“Richard Dawkins embraces the attention the media gives him as an atheist leader. And a lot of atheists look up to him as that. As a leader, public figure and public speaker for atheists, it is perfectly fair that other atheists hold him to a very high standard. What’s ridiculous around here is how some of his fan boys expect people to do the opposite. To hold Dawkins to a very low standard and give him a very extreme benefit of the doubt. No. Just no.”

I’m not interested in the derail that some commentators are indulging in though they seem justified in making it. I’m more interested in why you seem to have such hatred for Richard Dawkins. I admit my bias up front as I lost my dad early in life and I looked on Richard as a (sort of distant) father figure as he taught me so much. It was more of a science thing as I never believed in god/s. I never understood the criticism of his own experiences and how he dealt with them as that should be a personal matter.

I have and will always defend him against the morons like Andrew Brown and other god botherers that infest the British press and TV. Though the criticism from fellow atheists seem to be totally left field and out of proportion to anything he ever said or says, a bit like the religious really, I’m I wrong for expecting a higher standard from atheists/skeptics.

110 Jay November 29, 2013 at 6:21 am

Thank you Michael,

I would not have thought Dawkin’s memoir to be of interest *to me*, but your review of it, has made it so, and helped me understand why this memoir in particular might be a good read and relevant to my life today.

You’ve also done great work in explicating the nonsense of the skeptical atheist, septic feminist wars. Tragedy indeed. May be the best arguments win.

111 Peter Ferguson November 29, 2013 at 8:12 am

“Let’s take it this way, Michael. If somebody posted a comment in your blog that he raped 3 young girls while a child after being molested. Would that somehow implicate not only you, not only anyone in your blog network. But even everyone you ever agreed with, like one time you agreed with Rebecca Watson and boom, suddenly you are all somehow have something to do with this?” – So bloggers aren’t responsible for the comments on their blog? That is fair enough.

“This is so ridiculous, it is really so absurd to see such a prominent atheist like you giving room to this slymepitter BS of a discussion. […] Really Michael, stop all this circus. Admit that you must have done something wrong to attract all these pitters and get them to so happily welcome your blog post and pull the plug off this ridiculous BS.” – Now Michael is responsible for the comments on his blog. But, you just said……….

Not only did you attack a strawman, you were also incredibly hypocritical.

Nobody said anybody was responsible for the comments made on the blog, they are contrasting the reaction to somebody who admitted raping people to a person who discussed his experience of being abused. One was welcome with open arms, the other was misrepresented and maligned.

It’s the sort of double standards that have become typical over at Pharyngula. Another perfect example was the Adria Richards incident. PZ Myers said the two men were in the wrong for making sexual jokes at a conference yet PZ made sexual jokes to a woman on stage at a conference and he deems this to be perfectly fine. Personally, I haven’t a problem with either but if I did have a problem with two guys making a joke among themselves that people may or may not overhear, I would certainly have a problem with a woman being pulled up on stage and using the power of the podium to force her and all the attendees to listen to sexual jokes. The latter is a far worse offence yet PZ has somehow managed to condemn the former while excusing his own behaviour. This is morally inconsistent and hugely hypocritical.
But this is becoming the norm in certain sectors of atheism, acts are judged not on the actions themselves but on the person committing them.

112 Coel November 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

To Anonymous Bystander:

As a leader, public figure and public speaker for atheists, it is perfectly fair that other atheists hold him to a very high standard.

Yes, that is fair, and applies whether we’re talking about Dawkins or other prominent and outspoken atheists such as PZ. Can we expect the same degree of fairness and accuracy in public comment from PZ et al that people expect of Dawkins? We wouldn’t want any double standards would we (and no I don’t accept the excuse sometimes used on FtB that effectively amounts to: “we’re not public figures, so we allow ourselves lower standards”)?

To the thread:
If the person under discussion committed bad acts aged 12, and this resulted from abuse this person suffered when even younger, and if the person is now much older and repentant and has not continued such acts, then surely sympathy and compassion are entirely appropriate?

113 Phil Giordana FCD November 29, 2013 at 10:45 am

Coel: if, and only if, the perpetrator has presented his apologies to the victims, their families, and has surrendered to the appropriate authority for assessment of the events.

Not just posting some “confession” on an obscure blog.

114 Brive1987 November 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

Coel, there is no evidence the person was under 12. In fact they make a point (quote above) of stressing there was a substantial age difference between them and their victims and that they well understood the “wrongness” of what they were doing at the time of the latter assaults.

Couldn’t be much clearer if they had actually tried to be forensic in setting context.

I would not have brought this topic up myself (thanks Ol00n). But once made it demands examination as:

* It demonstrates the way the SJ advocates manipulate even in your face evidence to suite their narrative – you should see the comments on the Dawkins thread at PZs as we speak. We have the guys words but there are some *very* alternative realities being spun.

* It demonstrates how SJ ideology is tribal. RD is supposedly in trouble because of his privilege – old, white, male and well off. Yet the other guy is white and male – but is accorded victim status and is celebrated. The real difference is one accepts SJ dogma and within this construct has asked for group forgiveness and the other (RD) hasn’t .

* it demonstrates a more base level of hypocrisy. The guy literally self describes his actions as wilful, self aware “rape”. Literally. Yet he is embraced by the community which is ostensibly the great protector of rape victims everywhere. No ifs, no demands for contrition or victim support or anything that acknowledges the assault. One commentator even requested his services for babysitting (I kid you not). Meanwhile privilege based ‘rapists’ and ‘rape enablers’ are excoriated, treated as ideological piñatas.

So sure. Poor guy. He had a rough trot. But really.

115 Pogsurf November 29, 2013 at 11:32 am

Yes, that is fair, and applies whether we’re talking about Dawkins or other prominent and outspoken atheists such as PZ. Can we expect the same degree of fairness and accuracy in public comment from PZ et al that people expect of Dawkins? We wouldn’t want any double standards would we (and no I don’t accept the excuse sometimes used on FtB that effectively amounts to: “we’re not public figures, so we allow ourselves lower standards”)?

We should all be judged against the same standard. If we claim to be rationalists then we should expect our public statements to be in accordance with the real world. Public figures can expect more scrutiny by virtue of greater exposure, but the standard remains the same, even for the most lowly amongst us.

In the example of the main post here, we cannot allow that Myers and Watson can get away with making up a bit of stuff about Dawkins because they have less exposure than he does. So we test Watson, Myers and Dawkins all to the same standard, and find that Watson and Myers’ public pronouncements about Dawkins are found lacking.

Dawkins himself is meticulous about criticism. He looks at how his arguments have been received and he clarifies, corrects and apologises if messages have been misread, if he has not been as clear as he could or if he got something wrong. This is how a public intellectual should act, or any decent human being for that matter.

I believe that Watson and Myers do have things they could clarify, correct or apologise for in the comments Michael has shown in the main post, but I have my doubts that they are really up to the task. I think they are better suited to iconoclasm and demagoguery.

116 theophontes November 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm

@ brive 1987 #2.

Are you suggesting social justice is “intellectual rubbish”? Why appeal to Michael to endorse such. I cannot think he would.

@ Richard Saunders # 17

Name names.

@ Zenspace #25

Good to know that the self-righteous sjw haters are becoming increasingly transparent in their misguided actions and their motivations.

You are being ambiguous. Very zenlike.

@ Pogsurf #27

“Dear Muslima” is completely ingenuous. Why do some people regard it as a valid argument?

@ regina # 36

False flag or full of shit?

@ Coel #40

It is fairly ridiculous that people are still pursuing a multi-year vendetta against Dawkins over “Dear Muslima”, and shows a complete lack of any sense of proportion.

Not as much that it was a complete brainfart, as that it was percieved by some misogynists as a dogwhistle to belittle women in the atheist movement and undermine any complaints they may raise.

117 Brive1987 November 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Read my post #2 it’s not long. I was referring there to the tactics employed by the brand of SJ advocate referred to in the OP. I was suggesting that if Nugent finds PZ and Watsons tactics to be specifically base – then he should realise that his criticism applied equally to many (most) other SJ advocates.

But now you mention it … I think it’s pretty clear what I think of the ideology underpinning the SJ crew in question.

118 Brive1987 November 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Also I see from PZs blog that you opined:

“Hopefully I’ll have the time to fisk all those fuckers over the next few days”.

Is this the start of said charming campaign?

The pit can be equally robust, but I trust there will be no pedestal climbing here and moaning about how bad the slyme is compared to the good guys.

119 Coel November 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm

theophontes:

Not as much that it [Dear Muslima] was a complete brainfart, as that it was percieved by some misogynists as a dogwhistle to belittle women in the atheist movement and undermine any complaints they may raise.

If it was perceived like that then I can understand the vehement reaction to it from some quarters. However, as far as I can judge that wasn’t the intent, and out of fairness and goodwill one should take a charitable reading of meaning and intent.

If some people did see it as a license or excuse to belittle women or to undermine their standing in the atheist community then they are the ones at fault.

120 Brive1987 November 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm

theophontes, you also said you weren’t interested in seriously engaging with your opponents here. You said your performance was only for the lurkers benefit.

You are an example of the closed minded ideologically blinkered SJ zombie that characterises this debate.

121 Pogsurf November 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

theophontes at #116 asks:

@ Pogsurf #27

“Dear Muslima” is completely ingenuous. Why do some people regard it as a valid argument?

My only claim was that Dear Muslima was satirical. Satire is not the same as making a cogent argument. Satire works if enough people get the joke. If you are trying to read it as a valid argument, you have a sense of humour failure.

Reading the above you may interpret me as being spiteful, but I can assure you that that is not my intention. A joke is a joke, and if you don’t get it, well you just don’t.

I think the butt of the joke can be interpreted in two ways. The mean spirited way would be to suggest that Dawkins was poking fun at Watson. A more generous spirited version sees the butt of the joke as hundreds of man-hours devoted to blogging about Elevatorgate.

I saw a video once where Watson remarked that she said what she said, and that was it; she herself had not devoted much more time to the original elevator incident than it really warranted. Fair play to her, that is fine by me.

It is remarkable the amount of time that others have devoted to it. Even two years later I’m sitting in a public library trying to give you a civil answer to a misunderstanding I believe you hold about a single blog comment which Dawkins made in response to the incident, or the kerfuffle that followed.

If you think of me as a ‘slymepitter’ you have already ‘othered’ me, and probably think very little of my opinion in any case. If you think of me as just some bloke just trying to puzzle out the whys and wherefores for myself you may just be able to see my opinions in a different light. Drop all the ‘fuckers’ shtick that your Dear Leader encourages, and you might be able to relate to me as just some other guy, taping at keyboard, just like you are.

I happen to believe that Watson’s motives for making her original “Don’t do that guys” comments were quite sound. She could see that women were underrepresented in the movement, and she wanted to make atheist conferences a more welcoming space for them. I share that aim. Somewhere in the execution it went wrong. If I am allowed a little rhetoric here, we don’t need to go around burning Dawkins’ books to set the problem straight.

These days we seem to get frequent reminders that motives are not magic. Of course they are not, but they are the key to understanding whether people are behaving in a generous or mean-spirited way. It is possible to believe that Dawkins’ joke was meant to dismiss Watson, and was mean spirited on his part. But then how mean-spirited to is it to characterise Dawkins as a misogynist, a hater of all women?

122 theophontes November 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

@ All

It will take me some time to fisk this thread, not least because I am typing this out on a cellphone on a crappy hotel wifi in Northern China.

In the interim, let me define:

Fuckers: Anyone who is trying to shift moral responsibilty and/or blame from the rapist scoutmaster of [name of victim withheld] to [name of victim withheld].

Fisking: I shall try to respond point for point to what I think are the most egregious comments, or otherwise (non egregious) relevant comments. If I respond to your comment, it does not necessarily mean that I regard you with disdain. I shall generally not repeat responses that have been adequately given already (even if by others).

slymepitters: If you are a person who finds it appropriate to use racial or gendered slurs (hell, any slurring of a defining attribute that is an accident of birth) then I am not your friend. In the past, as a first approximation, this has been a litmus test of the difference between FTB’ers and slympitters.

My apologies to those who recently responded if I continue to go through the comments in order, your responses may be delayed.

123 tina November 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Oh, the multi-layered irony.

Good to have an arbiter of moral responsibility on board. YMMV.

124 Coel November 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm

theophontes:

If you are a person who finds it appropriate to use racial or gendered slurs (hell, any slurring of a defining attribute that is an accident of birth) then I am not your friend.

This argument might have merit if it didn’t come from the Horde, who are among the groups most aggressively and obnoxiously ready to insult people, and encouraged to be that way by PZ.

(Yes I am aware that the Horde have constructed an extensive theology about what sort of insults are allowable and what are not, and like much theology this flaps in the wind and changes with time, but to me the idea of the Horde calling others out for using insults and slurs is breathtakingly hypocritical.)

125 Tigzy November 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm

And Lo! Thus did Theophontes stride unto these unwashed masses, and maketh them quiver in his shadow by declaring that he might deemeth some of them ‘fuckers’, that he might ‘fisk’ this thread by responding only to some comments, and that those he deemeth racist ‘will not be his friend’.

And Lo! Did Theophontes leave all in awe of his might by declaring that he’ll even be doing this ‘on a cellphone on a crappy hotel wifi in Northern China.’

Yet such was the magnanimity of Theophontes that he did bestow apologies ‘pon those to whom his great wisdom might not be readily forthcoming.

And so the unwashed masses waited.

And so they did tremble.

With laughter.

126 tina November 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

How’s about you cut the de-rail and address the OP? MN gonna get mightily pissed off if you don’t. Just a prediction.

127 Pogsurf November 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I’m not really here to make friends, have I come to the wrong site?

128 Tribble November 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Item 1: People at ‘the SlymePit,’ as a rule recognize the self-admitted child rapist in question was, at one time, a victim himself. For that, he does get a certain amount of limited empathy/sympathy. Had that been the extent of his story, it would have simply been unremarkable.

Item 2: People at ‘the SlymePit,’ as a rule, recognize that victim status in incident A does NOT GIVE YOU LICENSE TO BE A RAPIST in Incident B and should not, by right thinking people, earn you virtual hugs and babysitting jobs!!! That is what we rail against, the horrible thinking that excuses child-rape because the child-rapist is a ‘member of the tribe.’

And let us be clear, by the self-admitted child-rapist own words that the SECOND INCIDENT, in which he raped three young girls when he was ‘older’ than the coerced rape he was victimized in was NOT COERCED, but was VOLUNTARY AND INTENTIONAL.

And yet you’re supporting a child rapist! Whatever moral high-ground you may have kidded yourself into believing you had is long gone. You’re as bad as the Catholic Church minimizing their child-raping priests (many of whom were victims at one time or another themselves).

129 theophontes November 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

@ Cian # 43

Lumping Richard Dawkins together with Thunderf00t (inter alia) is not a good idea. Unless you are trying to make RD look bad.

@ Allison # 48

Dawkins does not owe her or anyone else an apology for “Dear Muslima”.

Essentially “Dear Muslima” boils down to: “Any complaint a woman makes can be invalidated by pointing out another who suffers more.”

@ Brive 1987 #51

Their commentators express exactly the same views – couched in the language of the oppressed and dispossessed.

Like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, hell … lets bring this up to date: Rebecca Watson! We are talking about opressed and dispossessed people FFS. There are very many people commenting on FTB who experience life as second class citizens. Your smugness notwithstanding, even in the USA, as I type this, gays are being discriminated against by law. Blacks and women are being discriminated against based on nothing but the colour of their skins, or their sexual organs. And many more. How would you suggest all these people speak up for themselves? As winners? Or not at all?

@ Phil Giordano #52

Go on, justify that shit.

No-one can justify rape. What was described was truly horrific. But to try and pass the blame for the scoutmaster’s brutalisation of a minor – onto that minor – is beyond the pale.

Let me describe a nightmare for you: The scoutmaster pushes a 12 year old off a balcony. The kid lands on a younger kid below and they are both badly injured. Would you blame the child who fell? What exactly could the child have done to slow their fall, or change their trajectory? How much blame would you, Phil, apportion to the child, who – once pushed over the edge – no longer had control of the outcome?

@ Allison #54

the admitted child rapist in question makes no mention of any adult being present and “forcing” him to rape those three children during the incident linked to above.

The victim to whom you refer to as “child rapist”, was himself abused and brainwashed over an extended period of time, to a point where he was quite incapable of making the moral decisions you would expect of a child his age.

That children can be manipulated to such a point, knows many similar examples. Would you, likewise, smugly judge all those child soldiers of similar age who, after similar extensive periods of abuse, rape and brainwashing then go out and kill someone with “no mention of any adult being present”?

130 Dave Allen November 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm

“slymepitters: If you are a person who finds it appropriate to use racial or gendered slurs (hell, any slurring of a defining attribute that is an accident of birth) then I am not your friend. In the past, as a first approximation, this has been a litmus test of the difference between FTB’ers and slympitters.”

A better way to define the difference would be to work out whether or not someone is a heavy user of the network in question, surely?

It would seem to me to be a significant cognitive distortion to assume that an individual’s attitude towards boorish and/or bigoted remarks marks them out as a member of a given online community (and do note that several people who post heavily on the Slymepit also do so on one or more FT Blogs – the activities are not mutually exclusive).

Here’s how I will judge someone as fairly appraising my attitude towards slurs:

They will be willing to discuss with me my attitude towards slurs.

Guilt by Association just doesn’t fly in that regard.

131 Coel November 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm

theophontes:

Essentially “Dear Muslima” boils down to: “Any complaint a woman makes can be invalidated by pointing out another who suffers more.”

That is a particularly uncharitable way of boiling it down. A fairer way of summarising it would be: “This *particular* incident is not worth the huge fuss that has arisen over it”. It was a comment on one incident. It is unfair to extrapolate it into a comment on any and all issues that any woman might raise.

132 Skep tickle November 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm

theophontes, are you aware that the person described, at Pharyngula, not only (1) being abused as a child himself, and (2) being forced, as a child, by his abuser, to abuse another person, but also (3) subsequently abusing several children at a time when he was older*, they were in his care as their babysitter, and he recognized he shouldn’t?

(*older than he had been at the time of the abuse around age 12 – well into his teens, it sounds – and notably older than the children under his care were)

It’s (3), the revelation of which was greeted in that thread with virtual hugs and claims by commenters that he would be welcome to babysit children (if they had any), that people above are referring to.

133 Skep tickle November 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Michael,

What a thoughtful and comprehensive piece. Thank you!

134 Phil Giordana FCD November 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Theophontes: the scoutmaster should be in jail. And so should be the kid who decides later in life to jump from a balcony onto 3 unsuspecting younger kids, all of his own volition, even though he knows it’s wrong.

135 Tigzy November 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Comment #129

Did – did Theophontes just liken Rebecca Watson’s ‘struggle’ to that of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela & Harvey Milk?

I’m looking at that post to see if there’s some attempt at sarcasm or irony there, but I’m guessing that the mighty Theophontes’ sense of humor is so sophisticated and profound as to be nigh on impenetrable.

136 theophontes November 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm

@ Brive1987 #55

The basis of adult society is that you take responsibility and ‘own’ your actions.

The operative word is “adult”. We are considering the actions of a minor here. Consider also that, even for adults, they must be capable of comprehending the difference between right and wrong.

@ Dave Allen # 56

QFT.

@ Brive1987 #59

[name deleted]‘s assault on children was not also treated as a horrific rape – because he sought and received absolution from the FtB community.

I think you are conflating issues. This was a horrific child rape. The instigator, though, was the same person who had previously raped [victim’s name withheld]. What you are now suggesting is that the responsibility for all this comes to rest on one of the child victims.

There was never a need for [victims name withheld] to seek absolution. He has suffered greatly for his actions, even though he bears no responsibilty for them.

His was a rapist who never stopped giving. Please just stop transferring responsibilty away from the scoutmaster onto his victim.

@ Phil Giordana #60

Dawkins says he didn’t mind his sexual abuse as a child = bad! Pedobear

Dawkins has ammended his position, so that this becomes rather moot (and rather unfair of those attacking his former position now).

The mistake he had made, was that he assumed that, because he had no qualms about what he endured, that this could be taken as a general truth. This could tend to undermine the positions of people who indeed felt that they had had bad experiences in this regard.

[victims name withheld] is quite a different situation, in that he emphatically regards rape as bad. He in no way makes light of it, unlike the former (since ammended) position of Dawkins wrt sexual abuse that he experienced.

@ MadMike #66

[Dawkins] … the ridiculous claim that he is endorsing pedophilia. Something is very wrong there.

Are you suggesting Dawkins retract his retraction? He knows what was wrong, he ammended it and he moved forward. Like most of us. Hurry along please!

137 shivar November 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Theophontes said:

“Like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, hell … lets bring this up to date: Rebecca Watson!”

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

Thanks Theophontes. That’s the best laugh I’ve had so far this decade.

138 Guestus Aurelius November 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Sorry if I mess up the block quotes.

theophontes said:

slymepitters: If you are a person who finds it appropriate to use racial or gendered slurs (hell, any slurring of a defining attribute that is an accident of birth) then I am not your friend.

Why address this message just to slymepitters when (I presume) you feel this way about anyone who uses such slurs?

Also, since “any slurring of a defining attribute that is an accident of birth” disqualifies a person from being your friend, I can only conclude that your relationship with the impulsive hurlers of “mansplain” over at FTB is less than genial. You do speak out against that gendered slur, don’t you?

(To be clear, I’m not thin-skinned enough to take offense at “mansplain,” and I only bring it up to demonstrate one of your many double standards. I think it’s a stupid term intended to describe an annoying social faux pas that only sheltered, deluded, or unthinking ignoramuses interpret as a gender-related phenomenon.)

139 Karmakin November 29, 2013 at 7:22 pm

“Mansplain” is small potatoes.

“Toxic masculinity” “Men are damaged women” and the whole oppressor/oppressed gender dichotomy are all much more destructive IMO.

And not towards men. Well, it is. But it’s not ONLY towards men..I’m focused on the woman side of things here.

See, those notions of putting men on this lower moral/ethical standard…or to flip the coin, to put women on a higher moral/ethical standard…end up raising the bar for women, so we demand a higher moral/ethical standard from them than we do men. This hurts women in a lot of ways. The most obvious is the notion of “slut-shaming”, where we demand women to act in a way that is seen as conventionally more moral/ethical (for what it’s worth I think that particular scale is entirely busted) than we do for men. The baseline for women is higher so we expect more.

What outsiders should realize is that this isn’t a fight between one groups who wants better things for women and a group who doesn’t. This is a fight between one group who wants better things for women and a group that:

#1. Thinks that the first group has no bloody clue what they’re doing, that they put tribalism before either pragmatics OR deep-seated morality.

#2. Thinks that the whole idea that the first group..or ANY group gets to define what “better” means, or that there’s one specific definition of “better” is silly. Different people are interested in different things and want different results. The world is not “one size fits all”.

And this is more than just in the skeptical community…various communities are going through this same stuff. And it’s the same thing. The critics of the people who look to expand this moral/ethical separation between men and women are often thought of as being anti-progress, but in reality my experience is that the critics tend to be more pro-progress than even the people who they are criticizing.

140 Pitchguest November 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Alright. First of all, great article, Michael. Nice and concise.

Secondly, theophontes:

Like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, hell … lets bring this up to date: Rebecca Watson!

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. Like, Guinness World of Records stupid. If you’re not being facetious, I suggest you register at the nearest mental institution for possible brain damage. Wow. Just wow.

141 Aneris November 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Dear Michael Nugent,
My longer comment submitted earlier today was certainly too large in extend and description (and issues). I am happy when you keep it, knowing you have read it. I believe the current developing case is enough to illustrate a few of the general problems we face.

Thank you again for speaking up. The attacks against Richard Dawkins are unfair and do not do justice to his many contributions. In Europe, we have the trouble with orthodox or reactionary religious views that keep coming back due to globalization. We need someone like Dawkins who can voice concerns that are also picked up by media.

I believe the incursion of the social justice movement into the Atheist/Skeptics community has opened up some older wounds, and inflicted a few new ones. I will only mention them briefly, as each is a complex topic and I like to stress that attacks against Richard Dawkins are not an isolated case.

Accommodationism: there have been “accommodationist wars” before, but the introduction of social justice ideology has opened up a few new facets. Proponents of the ideology are highly critical of imperialistic and colonialistic attitudes, which makes them very critical of the predominantly white (and male) Enlightenment tradition and of attacks against another culture (such as Islam). We also find cultural relativism in that proximity, which perhaps is related to the “dear muslima” debate, and at the furthest end we may ask if the people are interested in Atheist/Skeptical Movement at all, since their main antagonist doesn’t seem to be religion, but what they call “the patriarchy”.

Science Wars: there is an element of natural sciences vs humanities, which marks the battlefields of the debates around Evolutiony Science, and ideological clashes around “blank slates”, gender or identity politics. Attitudes of people in humanities seem to be more political than the ones who are in natural science which might explain what we see here. In this particular case, such ideological difference with strong convictions often times add to the hostility and are certainly a factor on how factions emerge. Social justice believers will gravitate towards Myers and Watson who convincingly really do form a faction together with others on their blog networks and communities. Notable discussions were between Coyne/Pinker versus Myers/Watson et al.

(Post) Left/Right Politics: There are different approaches on how to bring about changes. And I just pick out two general trends. Some believe something must be done “top down”, by imposing laws, regulations and rules. This attitude translates to extended policies at conferences, to preachy blog posts, strict moderation and to an attitude where censorship is acceptable. On the opposing end of the spectrum are “bottom up” attitudes which favour laissez-faire and individual responsibility & consequences. PZ Myers/Watson et al regard freedom of expression as “freeze peach”, are in league with the Block Bot operators and known for their censorious attitudes. It is relevant in this case as well, since as we discuss here, the Pharyngula regulars in Dawkins AMA demand of Michael Nugent that he curbs the discussion and censors it so that certain viewpoints cannot be stated “in public”.

Far from the dichotomy we have heard before, we can see that the ideological clashes aren’t about “Misogynists/Racists versus Good People”. The more likely explanation why Dawkins and others are smeared is that this is seen as a viable tool to advance one point or another in these battlegrounds I have outlined above. I run long already, so I won’t detail why social justice views are, in fact, bigotry 2.0. It emerges anyway due to issue with the FTB regular.

142 Dave Allen November 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm

“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.”

I didn’t realise you were a stranger to the work of Amanda Marcotte.

143 Guestus Aurelius November 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

theophontes said:

I think you are conflating issues. This was a horrific child rape. The instigator, though, was the same person who had previously raped [victim’s name withheld]. What you are now suggesting is that the responsibility for all this comes to rest on one of the child victims.

There was never a need for [victims name withheld] to seek absolution. He has suffered greatly for his actions, even though he bears no responsibilty for them.

His was a rapist who never stopped giving. Please just stop transferring responsibilty away from the scoutmaster onto his victim.

[Name redacted]’s rape of 3 younger children happened some time after [name redacted] was abused by his scoutmaster. And according to [name redacted]’s own description of the incident in which HE RAPED 3 YOUNGER CHILDREN, [name redacted] KNEW THAT WHAT HE WAS DOING WAS WRONG AT THE TIME.

I agree that [name redacted]’s age (at least 12, probably older) and former abuse are mitigating factors, but that doesn’t mean that “he bears no responsibility for” his actions. It only means that I don’t judge him as harshly as I would judge an unabused child or an adult who committed the same crime. [Name redacted] STILL COMMITTED A HORRIBLE CRIME THAT HE KNEW WAS WRONG AT THE TIME.

Not-as-culpable-as-an-adult-or-an-unabused-child ≠ not-culpable-at-all. To suggest otherwise truly is rape apology.

theophontes said:

The mistake [Richard Dawkins] had made, was that he assumed that, because he had no qualms about what he endured, that this could be taken as a general truth. This could tend to undermine the positions of people who indeed felt that they had had bad experiences in this regard.

[victims name withheld] is quite a different situation, in that he emphatically regards rape as bad. He in no way makes light of it, unlike the former (since ammended) position of Dawkins wrt sexual abuse that he experienced.

Dawkins never said that “he had no qualms about what he endured,” and presumptuously speaking on behalf of his classmates is not synonymous with “assum[ing] … that this could be taken as a general truth.” This kind of distortion of Dawkins’s words is precisely what MN was lamenting in the original post.

What is the point of comparing Dawkins’s “ma[king] light of … sexual abuse that he experienced”* to the fact that [name redacted] “emphatically regards rape as bad”? I seriously don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish by drawing this comparison. Now, if Dawkins had given any indication that he doesn’t “emphatically regard rape as bad,” then you’d have a point. But he hasn’t, and you don’t.

*Of course, you’re again distorting Dawkins’s words here. Were he actually more deeply affected by his abuse than he acknowledged, then he would indeed have been “ma[king] light of … sexual abuse that he experienced,” but you’ve neither suggested nor presented evidence to demonstrate that this is in fact the case.

144 Pitchguest November 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm

theophontes:

No-one can justify rape. What was described was truly horrific. But to try and pass the blame for the scoutmaster’s brutalisation of a minor – onto that minor – is beyond the pale.

Yeah, no one is doing this. What happened with the scoutmaster is one thing. That’s seperate. What we’re talking about is what happened years after, when the victim decided to become the perpetrator and rape three girls voluntary. Verbatim, this is what he said, “I knew it was wrong even as I joined in and I still did because it may be wrong but its what I was used to.”

Now, say instead of a rape he decided to kill someone. As a consequence of the trauma he suffered when he was younger, but it would still be murder. Would that, too, be pardoned because of what the scoutmaster did? I mean, don’t get me wrong, the scoutmaster is a degenerate and should’ve faced justice, but only for the crimes he was involved with. This wasn’t it.

What the FtB commentariat chummy with this man is commiting is rape apology, simply by virtue that he was forced to rape someone at an earlier date and thus what he did years earlier is forgiven. No, he willingly raped three girls – or rather he “joined in” with the raping of the one girl being already violated by the other two girls and then decided to go for the trifecta.

It’s a fucking disgrace. Not just the commentariat, but the bloggers too (some of them) and they don’t even give it a second thought. Again, what if instead of rape he had killed someone? What if it had been especially gruesome, but that he prefaced his crime with his earlier childhood trauma. ‘I was forced to rape someone as a child, therefore my murdering someone at a later date is totally excusable.’ Really? Imagine if it was someone else other than [name redacted], someone you weren’t so chummy with, like, say, a ‘pitter (doesn’t matter whom), would you honestly be as understanding or, more importantly, forgiving? Somehow, I doubt it.

Then there’s the corollary argument which is that this is supposedly a recovered memory, something that had been suppressed but remarkably retold with almost pinpoint accuracy, which points to another possibility: that he might have made the whole thing up. This is also something that the FtB “side” hasn’t even thought to consider.

145 John Greg November 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Yes, this recovered memory business is one of the things bugging me.

While I don’t think “subject” has specifically used the term “recovered memory”, he has certainly presented it as such in saying it was something he had forgotten about a long time ago, but then something or other triggered the memory back into existence and he felt the need to confess — with extraordinary clarity.

Well, bullshit.

Elizabeth Loftus has thoroughly and exhaustively debunked recovered memory claimage.

So, in my opinion, either it happened and “subject” never forgot it but felt it was the time to confess, or it never happened, but “subject” felt it was time to curry some FTB victim-pity love.

Either way, it strikes me that “subject”‘s probable goal is to be a short-term star in the FTB confessional booth, grab a few Hail PZ’s, some e-Hugs. and forever hold High-Victim status — a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card at FTB and other SJW stripmalls.

146 Pitchguest November 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Dave Allen:

“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.”

I didn’t realise you were a stranger to the work of Amanda Marcotte.

That, I think, should staple it. It’s even stupider than Amanda Marcotte.

147 Guestus Aurelius November 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm

theophontes said:

Essentially “Dear Muslima” boils down to: “Any complaint a woman makes can be invalidated by pointing out another who suffers more.”

You’re wrong, as Coel pointed out at 131, and I know I’m not the only one who finds it interesting that the very silencing tactic you’re criticizing (i.e., you-can’t-complain-because-you’re-privileged) fits the SJW ideology to a T.

Yet, I do think that privileged people complaining about their “first-world problems” sometimes sound whiny and betray a lack of perspective. But my definition of “privileged people” isn’t limited to straight white males, and I don’t treat privilege as a litmus test for determining whether a person’s complaints are valid.

148 Badger3k November 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm

The “dear muslima” comment was not directed at Watson, but the commenters over at various blogs, who got so up in arms that it became the worst thing in the world. It was a call to retain (or get) some measure of perspective, and see that in the world, there are larger problems, and there is no need to go on witch hunts and get destroy relationships over it. But that doesn’t fit the victim narrative, nor does it bring in blog hits for an otherwise talentless hack, who, if it weren’t for this incident, might have to actually get a job and work for a living, instead of getting suckers to pay money for poorly done and not-researched videos on YouTube. And to write a weekly blog post for popular science that is three-weeks overdue as of now.

And, the irony of SJWs apologizing for real or imagined rape while calling others “rape apologists” is funny (and disgusting).

149 Aneris November 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm

[This comment was posted earlier today – it was caught in moderation because it contained too many links – MN]

Dear Michael Nugent,

Thank you very much for speaking up. I believe it important and would wish more opinion leaders, organizers or community facilitators would voice their concerns. The unjust attacks against Dawkins, and the various “debates” around his person are part of a larger context that is troubling the Atheist/Skeptics Movement for too long and is threatening sensible secular, skeptical values.

I find it difficult to go into any detail of the many things you briefly touch on, as each topic is complex and all of them are in my opinion interrelated, but I try to show the extend of this situation – which will take some words but compared to the massive amount of issues, I consider it “brief”.

In addition, there are by now two “alternate realities” borne out of the information ghetto a certain faction has erected around themselves, shielded by Orwellian language, a block bot, and strict moderation/hazing/dogpiling of outside commenters – like in big politics justified by claiming they were under terroristic attack and must protect themselves.

It is true that there are trolls, and it is true that visible and outspoken people, especially women, receive hate-mail and threats. However, we have seen that in two years time, the accusers (those who turtled themselves into their “safe spaces”) – curiously – have made those responsible for their misery who happen to be critical of them, or just not supportive enough {also see addendum}. Which is outright nonsense. We hear nothing of religious trolls, who are documented on YouTube; we hear nothing of the large communities on YouTube and Reddit who aren’t always sympathetic to social justice concerns. But instead, allegedly, some “named” people are responsible. The big shots, and their Evil Minions at the Slymepit (whether or not they actually participate there) are made responsible – despite that the forum is open, visible, has barely any moderation, and can be easily observed.

Richard Dawkins was one prominent target at the time of Elevatorgate, and recently became a more prominent target again, since other candidates have been used up, due to certain “grenades” and “ripples of doubt”. The list of “Witches of the Week” grew very long, each time for mostly ideological or self-serving reasons. In addition, the accusers told us that TAM was allegedly dangerous, and that everyone should rather go to SkeptiCon (where, incidentally, their group assumes frequent speaker roles); that evolutionary psychology was worthless. Even Steven Pinker, with Jerry Coyne engaged briefly calling out “ideological and political” reasons and “persecution” as motives and behaviour. These keywords should ring some bells {1}.

Sadly, some self-professed skeptics have decided to debunk the entire field of evo-psych, and for reasons that I see not as scientific, but as ideological and political. (Jerry Coyne)

PZ is engaging in prosecution here, not analysis (Steven Pinker)

We have now a faction in the movement that cannot be considered rational or skeptical anymore and whose behaviour must be seen as authoritarian. According to their own slogans and demands (“with us or against us”), they are “Atheism Plus” – atheists who are strongly influenced by a particular brand of (American) online social justice ideology, which itself is apparently strongly influenced by Radical Feminism {2}.

You will find that the site PZ Myers reads “religiously” and endorses, shows the S.C.U.M. manifesto (“Society For Cutting Up Men”) in it’s Google search overview (does for me), and Dworkin and other illustrious influences on the reading list. I am not taking this connection overly serious, but pretending there was no connection at all (as often claimed) is preposterous. Since I participate in the Slymepit, this titbit gives the whole “satire” issue another deft spin – “cutting up men” is meant satirical isn’t it?

Everyone typically lies about what the Slymepit produces. I have seen none of the fabled images in my time since March but hundreds of images with contents not much more offensive than the Daily Show. The worst, often cited issue is an obscure reference to a sketch by Jack Black in “Ron Ronnie Run”. Go luck it up, and compare it to S.C.U.M.

However, naming them “Atheism Plus” doesn’t really work, since they also like to play the same language games with their own labels when it doesn’t work out for them (much like with Feminism, which alternatively means “trearing women like people” and “patriarchy-kyriarchy-shenanigans”.
We probably have to find a different name that describes the faction around many FreeThoughtBlogs & SkepChick writers and founders, the Atheism Plus forum & Block Bot supporters, Secular Women and their numerous fans, followers and regular commenters. I identify these opinion leaders: Ophelia Benson, Richard Carrier, Greta Christina, Melody Hensley, Amanda Marcotte, Jen McCreight, PZ Myers, Jason Thibeault, Rebecca Watson and Stephanie Zvan and many lesser known affiliated with their networks. JT Eberhardt and Matt Dillahunty can be considered on their periphery, but they are less involved and indicate that communities like that do not have sharp outlines, despite that platforms (such as FTB as a network) can give the impression and that there is certainly a spectrum of fervour.

The commentariat is typically more extreme than the hosts, but PZ Myers and Co. let it happen and only recently began toning it down a notch, after co-host Clarke left. That is to say, PZ Myers & Co. may not be entirely lost, but have quite a lot of repairing to do.

Anyway, I need some name for the whole faction and will call them “the Social Justice League” to have some way to describe what they do. It is also widely known among their detractors that not everyone on FTB supports their views, but hashtags such as FTBullies are in use due to the naming problem (and because it is known to be read by all “sides” in the twitter community). You see, how each sentence needs some clarification due to a thick cloud of lies, half-truths, myths and misrepresentations.

Even though generalizations are often problematic, I believe the Social Justice League shares a number of views. They do not debate (or work out) their “core topics”, in accordance with their belief that everything on Patriarchy, Microaggression, Kyriarchy, Privilege and so forth is said and done and that any asking of questions how they themselves understand these terms must be seen as an act of misogyny and racism. The Pharyngula Wiki comes out blank on these terms, and while I have seen a “Patriarchy” article by Stephanie Zvan, it doesn’t address the issues and attracted few comments, less than her typical, frequent “drama” posts. This doesn’t exactly instil a sense that they take their own concepts seriously. Elsewhere, we have open discussions about this and I wrote, after some research:

“Sylvia Walby (UNESCO Chair in Gender Research Group), came up with a theory that addresses the controversial concerns [with the feminist patriarchy concept] in “Structuring patriarchal Societies”, but her approach was criticized by others [feminists] as it assumed a too passive role of women.”

A term like “microagression”, even though apparently sourced on Wikipedia, has no other language version anywhere – an indicator that the concept is not widely accepted. I like to illustrate with these example that it cannot be the expectation of an Atheist/Skeptics movement to disregard a critical attitude, and a commitment to finding out what is currently the best supported theory/view in favour of such unexplained, obscure and frankly often times dodgy sounding views. I collected a sample of what FTB understands with “Patriarchy is”, but it’s in that evil forum, try it out yourself [site:freethoughtblogs.com “patriarchy is”]. Google shows a collection of sentences. Be amazed. Patriarchy seems to be of the devil, and it’s “supporters” “just want to sin”.
I will add that I personally don’t have a horse in that race what is understood under “patriarchy” (outside of the uncontroversial general definition) and whether it is really a thing, but I won’t accept a concept which isn’t sufficiently supported as a central part of my worldview, as these people quite apparently demand.

Examples like these may illuminate what is going on here. It is much more likely, given the situation, that these views are used as a tool to bully others into submission. They have been transformed into an argumentative weapon, built around crude views that are incompatible with each other – but which is held together by a toxic atmosphere where any perceived transgression and a lack of groupthink leads to extreme smearing, defamation with the goal to remove the person entirely not only from their social circle, but from as much other places in the community as well. To shield off their tribe/ideology, outsiders are kept on a short leash and their communication is crippled.

When you carefully follow that lead, the Social Justice League maintains that someone can just as well erect their soap box on some other corner of the internet and voice their concerns, or defend themselves over there. However, when they actually do this, such conflicting information is best swept under the rug, the source demonized when it starts to become known anyway, and finally misrepresented when it cannot be contained anymore. Meanwhile, the person is “fair game” and each and any defamatory “opinion” can be claimed unhampered. For how this works, there are some nice links below.

Sometimes the attacked person still has posting rights, perhaps hasn’t posted before. In these cases, the blog hosts engage in selective censorship in order to hinder what someone has to say, even when worded politely (or less problematic in language than their regulars, which isn’t exactly difficult). There are cases, where the first responses were allowed through, but follow ups are kept in moderation, giving the impression the attacked person “flounced” and as a way to throw a chew-toy to the regulars. Frequently, the host set up frames and force the attacked person to strictly stay in that frame, as if in cross-examination, otherwise it’s considered “off topic” and not allowed through. The regulars however, to employ another metaphor, are allowed to throw any rotten egg or foul fruit as they please, expand as they like, go as ad hominem as they feel at the moment and there is no apparent attempt of the hosts to at least create the illusion of fairness.

While the Social Justice League hardly seems to be overly critical what their own opinion leaders’ claim even when it can easily be regarded as controversial, they purport that others would be supporting Dawkins due to an allegedly uncritical reverence. While they complain about “white, elderly, male” in leadership roles – ironically – their own most known opinion leader exactly fits the bill, which seems to be no issue. Every week the Social Justice League demonstrates an unprecedented outpouring of such ironies and double standards, that the Slymepit in particular only sees them as caricatures, worthy of ridicule. They are sitcom characters, with weekly new exploits. They have become Ray Comfort’s with the banana in hand. Their views are like the Crocoduck so that the Slymepit is entirely infused with spoof versions of their catchphrases, from “check your privilege” to Carrier’s “intellectual artillery”.

I know that the myriads of inside jokes and obscure references in the Slymepit may be difficult to understand, but even this “phenomenon”, too, can be explained in the this whole context (and for more academical understanding I refer to Henry Jenkins’ “Convergence Culture”, 2006).

Unperturbed by reality and internal consistency of thought, as demanded by common sense™, the Social Justice League, who all the time refer to gender and skin colour, and apparently judge based on these criteria – in all seriousness – believe to be in a position where they can label other people, such as Richard Dawkins and others as sexists, misogynists or racists. In addition, in Europe, the term “race” is typically considered dubious (or downright racist) and the proper concept would “ethnic group” or “(sub) culture” – all things considered, even “colour-blind”, whereas it is almost comical that people who became accustomed to say “people of colour” and not the n-word, believe themselves the Gold Standard of progressiveness. Their progress is from a spanish/portugese reference to skin colour, and then from “black” to “of colour”. Truly impressive!

Not only that. The Social Justice League has a very crude approach to language, they consider to be an indicator for thought and ideology. And they think they can divine thought-crimes out of few words, all of which is enough to character assassinate someone. Another of such eccentric ideas that are hardly questioned: how come that, of all places, Pharyngula and Co. get to decide which words other people can or cannot use? They were known as the worst offenders long before, with plenty of colourful phrases including sexualized language in combination with violence and even death wishes. For sure, they got rid of some of them, but now tailored their language to their personal preferences – which still allows an array of crass expressions, but now nobody else can shoot back, since the language conventions are constructed like a maze, leading to the inside joke “idiot is ableist language, you moron!” – And every keen observer can attest that it is a funny farm like that.

Changing words around in order to appear as “good people”, and framing techniques are apparently very important in the USA, a country that pits a “pro-life” movement against a “pro-choice” one. Another of those issues that seem to come from the USA centric ideologies of the Social Justice League. Steven Pinker called the replacement of words in order to be more political correct the “euphemism treadmill”. The Social Justice League has monopolized the treadmill and uses it as tool in debates. In case, one of their team is caught red handed with using an obviously dubious phrase, it is first vehemently denied, and if it can’t be made plausible anymore, there is always an excuse and a blog host such as Ophelia Benson willing to lend her support. {3}

Again, the other side of the argument is kept in moderation, censored, blocked, banned, demonized and so forth. The usual fare. This isn’t a minor issue. Because the same people then lie about the motives of their critics and denigrate it as “freeze peach” and pretend their actions were just, because – apparently – their opponent must be very hateful, since “Lo!” – harsh comments can be seen in the comments, suggesting that critics were “even more hateful” than the regulars. Which is just not true. In addition, I do wonder how skeptics/atheists in the USA can feel good about denigrating freedom of expression as “freeze peach” like that. I have also some links with views by PZ Myers vs Steven Pinker in store – we recall, whose views seem to clash on language and ev psych.

The Block Bot criticism is distorted in the same manner. Where the main gripe has been that nobody likes to be placed on a publicly visible list, like an online pillory, putting their names in the same ballpark as seriously appalling people – PZ Myers and Co. pretend “they just want to sin”, i.e. everyone was concerned of not being able to harass others with views they don’t want to hear.

Where a skeptical, science minded community used to have healthy discussions, and could “agree to disagree”, the Social Justice League has created a culture of “expected solidarity” and uncritical acceptance of other people’s claims. The basic blueprint of many of their contributions includes some sort of victim or disadvantaged/oppressed person (claimed), combined with ideological statements that cannot be called into question as solidarity and agreement is expected, and some easily agreeable truisms. Often times this performance is intended to show how “good people” they are, fighting the Good Fight {4} against the evil world that is not disagreeing with them, no, but downright “gaslighting” them. {5}

Since Rebecca Watson has shown that referring to her hate-mail box at all times will effectively squelch all criticism and will make remaining critics appear cruel and unempathic, the tactic has blossomed everywhere on Social Justice League territory. Now people even believe they can shield themselves on Twitter by claiming twitter gave them Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. No block bot, no banning and censoring seems to be bring this (alleged) rampant, relentless attack under control, so it seems (even though we were told these people are all known!). So in best American politics style let’s increase “security” even more, ban, censor more, demonize more and so forth. And the community just sits idle by and accepts this erosion of secular and skeptical values. Dramatic references to medical conditions or alleged oppression have a well-timed tendency to show up, when the person finds itself under criticism. It could appear as if this was a form of “reverse ad hominem”, emotional manipulation and extortion of support and solidarity.

When I nowadays even happen into twitter discussions with “feminist Muslims”, flanked and supported by Oolon (above) – the Block Bot programmer, I have the feeling something is quite wrong indeed.

Perhaps a better term for the Social Justice League of Atheism Plus would be The Authoritarians Plus. In a guest post for Prof. Ceiling Cat’s blog, Linda Grilli Calhoun wrote: {6}

suddenly display jaw-dropping illogic, or unprovoked hostility, or paranoia, or sometimes all three. […] The inventories focus on what he terms “Right Wing Authoritarianism” and “Social Dominance”. He uses “right” initially as “correct” […]

Authoritarians are then described in two streaks, the “feeling correct” Authoritarianism is described…

as submissiveness, fear, self-righteousness, hostility, lack of critical thinking, compartmentalized thinking, double standards, and feeling most empowered when in groups. He describes the lack of logic in their thinking; when they like the conclusion, how that conclusion was arrived at is irrelevant. When they like the behaver, the behavior is acceptable; when they dislike the behaver, the behavior is not. [emphasis mine]
He then goes on to describe high Social Dominators. These people want power, and they don’t much care how they get it. “The end justifies the means” is their guiding principle.

P.S: I am truly sorry for the epic drag. But I saw for too long how this complex of issues was kept small and locked away. It isn’t small at all. Please question everything and check it for yourself, I have written it to the best of my knowledge.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
{1} Prof. Ceiling Cat and Pinker, in defence of Evolutionary Psychology
http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/a-defense-of-evolutionary-psychology-mostly-by-steve-pinker/
{2} PZ Myers and Radical Feminism:
http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/04/23/maybe-the-right-phrase-is-revolutionary-feminist/
{3} Typical Slymepit accusations: Anti-Semitism, KKK and “Die in a Fire”
http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/10/brief-one-time-return-of-documenting-the-harassment/
{4} Fighting the Good Fight, a typical Social Justice Warrior article
http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2013/11/11/to-those-of-us-fighting-the-good-fight/
{5} As George Carlin would have put it, Hensely is not only shell-shocked by Twitter, people calling this story into question are “gaslighting” her: https://twitter.com/MelodyHensley/statuses/401576626913161216
{6} Authoritarians Review:
http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/guest-post-linda-calhoun-reviews-the-authoritarians/
APPENDIX:
Bonmot: Atheism Plus Block Bot blocks Lady Gaga, who is apparently harassing them on twitter. Check out her “crime”. Block Bot operator’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/ThatSabineGirl/status/400089564741902337
Fresh: Jen McCreight thinks Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” is “destroying the movement” – says the one who founded Atheism Plus: https://twitter.com/jennifurret/statuses/405391218273554433
Fresh: Social Justice League commentariat discusses Dawkins AMA
freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/11/26/richard-dawkins-awaiting-your-questions/
Fresh: senior editor of Slate calls Marcotte’s views puritanical: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/11/27/the_new_york_times_breast_cancer_front_page_the_paper_was_right_to_run_that.html
Fresh: discussion between Damion and me regarding “Freeze Peach” and Ophelia Benson’s censorship in the quirky T-shirt/Elevator-sign affair: http://discordiantimes.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/remember-the-v/comment-page-1/#comment-148
Fresh: Ophelia Benson “ridiculing” RDFRS interview of Edwina Rogers, and again Richard Dawkins: http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/11/self-interviewing-and-followers/
Recent: Steven Pinker tweeted a few times in support of freedom of speech. The most recent tweet links to “the slow death of freedom of speech at Harvard”, for contrast PZ Myers tweet to his piece, endorsing censorship at his campus (content/minutiae of his issue notwithstanding).
PZ Myers (recent):
https://twitter.com/pzmyers/status/404014167671054336
Steven Pinker:
https://twitter.com/sapinker/statuses/397590936970354688
https://twitter.com/sapinker/statuses/334402853445697536
https://twitter.com/sapinker/statuses/335585440298070017
https://twitter.com/sapinker/statuses/335585017990348801
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

150 David Leech November 30, 2013 at 1:03 am

Nice post Aneris and I hope you meant it for the lurkers here. Facts, logic and evidence doesn’t work on ideologues and never will.

151 theophontes November 30, 2013 at 3:27 am

@ tina #68

It will be a big struggle for them to say anything complementary about Dawkins and others perceived as performing ‘bad think’ now….

That is your own invention.

I fully recognise that Richard Dawkins has made positive contributions to our cause. This does not place him beyond criticism. You have perhaps noticed the dissonance between his considered writings, which are generally very good, and his intuitive, off_the_cuff, remarks. If he had a press secretary to vet his snappier comments, we likely wouldn’t have this problem.

If use of the “fast thinking” part of his brain is an aspect of his creativity, so be it. BUT, he should not uncritically dump those out in public. AND where he has done so – often in comments referring to Muslims (I think he may actually be meaning “Islamists”) – he should retract his mistakes.

#73

Lard

Keep it classy.

@ Richard Sanderson #74

Rebecca Watson is the cause of global warming.

152 philosophia November 30, 2013 at 3:58 am

Aneris, Why pay so much attention to the Social Justice League? I see them as a passing phenomenon that will fade out as fewer and fewer give them the attention they crave.

153 MadMike November 30, 2013 at 5:13 am

Aneris is a true marvel, and is fighting a fight that she believes worthwhile. I admire her pluck, her diligence and her hard work. If everybody worked as hard as she did to be both thorough and fair, the internet would be more idea-oriented and far less soundbite-oriented. Sadly, I doubt that anybody defending the ideological crusade against Dawkins will bother to refute anything of Aneris’ primary points in any substantial manner at all.

154 theophontes November 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

@ Pogsurf #81

Without knowing where the offences occurred, but to give some perspective, the current minimum age for which a child could be convicted of rape in the UK is 10, having been lowered from 14 in 1993.

That is one seriously fucked up change in the law. I trust you join me in condemning it as barbaric.

It is an example of the neo-con “tough love” policy beloved of authoritarian arseholes everywhere. The conservative government, embarrassed by the rise in crime the year prior, thought it expedient to throw the murderers of James Bulger under the bus. As appalling as their actions were, and the suffering they caused James and his family, those children were only TEN years old and should not have been tried as adults. Rather they should have recieved the medical treatment they so urgently needed. Instead of doing the right thing, the UK government did the most reactionary thing: magicking ten year olds into adults in order to use them as political scapegoats.

If Blighty is intent on defining mere children as adults before the law, then why are they not pressuring the UN to indict 10 year old child soldiers for war crimes? Because they would be the laughing stock of the planet. That is why not.

Brive 1987

It wouldn’t matter to the above if he was 13, 16 or 21.

… 27, 43, 51 … Hey why don’t you keep adding on the years to put some extra spin on it? The actual age was twelve years old. Do your homework next time. Or if that is too much trouble, at least read Michael’s # 95.

Nice troll though Oolon. A classic misdirect – the topic here is PZ and Watson’s- mischaracterisation and warped world view.

Do I need to point out that it was not Oolon, but let’s be far #22, who did that? Or that you are contributing to the “classic misdirect”?

Not [name deleted]‘s stuffed up life.

You couldn’t help yourself but have a nasty little dig.

@ Phil Giordano #88

HA! Pogsurf being optimistic about evidence again. Cute.

Says the quote-miner from the pit. Cute indeed.

@Tribble #98

If you choose to portray my brevity as a lack of caring, let me point out that not only did I not mention the indirect victims of the rapist scoutmaster, I also failed to mention a lot of other, direct, victims.

For the record, rape is always bad. Rape by proxy too.

It is ingenuois to pretend that my focus on the defence of one victim indicates a deficit of empathy for others.

155 Brive1987 November 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

theophontes, the point was that he specifically sets out to remove childish considerations from his motivations.

He specifically does not want you to factor in childhood ‘didn’t know what he was doing or the difference between right for wrong’.

He clearly demands to be judged as being a wilful rapist at the time. That’s his narrative, why do you deny him his story?

FYI I am fully acquainted with the sordid details of the “Stunned Silence” thread.

Now is this really your promised forensic fisking? Really?

156 Phil Giordana FCD November 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

Theophontes: I do not quotemine. I quoteharvest and provide the links. You, on the other hand, are acting like a full-time rape apologist. (how do you like them apples? I hope you don’t, because that’s what most people disagreeing with the FC(n) commentariat have been subjected to.)

157 Brive1987 November 30, 2013 at 10:24 am

Oh and we can split hairs, but #22 made a general point about hypocrisy citing a non-specific incident but with a supporting note.

0loon dragged the case study of said hypocrisy into this thread with sordid details and demands for censorship.

You will find your fisking task easier, and complete your mission for the lurkers more economically if you employ basic reading comprehension.

And yes by any conceivable objective standard [xxx] life is ‘stuffed up’ – a conclusion he readily reaches without my help.

158 Phil Giordana FCD November 30, 2013 at 10:43 am

Oh, and it’s Phil GiordanA, not GiordanO. Don’t go and give me PTSD now, Alex Gabriel style!

159 Dave Allen November 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

“If Blighty is intent on defining mere children as adults before the law, then why are they not pressuring the UN to indict 10 year old child soldiers for war crimes? Because they would be the laughing stock of the planet. That is why not.”

Not that I don’t think the whole concept of child justice is riven with difficulty – but there is a difference between saying that a child can be convicted of a crime, and saying that they are being tried as an adult.

So that the UK has lowered the age at which a child can be convicted of rape need not be a sign of barbarism (that would depend on the law’s implementation and disregard for mitigating factors) but that that is an age at which society at large now deems it important to note that *something* be seen to be done in terms of redress for a crime.

The Bulger killers were a special case in that, given the media storm surrounding the killing, their subsequent imprisonment was as much about protective custody than rehabilitation and/or punishment.

160 tina November 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

theophontes #158

So Dawkins is not above criticism?

Thanks, I’d never have realised that otherwise.

So, what are you saying exactly? That he IS racist, sexist, misogynistic, a rape/pedophilia apologist, an islamophobe, cis, white, wealthy, old. What?

Are you not being a bit naive here? The deal here is about control and manipulation of the narrative by a bunch of authoritarians trying to make Atheism PLC conform to their mix of social justice and feminist ideologies. The ‘othering’ techniques they use are as old as the hills and tediously predictable.

We will do what we do with all such authoritarians, religious or otherwise: take their hypocrisy apart piece by obnoxious piece.

161 Pogsurf November 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I couldn’t find much in what Theophotes says as on topic, but I think the following might be.

At #129 he says:

Essentially “Dear Muslima” boils down to: “Any complaint a woman makes can be invalidated by pointing out another who suffers more.”

To me this looks like the meanest possible interpretation, in the meanest possible world. In particular, it just has to say “a woman” because if you had boiled it just a little bit further it would be distilled to “Any complaint a person makes…” and you couldn’t then be able to claim that Dawkins was misogynist on the back of it.

So you have to conclude that Theophantes wants to see Dawkins as a sexist, because he is so concerned to get his brew of poison quite right. In his mean-spirited rush to judgement, he sees the worst possible interpretation. Therefore when he sees other small minded bigots doing the same, he is quite happy to go along with it. He is unable to criticise Myers’ and Watson’s excesses, because he is unable to be critical of his own prejudices.

Theophantes, all your posturing and moralising don’t count for a hill of beans if you can’t convince others of the justness of your cause. Take a look at Michael’s well argued case in the main article, and fisk that if you can. It would be more productive than throwing the comment thread into a thousand and one derails. Think about how you drop hints about your own snotty prejudices as you write it, if you can, and you might just come out of it a better person for doing so.

162 Brive1987 December 1, 2013 at 5:03 am

Let’s put a nail in this whole rape incident – and what a reasonable response would be. Lets quote a Skepchick rape survivor’s POV – not a hint of Slyme to be had – on the specific incident to hand.

Fisk this one Theo.

…………

“These stories made me realize I raped someone. I am feeling so bad about it. Let me tell you about the time I raped someone. Do you still love me?”

What you mean to say: Here’s the time I raped someone, and I need to tell all my rape victim friends right now about how they’ve trusted me and even though I’m their trusted friend, I am a rapist. This is really hard on me and I need a bunch of rape victims to tell me it’s okay that I’m a terrible person. Please? Do you know how upsetting it is to realize you’ve raped someone? You can’t possibly understand, but it’s so hard. Maybe harder than actually being raped. Oh I’m soooo sad for me right now.

Problem: Fuck you. Shut up. You are being a terrible fucking person. Talk to your therapist. Not a bunch of survivors who are coming out for the first time. This is not the time or the place for your story. You should be in prison. You know that. I’m not going to tell you that it’s okay or I know you’ve changed or that you’re a good person. THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU. And no matter how bad you feel, you STILL don’t care about boundaries. You still don’t care about imposing yourself on people. Just STOP. Stop hurting people.
…………..

http://skepchick.org/2013/09/how-not-to-respond-to-a-sexual-assault-story/

163 chascpeterson December 1, 2013 at 5:25 am

what a fucking shitshow.
Mostly it reminds me of this.

164 Mairin deBurca December 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Anyone who disagrees with what Richard Dawkins has to say is free to counter with their own arguments. What is unforgivable is to counter with personal attacks on the man himself. Such attacks show a lamentable lack of intelligence and can only persuade the reader that the attacker has no argument against what Dawkins is saying.

165 Lancelot Gobbo December 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

@Phil Giordana FCD #134
“Theophontes: the scoutmaster should be in jail. And so should be the kid who decides later in life to jump from a balcony onto 3 unsuspecting younger kids, all of his own volition, even though he knows it’s wrong.”

Phil, you summed it up perfectly. We may have understandable reasons for our errors, but we still know right from wrong and have to take the blame for committing actus rei.

@theophontes #129
“The victim to whom you refer to as “child rapist”, was himself abused and brainwashed over an extended period of time…”

Your evidence for “an extended period of time”? The scoutmaster directed incident must have been furtive and brief. (In-group reference to Nerd of Redhead is appropriate here: FLOOSH!)

Ultimately, the ‘Story of O’ is one that illustrates the legal principle that, despite all our understanding of causation, we still have responsibility as individuals for our own actions – ethically and legally. I have every sympathy for O in terms of understanding the events that led to his offense, but many of us have suffered similar abuses in our childhoods and have since chosen not to repeat them out of a sense of morality – and that defines us as non-criminals, while O’s choice to knowingly repeat the abuse defines him as a criminal. Mens rea and all that.

Why should I be so harsh, when I understand the background to O’s choice? It’s my daily bread. I am a physician, and I have served as an expert witness on occasion. My wife is a child psychiatrist. My son is autistic. So am I in all likelihood. I’m as left wing as one can be in north America. I have gay friends and like them a lot. I don’t care how people get themselves off in the privacy of their own bedrooms, whilst retaining the right to not want to join in myself. My gay friends agree with that statement. My wife has set up an orphanage in Africa for AIDS kids. I and my wife are ‘good people’ by most definitions. I used to be a daily follower of Pharyngula, but when PZ decided to compensate for being unable to become the fifth horseman by cynically adopting the third wave feminist shtick, I made the mistake of commenting on his completely unreasonable posts, firstly pointing out his everyday usage of psychiatric diagnoses as slurs (which bugs me and my wife no end as we have been involved in the anti-stigma movement), and later for his public verdicts of rape without evidence or trial. Consequently, I was banned, both under this name (do read The Merchant of Venice, or better still, go and see it performed by a local company), and under that of another minor Shakespearean character (do read Much Ado About Nothing, or better still, go and see it performed by a local company – and if you get the impression I support my local Shakespearean company, so should you! Support your local G&S society while you’re at it.) So I spent a thousand dollars on the Shermer defense fund and joined the Pit, using a name inspired by an unimpressive christian apologist, not the Bard. I have, all too rarely, had the experience of becoming excited by good thinkers. I can’t really think of anything that excites me as much as someone teaching me something that is new and insightful. Hitch could do it, Dawkins can (in his books, but not yet on video), and occasionally others such as Krauss, Tyson, and Ramachandran can do it. Authors such as Robert Ardrey (however wrong he turned out to be), Naomi Klein, Charles Mackay, Jared Diamond and John Ralston Saul did it. At medical school I had the supposed pleasure of being lectured by three Nobel prize winners, Katz, Black and Pauling, but none were inspiring as they couldn’t lecture well. In later life my acquaintance with a fourth, Boyle, was much more fulfilling. Yet the posters on the Pit are far more wise, witty, entertaining and intelligent than the bleating idiots in the commentariat at FTB, and they approach – no, they don’t equal – the feeling of excitement I had when encountering the lecturers and authors above. I enjoy that, and I note that not one of the FTB bloggers inspires me that way. You will all have to forgive me (as I shan’t listen to your exclamations of horror) if I continue to decry PZ and his horde of mindless followers, and try to think for myself, as I find that preferable to ‘groupthink’, however popular that might be among some soi-disant intellectuals.

166 16bitheretic December 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Aneris’s comment above is awesome, touching on so much of the hypocrisy and extremist othering within certain segments of the so-called “community”.

It seems that on the subject of Dawkins, who I felt was clearly wrong to have posted “Dear Muslima” and who deserved some degree of criticism for his apparent insensitivity in regards to it, that he has since become target fodder for certain bloggers whenever they need to post something, although whether that’s to fill content quotas or to get more hits and comments than worthwhile stories, I have no clue.

The recent incident with the honey and the TSA examplifies this, as it seems many were so eager to come out of nowhere, like a pack of vultures descending upon a carcass, and mock him for his age, his ethnicity, his financial status and refer to him by terms like “Dawk-bro”, equivocating him to the stereotypical “dudebro” meme. And for what? Apparently because he didn’t make a Tweet about the TSA prior to his own experience with them? Is anyone commenting on issues now subject to damnation for their prior silence on an issue? How absurd. How petty.

Sadly this is mere par for the course within certain extreme circles of the internet social justice culture. Oftentimes it seems it’s not even important what is being said so much as who is saying it and what their inherent characteristics are. Ideas like privilege have a valid place in analyzing social issues, but these internet extremists use the concept as a blunt force weapon to dismiss any and all criticism via ad hominem of anyone whose born traits are determined to place them in a higher class.

If I wanted to I could play that game easily myself, after all I’m female and part of an ethnic minority, but I couldn’t take myself seriously if my only response to having my ideas criticized or questioned was to yell “Check your privilege!” as a means of winning arguments by default. I’m also getting a little tired of so-called “feminists” preying on victimized people for support while going ballistic on any woman who doesn’t fall in line with undying support for certain blog networks or social media circles. I’ve witnessed this in it’s worst form on twitter where my feed was often filled with Atheism+ people (mostly of the white male variety, ironically) constantly spewing vitriol at women who didn’t buy into their campaign to play hero by reinforcing victim narratives of their fans. This is also frequently seen in the comment communities of certain blog networks, and it pains me to see how few recognize this manipulation pattern.

This isn’t empowerment of women or the LGBT community or any ethnic minorities, it’s selling yourself as a hero by othering all dissenters as racists, sexists, misogynists, MRAs, right-wing neocons and all the other factually errant claims made about the majority of their opposition. But hey, isn’t it just easier to toss ad-hominems out there, knowing that your platform gives you certain degrees of credibility amongst less-informed people, than deal with the actual criticisms of the festering extremism creeping into segments of the online liberal and social justice communities?

167 theophontes December 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm

[This was posted a while ago, and I’m not sure why it got caught in moderation – MN]

@ Badger3k #99

The link that you refer to is here: Linky to theophontes naughty remark. Feel free to judge the context from reading further there.

So sexual assault of three girls is “acting out the brutal abuse he suffered”? What about his victims? Don’t they matter? That is the hypocrisy and the reason that many people can’t stomach that particular hole of the internet.

Yes, his actions appear to have been predicated by the vicious abuse, rapes and brainwashing he had experienced over the course of two and a half years prior to this incident. His victims suffered too as a consequence of this. Indeed, they were raped. And of course they matter very much.

The problem is that, given the above, there are some that now want to judge [victim’s name withheld] as if he bore the moral responsibilty of an adult rapist. He bears none.

I must also point out further, that of the three girls involved, the two elder ones raped the youngest. Are you going to start victim blaming them too? (If you actually bothered to inform yourself of the situation, you might come to the conclusion that (at least one of) the elder girls might too be victims of rape by a third, unmentioned adult.)

so in all likelihood it never happened.

You may have a good point there. After so many years of ongoing suffering, it is quite possible that false memories have been created (something, I should note, that we are all capable of). Then it is all the more perverse to target [victim’s name withheld]!

@ John Greg # 103

Oolon, who is not Pit person, introduced the topic as an attempt to derail the thread.

Could you please link to this?

He still needs help if he is doing this to himself, but you can be cynical and think it all a ploy to fit in and gain victim points.

What you are doing now, is indulging in victim blaming. Should we go about accusing every person who has suffered abuse of lying? Of using ploys to gain victim points (whatever those may be)? Do you not think it might be a better policy to immediately offer your support? Indeed, what vanishingly few “ploys” there are, will soon come to light. (I seriously hope you are not in charge of a rape crisis center or A&E.)

168 Skep tickle December 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Michael, could you check, are there responses from theophontes currently in moderation?

theo has posted at Pharyngula that this seems to be the case, and has suggested that you might phone or email PZ if you are “struggling to understand just what it is [you are] lending support to” in “providing a platform to those people” (meaning many of the people who have commented in this thread to date).

Let’s see how this turns out:
Link to theophontes’ comment here at Pharyngula

For some reason I seem to be sitting in moderation at Michael Nugent’s Dawkins thread. Aside from an overweaning pandering to everyones’ second favourite biologist, there is a lot of victim blaming going on. To Michael’s credit, and my great relief, he has put an end to the naming – if not blaming – of a victim of child abuse. I would suggest that Michael take avery long hard look in the mirror before providing a platform to those people. Perhaps if he is struggling to understand just what it is he is lending support to, he should phone or email PZ before continuing in like manner.

169 Skep tickle December 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

(To clarify, my “Let’s see how this turns out” line above was simply a reference to use of HTML tags, which turned out just as I’d intended – not always the case!)

170 Steersman December 1, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Lancelot Gobbo (#165):

So I spent a thousand dollars on the Shermer defense fund and joined the Pit, using a name inspired by an unimpressive Christian apologist, not the Bard.

Good show on the first two points, and on the third one might ask, C.S. Lewis? 😉

But excellent set of comments, and a cogent argument. The Pit has its flaws, its warts, but its very light to non-existent moderation policy covers a multitude of sins, if not actually attenuates them. In notable contradistinction to FreeFromThoughtBlog-land whose policies tend to problematically amplify and distribute them to wider audiences.

171 John Greg December 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Theophantasy, yes, you are quite right: Oolon was NOT the person who introduced the Story of O. As you say, it was indeed “let’s be far” who introduced that topic in post #22. My error.

However, back on the tangential topic: you have spun this whole issue to such a fantastical degree that you are not even living in the real world anymore. You haven’t even got the courage of your own supposed convictions to admit, specifically, that O_____ is guilty of the crimes HE HIMSELF claims (in enough grubby detail to deeply upset such actual rape-survivors as Skepchick Elyse and others) to have committed: you have to resort to passive language and obfuscation, to wit where Theosophist said:

“Yes, his actions appear to have been predicated by the vicious abuse, rapes and brainwashing he had experienced over the course of two and a half years prior to this incident. His victims suffered too as a consequence of this. Indeed, they were raped. And of course they matter very much.”

So, in that simple paragraph what you are trying to do is remove O_____’s direct responsibility for his actions on to “the other”.

You are also bring up the hoary and mostly discredited ‘he is not guilty and responsible for his actions because he is a victim’, even though he, hemself, specifically and clearly stated he knew those actions were wrong AT THE TIME he enacted them.

You are also trying to remove his active-participant responsibility for the suffering of the other kids to “the other” when you use passive language: So as to avoid having to say ‘Yes, O_____ committed rape’, you try to make it appear that an invisible “other” comitted the crimes.

Jesus. What misrepresentative load of codswallop. And how egregiously typical of an FTB-bred SJW to inflict such double-dealing hypocrisy and rhetorical trickery onto their own psyche so as to invest in deep cognitive dissonance to try and save the self-smeared reputation of one of the tribe.

We are not “victim blaming”, you moron; we are perpetrator focussing.

Gah! The length of misdirection, rhetorical trickery, and simply outright deceit that you tribal sycophants go to to save one of your own is just sad.

172 Steersman December 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Skep tickle (#169):

… simply a reference to use of HTML tags ….

Indeed. For longer posts I might suggest that many if not all of the blogs on FTB have a “Preview” function that works also for previewing what a post will look like here. Never let it be said that FTB is entirely useless … 😉

173 Pagancat December 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I am somewhat confused by the attitudes of thepontes and others. There seems to be some delusional opinion that people like Dawkins owe people some kind of favour and that every word out of the mans mouth should be first vetted by the ministry of truth. The idea that the man should only say things that meet with the approval of narrow minded social justice proponents is utterly pathetic. The man has opinions and some of those opinions, shockingly enough, might differ from yours. People like Dawkins are under no obligation to pander to your world view just because they happen to express themselves publicly and have one thing in common with you.

174 Brive1987 December 1, 2013 at 8:21 pm

There is no equivalency between #22 and #49

One is a point about general hypocrisy with no detail, no names, not even a specific crime specified. There is a link to primary source FtB material with which interested parties could develop their own informed view of the oblique reference.

#49 is an FtB grenade like post designed purely and simply to radicalise and derail. Where’s 0l00n been since dropping that one?

175 Guestus Aurelius December 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Amen, 16bitheretic.

I likewise found Dawkins’s “Dear Muslima” comment off-putting, even when considered in its proper context as a reaction not to Watson’s video directly but rather to the overblown reaction to said video. More recently, I felt that Dawkins was presumptuous when he spoke on behalf of his fellow molested classmates. Though he’s one of my favorite public figures, I certainly don’t regard him as above criticism.

And maybe to some extent we should hold famous privileged people like Dawkins to a higher standard, but only contemptible haters take that as a green light to interpret everything he says in the least charitable light and to sanctimoniously hurl unwarranted invective at him. These deluded prigs insist that the rest of us are just fanboys who can’t stomach criticism of our hero.

They’re wrong.

What we can’t stomach are the prigs themselves, the hypocritical SJL so eager to lash out yet so incapable of self-reflection.

I would take comfort that these blinkered fools are a minority, but, as is often the case with ideological extremists, they’re obnoxiously loud and visible, especially in comparison to the “dictionary atheists” they mock. Quite simply, this minority’s disproportionate web presence makes unbelievers look bad. It’s downright embarrassing.

@chascpeterson:

Obvious false equivalence is obvious.

176 Steersman December 1, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Theophontes (#122):

slymepitters: If you are a person who finds it appropriate to use racial or gendered slurs (hell, any slurring of a defining attribute that is an accident of birth) then I am not your friend

Considering the frequent use of “asshole”, and other choice insults, on Pharyngula (1) and Skepchick (2), one might wonder why you would apparently be calling FTB people your friends. Not to mention the fact that it is, I think, a rather tenuous argument, at best, to insist that any of those insults directed at individuals qualifies as sexism or racism. As I’ve argued before, somewhat exhaustively: “cunt” and “prick” is to sexism as “nigger” is to racism; and as “asshole” is to misanthropism. Nice bunch of people over in your clubhouse.

Theophontes (#122):

Essentially “Dear Muslima” boils down to: “Any complaint a woman makes can be invalidated by pointing out another who suffers more.”

Really? I think you should have turned the heat off while cooking that concoction much sooner since you seem to have boiled away the meat of the matter, to have lost the thread. Seems to me that “Dear Muslima” is rather less a case of completely invalidating the non-trivial and quite real problem of sexual harassment, and more one of mocking and ridiculing an attempt to make one largely trivial incident far more odious and egregious than a sober assessment justifies. Sort of like Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock.

Like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, hell … lets bring this up to date: Rebecca Watson! We are talking about oppressed and dispossessed people FFS.

While I have defended that “analogy” in the Pit – at great personal cost to my reputation (such as it is) – on the basis that there are some points of tangency, I also think it a rather pretentious one – like comparing a Maserati to a Volkswagen. Sure, both of them have 4 wheels, a transmission, and an engine, but that’s about it. Likewise with your analogy: the one set are class acts, the other apparently heavy into self-aggrandizement – being charitable.


1) “_http://skepchick.org/2011/12/reddit-makes-me-hate-atheists/”;
2) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/22/adria-richards-did-everything-exactly-right/comment-page-2/”;

177 Skep tickle December 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Steersman @172

… For longer posts I might suggest that many if not all of the blogs on FTB have a “Preview” function that works also for previewing what a post will look like here. Never let it be said that FTB is entirely useless … 😉

Ah, I hadn’t thought of using it for that purpose. I’ve avoided typing anything in any posting box at FtB for >6 months given ample experience that:

(a) at at least 3 of the blogs there, posts submitted may be either held in moderation in perpetuity or sent to the trash in what seems to be an attempt to at least squelch airing of dissent, if not to frame the discussion as the blogger chooses, with no explanation to the person whose post never shows up and without banning the person; and

(b) at at least 2 of the bloggers there have a pattern of putting up blogposts targeting individuals, by ‘nym or by name, and allowing if not encouraging ‘piling on’, probably without allowing the ‘accused’ to present counter-evidence to defend herself/himself (if any of the ‘accused’ has ever tried; it’s hard to know whether or not anyone so targeted has ever tried, given the use of moderation in (a) above).

(Then there was (c) one blogger who edited the content of people’s comments in at least one thread, without revealing that he was doing so.)

Not intending to derail, just to observe that these are tactics used by some of the ‘leaders’ on one side of the schism in atheism and so-called skepticism to control the message in their online arena.

178 Dave Allen December 1, 2013 at 8:46 pm

“The problem is that, given the above, there are some that now want to judge [victim’s name withheld] as if he bore the moral responsibilty of an adult rapist. He bears none.”

Diminished responsibility maybe, but none? Seems a bit much.

179 Badger3k December 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Theophantes –

“@ Badger3k #99

The link that you refer to is here: Linky to theophontes naughty remark. Feel free to judge the context from reading further there.

So sexual assault of three girls is “acting out the brutal abuse he suffered”? What about his victims? Don’t they matter? That is the hypocrisy and the reason that many people can’t stomach that particular hole of the internet.

Yes, his actions appear to have been predicated by the vicious abuse, rapes and brainwashing he had experienced over the course of two and a half years prior to this incident. His victims suffered too as a consequence of this. Indeed, they were raped. And of course they matter very much.

The problem is that, given the above, there are some that now want to judge [victim’s name withheld] as if he bore the moral responsibilty of an adult rapist. He bears none.”

Not sure how to get a quote in the comments, but wrong. Completely wrong. The ones here who respect the rule of law and personal responsibility wish to see that justice is done. Your cult screams “listen to the victim” a lot, but what about his victims? You have a self-confessed rapist in your midst, and instead of screaming “name names”, as happened with Shermer, you (generic you, not you personally) offer him hugs of sympathy and offer to have him babysit your kids. WTF? The biggest difference is that he is one of you, so you forgive his self-admitted crimes and blame Shermer (the out group one) based on hearsay. If you can’t notice the hypocrisy there, then I feel sorry for you.

As for the trial, whatever his age, his claim of committing rape should be investigated, if anyone believes it to be true, and if it is true, then he should be tried. If found guilty, he should be punished, and his age and other mitigating factors can come into play then. Not before. He admits that he did it while uncoerced, so he is at fault. You seem to imply that since he was abused/raped himself, he’s not responsible for his actions. You do know, as has been pointed out, that there is no causal link between abuse and being an abuser. The majority of people who are abused do not become abusers – they have a greater tendency to repeat the pattern, but it is not certain, and it does not remove their own agency and culpability for their actions. That’s the main point.

“I must also point out further, that of the three girls involved, the two elder ones raped the youngest. Are you going to start victim blaming them too? (If you actually bothered to inform yourself of the situation, you might come to the conclusion that (at least one of) the elder girls might too be victims of rape by a third, unmentioned adult.)”

And if that is the case, then they need to receive fair treatment under the law and punishment as well if guilty. Just because it is a tangled mess, doesn’t remove the moral and legal responses that criminal matters require. But again, this is a bit of a red herring (just like the first bit I talked about, because…

“so in all likelihood it never happened.

You may have a good point there. After so many years of ongoing suffering, it is quite possible that false memories have been created (something, I should note, that we are all capable of). Then it is all the more perverse to target [victim’s name withheld]!”

Which points out the key issue we are actually talking about. The hypocrisy that your cult shows when you embrace him with open arms and forgive him. I don’t read the cesspit of comments, but has this issue even been addressed? I’m sure accepting his story is part of the “believe the victim” mentality, although if his story is true, he is both victim and victimizer. One does not excuse the other. If his story is true, then he (and the others in the case) need to receive fair treatment under the law (even though your cult preaches not to go to the police, since they won’t do anything, it’s the moral and legally correct thing to do), which might include restitution, psychological counseling or treatment, or whatever else is deemed appropriate by the proper authorities. That doesn’t mean a blogger or his commenters.

Reading his blog a bit, it sure doesn’t seem like he had years of suffering. He claimed to be happy and having no issues. I forget the exact words he used. That might have been a false front, but it is evidence against the “suffering for years” story that later developed. When you have a game of collecting victim points (the oppression olympics) as part of the culture, having feelings of something wrong, and then recovered memories (which again are proven BS) of some great victimization – even though he went to far and became a victimizer as well as a victim. Instead of following PZs grenade post, he gets hugs and babysitting jobs. You don’t notice the inconsistency and hypocrisy ? (which is really what this is all about)

It is entirely possible that the children played some variation of the “doctor” game. Not sure if any studies have been done showing harm resulting from that, so I can’t guess on whether that is good or bad. It does seem to be a part of life for many people, though. It is possible it was all consensual (as much as kids can be, but let’s go with it for the sake of argument), or it could have teen coerced, in which case those who did it all bear responsibility. It’s possible that something which was really innocent got twisted around when the main perp looked back at the incident with his newfound awareness of all that is evil and rewrote what had happened. People do that when they fall under a new ideology – i.e. the new convert to a fundamentalist religion looks back on the parties they had gone to, where nothing but drinking and dancing had happened
and they suddenly realized they were caught up in some satanic orgy. Reevaluating things happen all the time, and it is possible that this is a case of that. In any case, if people are treating it as real, then they also have the responsibility to let the proper authorities make the determination (that is, if they can do anything – a confession may make the statute of limitations moot, since it could be considered new information – but that depends on the law). Giving them virtual hugs (seriously?) is not the way to go. A little consistency goes a long way with most people, and groups that display such hypocrisy over in- and out-groups tend to be marginalized and radicalized, tossed to the fringes of society. This is what has happened (mostly) for the group you belong to – traffic is down, comments on real, serious issues are few, while drama blogging such as the comments against Dawkins run into multi-pages, usually all following the standard formula of denouncing the witch.

Sorry for the length and continuing this conversation. Hopefully I addressed some minor issues but I think I explained the larger picture.

180 AndrewV69 December 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm

@ #152,philosophia November 30, 2013 at 3:58 am

Aneris, Why pay so much attention to the Social Justice League? I see them as a passing phenomenon that will fade out as fewer and fewer give them the attention they crave.

Well, one reason is that people like #129 theophontes November 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm can write without any apparently sense of irony the following:

Like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, hell … lets bring this up to date: Rebecca Watson! We are talking about opressed and dispossessed people FFS.

How can someone like theophontes mention Rebecca Watson in the same breath as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Harvey Milk without any apparent embarrassment?

It is this sort of apparently genuine lack of introspection among other things that I find fascinating. I can not look away. Just the entertainment value alone is enough for me to pay attention.

181 Diego Squires December 1, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Good article. I know how Dawkins feels on lesser scale because I get complaints all the time for speaking my mind in public forums or on FB etc. I think this just goes along with the territory of being a man of courage and integrity. Dawkins probably has rhino skin, though, or he would not still be doing his work despite the attacks that continually are made against him by people who have never even met the man.

This is not to say that I worship him or that I agree with everything he says – I even wrote him a letter in which I told him that I though a statement he made about prison populations was ‘irresponsible and uninformed’ and asked him to retract it from future editions of ‘the God Delusion’. I also told him in this letter that I hope he does not sell out to the celebrity hype around his name (which I doubt he will). I ended the letter by thanking him for literally saving my life. I’ve been through some horrific and life threatening experiences at the hands of faith and I really mean it when I say that Dawkins’ work has given me the tools to protect myself from being manipulated and deceived in the future. Dawkins is doing some real good in the world and is helping a lot of people by raising awareness.

Let the peanut gallery continue to yap. Who cares what they say anyway?

182 Steersman December 1, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Skep tickle (#177):

Quite agree that the “ethics” of more than a few bloggers in FftB-land are self-serving at best – being charitable, and would argue that that is of more than passing relevance to the OP.

However, as a minor procedural point, if you only hit “Preview” without hitting “Submit Comment”, I think you get the benefit of checking formatting without leaving yourself open to the types of egregious responses you’ve described – and been subjected to.

183 Phil Giordana FCD December 1, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I was raped by an adult pedophile when I was 11. This is known both on Pharygula and the Slymepit, and can be verified by asking the French police for the various records and depositions I subsequently had to make at the time.

I never acted out on others because I was a victim of rape. Or maybe, the way I comment and the things I say on the internet are my way of acting out my abuse?

Just think about it next time you want to judge someone on the internet.

184 Steersman December 1, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Badger3k (#179):

Not sure how to get a quote in the comments ….

You might want to check out any of the FftBlogs as they have a Preview function, as well as a brief description on what types of HTML formatting constructs are available, and which seem to be implemented here as well.

185 John Eales December 1, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Excellent post, thank you. RD’s main failing is that he treats people as thinking, nuanced human beings who do not read each of his posts in the hope of finding something to be outraged by.

186 A Bear December 1, 2013 at 10:05 pm

theophontes wrote:

What you are doing now, is indulging in victim blaming. Should we go about accusing every person who has suffered abuse of lying? Of using ploys to gain victim points (whatever those may be)? Do you not think it might be a better policy to immediately offer your support? Indeed, what vanishingly few “ploys” there are, will soon come to light. (I seriously hope you are not in charge of a rape crisis center or A&E.)

I remember reading a blog post written by a certain professor at a small college in the US where he talked about being falsely accused of rape by a student. Fortunately for him and his career he was able to counter her accusation before it caused him damage.
None of his commenters challenged his statement or asked if maybe they could hear the woman’s side of the matter, nor did anyone accuse him of silencing a victim.
Strangely though, the same group that ignored that alleged rape were eager to accuse a named man of rape on the strength of an anonymous third party account. Not only that, but when Richard Dawkins related an incident of abuse that happened to him as unpleasant but not world ending, the same group of allegedly empathetic social justice warriors jumped all over calling him a rape apologist. When one of their commenters said he had abused three young girls when he was a teenaged babysitter the prevailing comments there painted him (and still do) as a blameless victim.
Want to guess what this blog is called? Hypocrite House maybe?

187 John Greg December 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Theo, Theo, Theo. So many holes in your logic.

You said:

What you are doing now, is indulging in victim blaming.

No. No one here is doing that. What we are doing here is simply repeating and linking to O_____’s own claims to being a rapist of children. Got that? His own claims of raping children; children under the age of 12, Theo, raping children under the age of 12!

Should we go about accusing every person who has suffered abuse of lying?

No one here is outright accusing O_____ of lying over his claims of having been abused. The few people who are questioning the validity of any of his claims are doing so because he appears to be basing those claims on the phenomena once called “recovered memeory”. Recovered memory was thoroughly debunked as nonsense and fantasy many, many years ago. In that light, yes, it is quite possible that any or all of O_____’s claims are fabricated as a self-scourging confessional in an attempt to gain FTB pity points, and to be coddled, cuddled, and condoned within his chosen tribe; something he has now so successfully accomplished.

Of using ploys to gain victim points (whatever those may be)?

See previous para from me.

Do you not think it might be a better policy to immediately offer your support?

For O_____ raping children? Support him for raping children? I’m speechless.

188 David Leech December 1, 2013 at 11:29 pm

chascpeterson December 1, 2013 at 5:25 am

what a fucking shitshow.
Mostly it reminds me of this.

This is a rather pathetic analogy, Two different races that wiped each other out through racist violence. As a scientist you should know how stupid you come across here. This online battle is being fought with words and the only casualties are hurt feeling. Unlike the atheists/skeptics who fight against the religious whom are still prepared to use violence and oppression to win.

Unlike the above battles the ‘war’ between the SJW/feminists and the rest is that both have the same weapons available to them. If the SJW/feminists choose to use postmodernism, propaganda and censorship plus gender studies along with their favourite weapon ad homs. Well this is going to be a short ‘war’ when facts, evidence and science comes into play. Not that any of this matters to the FTB/Skepchicks as they are only concerned with their privilege country hoping and booze fest speaking engagements. I find the fact that they are willing to sell true victims down the river to promote their own agendas vomit inducing.

189 oolon December 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Ironic that one of the few things agreed on in the atheistskepticdialogue.com stuff was that blog moderation was up to the blog host and perfectly justified.

190 Dave Allen December 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

“Ironic that one of the few things agreed on in the atheistskepticdialogue.com stuff was that blog moderation was up to the blog host and perfectly justified.”

I’m sure most people agree that it is up to the blog host (though “perfectly justified” is surely a matter of opinion) and that some form of moderation almost always occurs, but the manner in which moderation occurs means that a resulting consequence – such as people complaining about the manner in which you moderate – is also up to the people in question and to be expected.

So a blog host or forum admin may well be regarded as having the right to moderate – but the manner will provoke it’s own reactions and the blog host is therefore somewhat culpable for any resulting fallout in terms of PR.

191 Trophy December 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Thanks Michael for this excellent post. Unofortunately, this is all in the domian of the tribal warfare and unlikely to cease.

I lost my respect for PZ long time ago, when it became clear that he cannot think outside his own ideological prison. His comments about Dawkins are the usual PZ-style misinterpretation combined with ridicule and character assasination. Again, these are not new either. For example, when Edwina Rogers was appointed the Executive director of SCA, all that talk of “promoting women instead of white old male” went right out the window and PZ did the exact same trick of misinterpretation to her words. If he has not changed in years, why would he change now?

192 Tony Sidaway December 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm

As usual, a nuanced discussion of slurs by certain named individuals turns into a pointless and self-defeating attempt by misguided people against the very concept of social justice.

This just won’t do. We’re not amoral people, so social justice is a vital necessity. The more we attack it, the more isolated we will become as a secular movement.

193 Phil Giordana FCD December 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Social justice is one thing. Internet social justice warriors (SJWs) is something completely different. While the former is indeed vital, the latter is not. Hurting your own cause out of a misplaced sense of entitlement is nothing to be proud of.

194 Tony Sidaway December 2, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Phil, I’m really don’t think those pushing for social justice online have hurt their cause. They’ve won every major fight, really, though often at terrible personal cost.

This goes across the board, from comic fandom and gaming to STEM and secularism. The fact that we’re now talking about social justice as an integral part of so many major sectors once unquestioningly dominated by a privileged minority is due to the pressure of many ordinary people, each pushing in the same direction at the same time.

We often see this pattern in historical progressive movements. Some individuals are singled out and attempts are made to ostracise them, but the forces if reaction cannot hold for long because they are outnumbered and intellectually outgunned.

Having said that, Michael Nugent’s original piece is clearly no work of apologetics. The best and most cogent criticism (in the case of Dawkins as well as PZ Myers) quite often comes from those who are in basic agreement.

195 Coel December 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Tony Sidaway:

We’re not amoral people, so social justice is a vital necessity. The more we attack it, the more isolated we will become as a secular movement.

It’s not that people are against concepts such as social justice and equality, it’s that different well-meaning people have different notions of what they should entail. The idea that “my version of social justice and equality is the only one that counts and anyone against my version of it is against social justice and equality” is the hallmark of an ideologue.

If there is to be peace in the secular movement we need to accept the idea that different people can be intelligent, informed and well-meaning, and yet reach different conclusions.

196 Tony Sidaway December 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I think that worked, Coel, right up to the point at which some secularists made it plain that they would like to expel those they disagreed with from the movement with naked misogynistic attacks. In “Elevatorgate” we saw a sizeable exclusionist reactionary movement. There will not be “peace” in any society on earth as long as such behaviour is enacted and condoned.

It isn’t about disagreement, it’s about some of the most vile personal attacks ever seen out in the open. And the good news is that now this behaviour is indeed out in the open and deservedly attracting criticism.

197 Phil Giordana FCD December 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Tony:

“It isn’t about disagreement, it’s about some of the most vile personal attacks ever seen out in the open. And the good news is that now this behaviour is indeed out in the open and deservedly attracting criticism.”

you mean like personal attacks on Richard Dawkins? Or Michael Shermer? Abbie Smith maybe? Justin Vacula? Russell Blackford? Skep Tickle? Scented Nectar? Maria Maltseva? Renée Hendricks? Anyone posting on a quite fun forum known as the Slymepit?

198 Coel December 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Tony Sidaway:

some secularists made it plain that they would like to expel those they disagreed with from the movement with naked misogynistic attacks.

Explicit requests for expelling people from the movement come mostly from the FtB side (YMMV, but that’s my impression). But yes, there have been a lot of misogynistic attacks that are vile and unacceptable.

199 Tony Sidaway December 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Phil, I think you know the vile material I’m referring to. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Nor, lest I be misunderstood, are personal attacks of any kind justified by the awful crap that’s been visited upon the attackers.

But what happened happened. Disgusting attitudes and behaviour are now exposed to light, and we won’t get any kind of peace if we sweep these exclusionist attacks under the carpet. Except, that is, the peace of a movement deserted by all but a privileged minority. I know none of us wants that.

Coel I’m aware of, and support, calls for the removal from administrative roles and speaking positions of individuals with a record of abusive conduct. I don’t condone or support the removal of people simply because they say something I disagree with. I draw a distinction, for instance, between the attempts to have Rebecca Watson removed from Skeptics’ Guide and the successful exclusion of a MRA ally from a position within the SCA. There’s no equation between those proposing respect of personal boundaries and those seeking to treat women as subhuman.

Why is social justice winning? Because the secular movement is not at liberty to stand still while the world passes them by. Ever grey hair and every beard on a podium in any movement is both a sign of respectability and, by the same token, a warning that without renewal its time is running out.

We each play our part in this struggle for renewal, but without the struggle we would lose sight of the fundamental promise of secularism: the liberation of every willing person from the chains of superstition. Each year that we see an expansion of intersectionalism in its broadest sense, we’re moving out of that privileged ghetto that robs us of the ability to engage right across the social spectrum.

200 Phil Giordana FCD December 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Tony, you are a priviledged minority. Cut the crap.

201 Guestus Aurelius December 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Tony:

Please be specific—who is attempting to sweep what “exclusionist attacks” under the rug?

202 Jan Steen December 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm

@Tony Sidaway:

I draw a distinction, for instance, between the attempts to have Rebecca Watson removed from Skeptics’ Guide and the successful exclusion of a MRA ally from a position within the SCA. There’s no equation between those proposing respect of personal boundaries and those seeking to treat women as subhuman.

This is the kind of insidious propaganda that gives Social Justice Warriors such a bad name. Rebecca Watson is not merely proposing respect of personal boundaries, as evidenced by the way she treats people who disagree with her (e.g. Stef McGraw, Richard Dawkins). On the other hand, I have seen no evidence that Justin Vacula (your ‘MRA ally’) seeks to treat women as subhuman. Citation needed, as a certain Pharyngula commenter would say.

Your statement is a transparent attempt to paint a black-and-white picture where none exists. It’s the simple binary world view of the brainwashed ideologue. If you criticise Rebecca Watson you must be against women in general, so you’re an MRA, so you’re evil. QED.

I have recently visited the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, where the results of such a simple binary world view (that of the Khmer Rouge in this case) are literally tangible. Let’s not go down this path.

Let’s not impose extraneous and divisive ideologies, however well-intended, on secularism and atheism. There is, after all, no such thing as Marxist or Libertarian non-stamp collecting.

203 Tony Sidaway December 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Phil, I don’t think secularism would survive long if it were just guys like me. That isn’t crap, it’s a fairly well supported opinion.

Guestus, I refer specifically to attempts on this thread to the ongoing misogynistic ugliness first revealed by the Elevatorgate attacks.

Jan, I don’t think you’re going to be very comfortable with future developments. If you’re comparing the signs of increasing diversity within secularism to Year Zero, you’re really going to hate living in a world where, say, sexual assaults at conferences within the movement are taken as seriously as they are at professional conferences.

204 Phil Giordana FCD December 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Tony, I think here lies the problem: A side of the Atheist/Skeptic (A/S) movement paints people who don’t think exactly like them as “bad people”. this is wrong. A lot of us in the opposition are quite decent folks, with friends, families, networks of pals… But we have the “joyful” chance of being subjected with such jems as “die cis scum” and are not allowed to object to it.

Sorry I was born white, male, heterosexual and “cis”. I didn’t make that decision.

205 Jan Steen December 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Tony:

Jan, I don’t think you’re going to be very comfortable with future developments. If you’re comparing the signs of increasing diversity within secularism to Year Zero, you’re really going to hate living in a world where, say, sexual assaults at conferences within the movement are taken as seriously as they are at professional conferences.

More propaganda of the “when did you stop beating your wife?” kind. What has diversity got to do with ideology? I don’t care if secularist or atheist ideas are held by cis-gendered-able-bodied-straight males or . I care about the ideas. The more people who hold those ideas, the better. I object to extraneous ideas contaminating secularism and atheism (‘toxic masculinity’, ‘women as toilets’, ‘cis-gendered’ used in a denigrating sense) borrowed from fringe ideologues.

I am against sexual assaults. Surprise, what? Surely you thought that I saw a skeptics conference as the ideal opportunity to go on a rape spree.

206 Jan Steen December 2, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Okay, certain types of bracket are verboten. I wrote:

I don’t care if secularist or atheist ideas are held by cis-gendered-able-bodied-straight males or {insert your favourite minority}.

207 John Greg December 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

My earlier posts are still in moderation.

/jus’ sayin’ …

Michael? Michael, are you home?

Bueller? Bueller?

208 Guestus Aurelius December 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm

@Tony Sidaway

I asked you to be specific about whom is attempting to sweep which “exclusionist attacks” under the rug. This was your response:

Guestus, I refer specifically to attempts on this thread to the ongoing misogynistic ugliness first revealed by the Elevatorgate attacks.

Sorry, I’m probably just being dense, but—can you be a little more specific, please?

Could you provide us with some concrete examples of the “ongoing misogynistic ugliness” you speak of? I’m not being facetious—I despise misogyny, and I’d welcome an opportunity to prove that to you by denouncing examples of it in no uncertain terms (if, that is, you’d be kind enough to supply them).

Here’s a freebie: I denounce the cruel, hateful rhetoric that’s been directed at Skepchick, much of which is misogynistic (http://skepchick.org/page-o-hate). It’s abhorrent.

One more request: can you please point to specific “attempts on this thread” to sweep said “misogynistic ugliness” under the rug?

209 Coel December 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Tony Sidaway:

There’s no equation between those proposing respect of personal boundaries and those seeking to treat women as subhuman.

I refer you to a comment made on Ophelia Benson’s blog by a frequent commenter there. It’s the sort of statement that is common on some FtB blogs, and I’ve never seen it challenged by the other regulars. Here it is:

This has been my thinking for quite a while as well. The greater the schism the better. There is no possible advantage to having a movement that can begin to outweigh the cost of having to share it with the likes of “Dear Muslima” as well as Thunderfoot, Vacula, Stefanelli, Blackford, Stangroom, Kirby, Paden, Shermer etc. etc. If I had to choose between an atheist/skeptical/humanist movement that included these people and no atheist/skeptical/humanist movement at all, I would chose the latter any time.

Are you suggesting that the people named there regard women as “sub-human”? Really? Do you genuinely regard such people as unacceptable in our movement? If so, can you state explicitly what makes them so beyond the pale? Do you *really* regard “Dear Muslima” as so outrageous that it should get someone expelled from the movement? (It seems to me pretty innocuous, just as the original “guys, don’t do that” video was pretty innocuous — neither are worth breaking friendships over).

It seems to me that the people referred to there simply have a difference of opinion with FtB on various matters, and voice it in a manner certainly no worse than the aggressive manner typically used by FtB bloggers and the Horde. I would suggest to you that we need an community that includes such people, and if FtB/Horde are not willing to accept that then it is they who will marginalise themselves. (Which would be a pity because many of them have things to say that are worth listening to.)

[ Quoted comment from: http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/01/grievance-1-your-face-bruising-my-fist/#comment-449756 ]

210 Tigzy December 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Tony seems quite set on ensuring people know that social justice is winning, that it is coasting quite adequately along the tide of history, and is all but a fait accompli. To which I can only respond: good. I genuinely do hope social justice is winning out. Contrary to what some might believe, not everyone on the non-FTB side of things are against ensuring that various oppressed minorities are given their due. In fact, in my experience of the Pit, for example, most people appear pro social justice.

But of course, the whole situation is a little trickier than some would have us believe. For a start, without some more rigorous definition of what social justice actually is, then we have a situation where one person’s SJ issue or priority is another person’s non-issue or low priority. To take a recent example – an article in the New Statesman, referenced in Ophelia Benson’s blog, where the authors bemoan western men growing moustaches for Movember because it is ‘insulting’ to various other groups, such as Mexican men – who wear some face fuzz, apparently, as an expression of their culture – and trans men who might not be able to grow a full moustache.

This example is what I would call such a non-issue as to be ridiculous. You (Tony) may or or may not disagree. In any case, though I’ve yet to see any of the FTB crowd go to quite such absurd lengths (Theophontes’ ‘Rebecca Watson’s struggle is comparable to that of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela’ notwithstanding), certainly the idea, so often mooted by the FTB crowd (along with Rebecca herself) that to critcise or dislike Rebecca Watson is equal to being a sexist bigot is an absurdity almost as ridiculous as the moustache thing.

Unless you reckon that an attack on Watson is indeed automatically motivated by a wish to attack all women, of course, rather than the fact that she just may strike many as either being simply wrong about something, or an unpleasant character – otherwise, you’d probably be preaching to the choir here. My own view is that antipathy towards Rebecca Watson simply isn’t a social justice issue – despite that she and her supporters might want you to think that it is not possible to criticise or dislike her without being a misogynist.

Sometimes, an invite for coffee is just an invite for coffee.

So again, the problem remains as to what social justice is actually about – as it is clear that it is presently nebulous enough to be warped by anyone who may simply want to play a gotcha, be self-righteous, have an agenda motivated more towards gaining a fanbase than anything else, or who even just wants to troll. In many ways, it’s nebulous enough to be a lot like the (probably conveniently) religious non-definition of god – more than malleable enough by be twisted to whatever purposes as required by the types outlined above.

(A similar problem arises with feminism too, as exemplified by the notorious vapidity of ‘feminism is the radical notion that women are people’, which might sound good as a soundbite, but it offers about as much descriptive weight as the well-known counterpoint that ‘Communism is the radical notion that workers are people.’)

The secondary problem, IMO, that divides those involved with, or who have in interest in the issue, is how the justice part is implemented. Here, we have a big problem of well-meaning individuals actually going against the grain of SJ by being patronising or condescending. For example, let’s take Richard Carrier’s suggestion as to how we get more non-white people involved with the atheist/skeptic community:

‘Our movement has been largely white, predominately because it was only interested in “white people’s problems,” and thus uninterested in anyone else’s (and thus not attracting their interest in turn). Things like UFOs, Big Foot, homeopathy, and pseudoscience as a whole on the one end, and theology and other esoteric matters of history and philosophy on the other end, are not unimportant, but they are the luxuries of people who don’t have to worry so much about crime or poverty or such things as subtle institutional racism or economic injustice.’

According to Carrier, non-white folk just aren’t into UFOs, Big Foot, homeopathy, pseudoscience, theology and other esoteric matters of theology; no, ‘those people’ are just too preoccupied about crime, poverty and racism to think the luxurious thoughts of he and his fellow whiteys.

(A tangential issue: that there are those amid the FTB/A+/Skepchick pantheon (and yes, I chose ‘patheon’ deliberately 😉 ) who are simply not up to the job of being decent advocates for social justice, no matter how much they might think they are. Carrier, for example (again) decided to inform me on his blog that his penis is of average size ‘for a caucasian male.’ There was absolutely no reason for him to specify the ‘caucasion male’ part in the conversation. I’m guessing that Carrier thinks himself a suitable voice for the cause of social justice because some of his best friends are PoCs)

This extraordinarily patronising attitude isn’t confined to Carrier – I’m pretty sure Jen McCreight once remarked something along similar lines, though I cannot find the exact quote at the moment. In any case, lest I give the impression that perhaps it’s only a few atheist+SJ types who have been so bumbling on this issue, then let me recall how James Onen, of Freethought Kampala, was moved to write, with exasperation at such similar white-folk condescentions, that maybe they just ought to try attracting black people by giving them free donuts at skeptic conferences.

My own view is that the best way to attract more minorities into atheist and skeptic circles is simply to have good talks given by good speakers, and good material given by good writers, no matter their sex or ethnicity. If nothing else, it’d surely be a lot better than deploying the kind of patronising rubbish recommended by the likes of Carrier.

So in short, I do believe very much in the kind of social justice that has led to the emancipation of various minorities throughout the ages, decent treatment of women, and gay rights. As such, I therefore conclude that it is far too important to be left in the hands of such bunglers, hypocrites, connivers and fools as PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Richard Carrier, and the kind of nitwits that infest the A+ forums.

211 John Greg December 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Well, I am stuck in moderation with my last post. Perhaps that’s because I used an Russian literary convention to get around “not naming names”. I’ll try it again with “un-named subject” instead:

Theo, Theo, Theo. So many holes in your logic.

You said:

What you are doing now, is indulging in victim blaming.

No. No one here is doing that. What we are doing here is simply repeating and linking to un-named subject’s own claims to being a rapist of children. Got that? His own claims of raping children; children under the age of 12, Theo, raping children under the age of 12!

Should we go about accusing every person who has suffered abuse of lying?

No one here is outright accusing un-named subject of lying over his claims of having been abused. The few people who are questioning the validity of any of his claims are doing so because he appears to be basing those claims on the phenomena once called “recovered memeory”. Recovered memory was thoroughly debunked as nonsense and fantasy many, many years ago. So, in that light, yes, it is quite possible that any or all of un-named subject’s claims are fabricated as a self-scourging confessional in an attempt to gain FTB pity points, and to be coddled, cuddled, and condoned within his chosen tribe; something he has now so quite successfully accomplished.

Of using ploys to gain victim points (whatever those may be)?

See previous para from me.

Do you not think it might be a better policy to immediately offer your support?

For un-named subject raping children? Are you serious? Support him for raping children? I’m speechless.

NB. Michael, if this becomes a double post, please feel free to remove whichever unnecessary one you prefer. Thanks.

212 Richard Sanderson December 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I must say, I had a fit of giggles at people on Ophelia’s forum moaning about comments in moderation.

FREEZE PEACH!!!

213 Aneris December 2, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I find the fact that they are willing to sell true victims down the river to promote their own agendas vomit inducing.

Perhaps, a tweet {1} from early November shatters some more illusions. In a different conversation, which their bunch also lost to facts, FTB regular Janine/Janphar nonchalantly brought up the topic of “redacted name”, because she felt bored. Let’s take this in for a second!

She felt bored and though she can bring up the story of “redacted person” in order to score some points and to fuel their hate machine. Many of her allies swarmed my timeline. I take that bringing up the sad story (and I genuinely think it is) of “redacted person” to fill out boredom was no issue at all to them at the time. Janine wrote:

“@Aneris23 Bored now. Hey. What is this about one of your allies calling a rape victim a rapist? @WowbaggerOM” – FTB regular Janine/Janphar (03 /Nov/2013) {3}

It turned out that I didn’t know the “ally”, but remembered the case. Otherwise, the whole affair wouldn’t be on my (and other people’s) radar anymore. Look through the conversation, Ms Benson makes an appearance too, since the whole original conversation started on her blog and was brought to twitter by Wowbagger and I brought it back to Benson’s blog (where you can also see that she kept my comment in moderation).

Yet, interestingly, the Pharyngula crowd is once again cocksure{2, 3}, they are the rightous ones and everyone else was evil. Their behaviour and how they see the world continues to be very interesting. Their comment section now resembles a cult as observed by Leon Festinger. They outright deny basic facts that can be obtained by just reading a single thread, or even a single comment, but instead collaborate in constructing an elaborate warped reality of ridiculous rationalisations and denial. It happens when you kill every canary in the coal mine that could alert the crowd that they are deeply mistaken.

{1} _twitter.com/janphar/status/396909948132528129
{2}_freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/11/26/richard-dawkins-awaiting-your-questions/comment-page-1
{3}_ freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/11/21/lounge-442/comment-page-1

214 Aneris December 2, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Tony Sideways, you are probably an American. The world is a bit larger than the USA and often times more progressive. Other countries have women and gays in leading roles, public healthcare for a long time and don’t have a slavery history like the USA and not the issues with racism. It is not that everything was perfect, but it could be very different. If you want to make this about social justice, then many people are simply not interested. “Dear Muslima” is indeed a bigger issue than innuendos in elevators. Might not float your boat, but it really isn’t my concern. That’s something for Americans who freak out about a nipple.

European countries may not have as many religious fanatics and literalists, and nearly no Creationists as the USA has, and socieites tend to be much more secular, however, there is often times no “Wall of Separation” that protects us, making our societies more vulnerable to a raise of religiosity or fanatisicm. Sometimes there are traditional religious organisations that have a seat in politics. While their views are far more moderate than those of american believers, they nonetheless exert problematic influence. The dynamics are different.

The main denominations are often times very moderate, and blend into general culture. Believers are indistinguishable from everybody else. The big churches lose members, but then those who leave might long for a stronger religious community with more defined and visible faiths, and then the religious influence of these groups increases.

When for example Islam becomes more visible, a society may react with identifying stronger with Christianity and with increased overall religiousity. There is also the problem of culturalism and socieities that don’t go well with each other, where religion is often a preservative of tribalist and obsolete views. A progressive, more secular society with lesser traditional beliefs is also prone to all kinds of woo.

And now we have to deal with the new brand of godless Evangelicals: concerned with coming across as “the Good People”, occupied with symbolical issues like whatever happens at conferences, bigots who divide everything into skin colours and genders, who are often puritanical (see Marcotte et al), show corrupted ethics (smearing and defamation = good), are very tribalists, censorious, authoritarian, who like censorship, hold infantile worldviews “fighting the good fight”, tend to over-emphasize their values and judgements while keeping facts and reasoning vague …

Tony Sidaway, you are one of them. And you’re not helping.

It’s generous of us to respond to Ray Comfort with ridicule instead of kicking him in the balls. – PZ Myers, TAM 2010

It’s generous of us to respond to PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Atheism Plus, the Social Justice League with ridicule instead of kicking them in the balls.

215 Jan Steen December 3, 2013 at 4:08 am

And by the way, Tony, this:

If you’re comparing the signs of increasing diversity within secularism to Year Zero

is just evidence of your astounding lack of reading comprehension. (It may also be a wilful distortion of what I wrote, but I’m going to be charitable.) If you go back to my comment, you will see that I wrote, “Let’s not go down this path.”

Year Zero is more like the end of that path, as in going down the path and following it all the way. Clear now?

And of course, as I already mentioned, I have nothing against increasing diversity within secularism. On the contrary. The more the merrier.

But do bring on the straw men, they’re fun to burn, what with all the smoke and sparks and crackling and general hilarity.

216 Jan Steen December 3, 2013 at 4:14 am

This is how Wikipedia defines Year Zero:

The idea behind Year Zero is that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture must replace it, starting from scratch. All history of a nation or people before Year Zero is deemed largely irrelevant, as it will (as an ideal) be purged and replaced from the ground up.

In Cambodia, teachers, artists, and intellectuals were especially singled out and executed during the purges accompanying Pol Pot’s Year Zero.

217 Dave Allen December 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm

“Year Zero is more like the end of that path, as in going down the path and following it all the way.”

I’m not sure radical political change has a momentum in this sort of way – where societies have adopted revolutionary new ways of doing things (which often, but not always, ends in an ugly mess) it seems to me to be as the result of significant unaddressed pressure leading to a violent sequence of events.

I don’t think there’s ever been anything like that as a result of pressure groups engaged in work-shopping (amongst themselves a lot of the time) and then suggesting their ideas to the wider populace with varying degrees of certainty and to varying degrees of effect.

When we see the organised paramilitaries maybe I’ll change my mind.

So the talk in Parisian coffee shops probably did fuel a lot of Pol Pot’s world view, but had the French rulers or monarchist puppets of Cambodia been willing to make concessions we now see as eminently sensible (self rule, more social mobility for peasants and so on) it’s very unlikely we would have seen a victory for the Khymer Rouge and their subsequent disastrous excesses.

And something like A+ strikes me as very much at the talking shop stage, and some of the talk may even be of worth (though I’m no longer interested in participating).

218 theophontes December 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm

… stuck in moderation … again.

219 Dave Allen December 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Well, endeavour to persevere and all that.

220 theophontes December 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm

@ Dave Allen

Thanks.

My phone seems to work, but perhaps only for short messages. Or my laptop’s IP needs clearance? And it gets stuck on twitter – which is banned.

221 Dave Allen December 3, 2013 at 6:06 pm

If only there was a lightly moderated venue for you to bring this sort of thing up on.

222 John Greg December 3, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Dave Allen said:

If only there was a lightly moderated venue for you to bring this sort of thing up on.

/ahem

Say! Now that you mention it!

/squeee

223 Tony Sidaway December 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Since we all seem to be interested in social justice as a topic, here’s a recent interview with Sikivu Hutchinson, founder of Black Skeptics Los Angeles, in Psychology Today.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201311/secularism-and-social-justice

A pull quote: “Because people of color are disproportionately poor, segregated, demonized as racial others, over-incarcerated and denied equitable access to education we don’t have the luxury and the privilege to be secular or pursue a secularist agenda that isn’t steeped in economic and social justice.”

224 Tony Sidaway December 3, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Jan: “Year Zero is more like the end of that path, as in going down the path and following it all the way. Clear now?”

Ah, slippery slope. Nice one. Perhaps you could work in a reference to Hitler while you’re at it.

225 Steersman December 3, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Aneris said (#213, #214):

It happens when you kill every canary in the coal mine that could alert the crowd that they are deeply mistaken.

It’s generous of us to respond to PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Atheism Plus, the Social Justice League with ridicule instead of kicking them in the balls.

A virtually perfect set of “bookends” there Aneris, an excellent pair of analogies to summarize some highly questionable precepts and arguments of the “SJL”. Not to say that many of them are a bunch of bird-brains, or exhibit all of the charm and dogmatic thinking of the Westboro Baptist Church crowd. Although those points are probably moot.

In any case, always ready to champion the use of analogies (1), even in “our” opponents as with a certain FfTBlogger’s fairly credible and reasonable comparison of TAM with Nazi Germany, and the much less credible one from Theophantes comparing Rebecca Watson with Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. 😉

—-
1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy”;

226 Jan Steen December 3, 2013 at 7:48 pm

@ Tony Sidaway,

A pull quote: “Because people of color are disproportionately poor, segregated, demonized as racial others, over-incarcerated and denied equitable access to education we don’t have the luxury and the privilege to be secular or pursue a secularist agenda that isn’t steeped in economic and social justice.”

Quoting Sikivu Hutchinson, who called Richard Dawkins a white supremacist, is not a good idea if you want to come across as a rational person.

She could with equal (lack of) justification have said:

“Because people of color are disproportionately poor, segregated, demonized as racial others, over-incarcerated and denied equitable access to education we don’t have the luxury and the privilege to have a mathematics curriculum that isn’t steeped in economic and social justice.”

Tony said:

Ah, slippery slope. Nice one. Perhaps you could work in a reference to Hitler while you’re at it.

Putting words in people’s mouths is your thing, isn’t it? First you claimed, based on nothing that I have said, that I am opposed to diversity in the secular community and in favour of sexual assault at conferences, and now you suggest that I Godwin my own comments. Is it too much to ask to respond to the things I actually said? It may even make you look less dishonest if you did.

227 Steersman December 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Jan Steen (#227):

I really don’t think it inappropriate – at least all of the time – to be comparing people or situations to Hitler or Nazi Germany – as a certain FftBlogger did with TAM not long ago, or as Gefan has frequently done on the Pit to notable, and amusing, effect. In any case, chapter and verse on the question (1):

Godwin’s law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one’s opponent) with Nazis – often referred to as “playing the Hitler card”. The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics, or racial superiority, nor, more debatably, to a discussion of other totalitarian regimes or ideologies, if that was the explicit topic of conversation, since a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate, in effect committing the fallacist’s fallacy.

While falling afoul of Godwin’s law tends to cause the individual making the comparison to lose his argument or credibility, Godwin’s law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even as censorship, fallaciously miscasting an opponent’s argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate.


1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_Law”

228 Jan Steen December 3, 2013 at 8:32 pm

@Steersman,

In this case I think it would be a bit premature to bring up Hitler, therefore Godwin’s law would apply. I don’t see PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson or their followers setting up concentration camps in the near future. To suggest otherwise would be as absurdly hyperbolic as comparing critics of FTB/Skepchick with a mass murderer like Marc Lépine. No person in his right mind would do that. Right?

229 John Greg December 3, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Jan said:

No person in his right mind would do that. Right?

Right.

230 Steersman December 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Jan Steen (#229):

Indeed, no one in their right mind (1) would do that. Nor be so narrow-minded and spiteful as to kill the canaries (2) – “two legs good, two wings bad” – who warn of the mephitic atmospheres which follow the anathematizing of free and open discussion – the very lifeblood of any community with the least pretension to skepticism and rational thinking.

Which would of course suggest, if not betray, the dogmatic and authoritarian, and quite problematic, frame of mind characteristic of demagogues and ideologues from Hitler to Pol Pot and many others before and since.

—-
1) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/12/06/never-forget/comment-page-3/#comments”;
2) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/12/21/an-experiment-why-do-you-despise-feminism/comment-page-1/#comment-518836”;

231 theophontes December 3, 2013 at 11:49 pm

[This was posted a while ago, and I’m not sure why it got caught in moderation – MN]

Resolved.

Thanks Michael and Slaptickle. I was worried for a while.

@ Brive1987 #155

He clearly demands to be judged as being a wilful rapist at the time. That’s his narrative, why do you deny him his story?

[victim’s name withheld] also feels guilty about the things he was forced to do in the presence of the adult who raped him. Would you use those feelings of guilt against him and argue that he is thereby culpable? Your vindictiveness is showing Brive1987.

FYI I am fully acquainted with the sordid details of the “Stunned Silence” thread.

Ok… Did you go back and actually bother to read it after dumping this in the thread:

Coel, there is no evidence the person was under 12. In fact they make a point (quote above) of stressing there was a substantial age difference between them and their victims and that they well understood the “wrongness” of what they were doing at the time of the latter assaults.

The age of [victim’s name withheld] is given in the thread you refer to. Are you always so obtuse, or are you lying in order to get Coel wound up about this issue?

forensic

New word. Are you pretending I said that? Anyone here care to link?

(Pro-tip: Brive1987, if you made a mistake, it is OK to correct it.)

@ Phil Giordana

(My apologies for an earlier misspelling of your name on my part.)

You, on the other hand, are acting like a full-time rape apologist.

You are speculating now. By attacking [victim’s name withheld] you are actively participating in the hurting of a living, breathing human being. One that has been through years of abuse. You are doing this to a real survivor who has overcome dreadful and hateful experiences as a child, to become a loving adult. He is that rare type of person puts his own health and safety on the line for the sake of others.

As against this person, you have what? In Professor Dawkins own words, as expressed by Michael in the OP:

… the sympathy due to a victim who had been truly damaged for the rest of their life. He [Richard Dawkins] said that to frame it in such a way would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. He said that to excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from his intention.

A phantasm? In Professor Dawkins own words, as expressed by Michael in the OP:

He [Richard Dawkins] adds a caveat that he did not keep a childhood diary, so he may be mistaken in some recollections, and he reminds us that false and true memories can be indistinguishable.


Phil, you really piss me off. But know that if someone ever pulls the same shit you are pulling on [victim’s name withheld] I am going to call them on their bullshit too.

232 Steersman December 3, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Aneris said (#213, #214):

It happens when you kill every canary in the coal mine that could alert the crowd that they are deeply mistaken.

It’s generous of us to respond to PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Atheism Plus, the Social Justice League with ridicule instead of kicking them in the balls.

A virtually perfect set of “bookends” there Aneris, an excellent pair of analogies to summarize and emphasize some highly questionable precepts and arguments of the “SJL”. Not to say that many of them are a bunch of bird-brains, or exhibit all of the charm and dogmatic thinking of the Westboro Baptist Church crowd. Although those points are probably moot.

In any case, always ready to champion the use of analogies, even in “our” opponents as with Ophelia Benson’s fairly credible and reasonable comparison of TAM with Nazi Germany, and the much less credible one from Theophantes comparing Rebecca Watson with Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. 😉

—-
1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy”;

233 theophontes December 3, 2013 at 11:50 pm

@ Coel #119

[Dear Muslima] However, as far as I can judge that wasn’t the intent, and out of fairness and goodwill one should take a charitable reading of meaning and intent.

The comment he made failed in that it makes no logical sense. It is the kind of falsehood that Richard Dawkins is usual so quick to point out. In his own words he has said that he cares about truth.

And it was clearly perceived as belittling of women. I am sure he had no intention to unleash a shitstorm online. Nor that he would endorse the foul bigotry that it unleashed. But he has sat back and watched it unfold without speaking up. He could take the wind out of those bigots sails with a single word to Rebecca: “Sorry.”

@ Brive1987 #120

theophontes, you also said you weren’t interested in seriously engaging with your opponents here. You said your performance was only for the lurkers benefit.

My precise words: “What is important, is to take their arguments apart one by one. Not because they, themselves, learn, but more for lurkers.”

I am engaging your ideas here. If I can refute your ideas, will you still cling to them?

@ Pogsurf #121

[Dear Muslima] If you are trying to read it as a valid argument, you have a sense of humour failure.

Apparently many people had a sense of humour failure. Do we blame the clown or the audience? (Maybe he should have made a joke about indentured workers in Dubai and slaves in Mauritania. With the right punchline it could be a hoot. Or powerful satire.)

Drop all the ‘fuckers’ shtick that your Dear Leader encourages, and you might be able to relate to me as just some other guy, taping at keyboard, just like you are.

(See my #122) As long as you are not lashing out at rape victims, this will not apply to you. I am happy to discuss issues raised with regard to the OP in a more civil fashion.

(I shall be addressing the issues you raise in more detail as a response to the OP.)

@ Coel #124

This argument might have merit if it didn’t come from the Horde… to me the idea of the Horde calling others out for using insults and slurs is breathtakingly hypocritical.

I think we can both agree that words have power – indeed, neither of us would bother posting here otherwise.

Words can be empowering or disempowering. Dawkins notes in the above OP that online bullying is like the schoolyard bullying of old. Words can do harm, in other words.

What is not bullying, is to harness words to improve the lot of people within our communities or societies that have become discriminated against. This can be done with robust arguments, using robust language. And what better way to treat ridiculous arguments than with ridicule? Or insulting ideas with insults? Some people react best to marshmallows, others to smelly cheese. (To quote Dawkins: “People say I’m shrill and strident… Conciliatory? … I seem to have lost patience.” Source:The Guardian, Saturday 25 October 2008)

Where the problems start, is when people start to use bigoted slurs. Where one portion of society is portioned off and labelled according to a feature (generally physical or psychological) over which they have no control. By insulting one person, people are led to focus negatively on the supposedly contemptable characteristics of a group. The Horde use the term “splash damage”.

And, no, it is not fine to refer to women (or men) by their genitals. No matter how much one feels one is not offended personally. Michael appears to have some grasp of the concept:

In my opinion, Richard is correct to acknowledge that he may be mistaken about the impact on his companions.

@ Tigzy #125

Pissant.

@ Tribble #128

… when he was ‘older’ than the coerced rape he was victimized in was NOT COERCED, but was VOLUNTARY AND INTENTIONAL.

He was nine years old when the grooming and raping started. It continued for two and a half years and involved several other adults who were working together with the rapist to achieve their sordid goal.

There are a lot of really bad things that children have done after spending years being brutally conditioned. The outrages committed by such children are many, from arson to rape to murder to suicide bombings. If you can sit in your armchair and differentiate amongst such children, knowing which undertook their outrages in “VOLUNTARY AND INTENTIONAL” fashion – and which did not – you must tell us how you do it. Until then, or until you are no longer adding to such problems, why not read up about them?

234 MadMike December 4, 2013 at 3:26 am

I think the focus on ‘he who shall not be named’ is something of a red herring. The point is that his actions were condoned by many of the leading voices of the horde; others, also longtime contributors were appalled, and said so at the outset. Whether or not he is guilty or has lessened capacity should be a matter for the law to determine, not a bunch of online persona. The rule of law should be the determining factor; not the judgement of a few online friends of his. He did admit his guilt, and said he knew it was wrong. This seems to be missed by his defenders here.

What is really at issue is the hypocrisy displayed by the self-styled horde. Shermer-guilty, after all, somebody said so. Somebody else thought he acted creepy. Guilty of rape. Dawkins got labeled as a pedophile apologist for his memoir, and his every online action has been monitored, parsed for any possible (mis)interpretation that could make him look bad, and then belittled at every opportunity. Because he insulted one of ‘theirs.’

Please illuminate how this is not tribalism, ugly us vs them attempt to control the dialog of any atheistic movement. Debating the UN-nameable’s relative guilt is a derail-he admitted his guilt, period.

235 Guestus Aurelius December 4, 2013 at 3:44 am

theophontes said:

[victim’s name withheld] also feels guilty about the things he was forced to do in the presence of the adult who raped him. Would you use those feelings of guilt against him and argue that he is thereby culpable?

But nobody’s holding him responsible for “the things he was forced to do in the presence of the adult who raped him.” This is a non-sequitur.

As you well know, at issue is that [name withheld] confessed on Pharyngula to having raped three younger children when he was babysitting them at the age of 12. No adults were there coaching him, and, by his own admission, he knew full well that what he was doing was wrong.

I agree that his age at the time of the crime and his prior abuse are mitigating factors, but they’re not exculpatory factors. He acted maliciously of his own volition (look up mens rea), and he never faced justice. He’s never tried to apologize to his victims or otherwise make amends. All he’s done is confess at Pharyngula and tell the Horde that he’s sorry.

The Horde’s insistence that he bears NO responsibility is straight-up rape apology. They have no right to forgive or absolve him, yet they’ve rallied behind him to tell him that it’s okay and that he’s free of blame. Their kid-glove treatment of this in-grouper—a confessed rapist—stands in stark contrast to the uncharitable and sanctimonious invective they direct at out-groupers like Richard Dawkins—a victim of a pedophile—for the “crimes” of poor wording or disagreeing.

You are speculating now. By attacking [victim’s name withheld] you are actively participating in the hurting of a living, breathing human being. One that has been through years of abuse. You are doing this to a real survivor who has overcome dreadful and hateful experiences as a child, to become a loving adult. He is that rare type of person puts his own health and safety on the line for the sake of others.

Do you really believe that being a victim and being an abuser are mutually exclusive? You care so much about this “living, breathing human being,” but what about the three “living, breathing human beings” that he raped without repercussions? You rightly condemn his rapist, but what about their rapist?

And who’s speculating? You’re the one claiming that a person you (hardly) know from the comments section of a blog is “a loving adult.” He may well be a good person today. I don’t know. But even if he is, that doesn’t erase what he did.

236 Phil Giordana FCD December 4, 2013 at 9:39 am

I can totally understand, and join in, the sympathy [nym witheld] gets for being abused by the scoutmaster. Horrible stuff.

But I cannot for the life of me sympathize with the abuse he subscequently imposed on three young girls. As many have said, his earlier abuse can explain it, but it doesn’t excuse it.

Except of course if you want to live in a world without consequences, which I very much doubt you do, seing how your “side” throws gratuitous accusations at anyone who disagrees with you.

237 Coel December 4, 2013 at 10:12 am

@ theophontes 233

The comment he made [Dawkins’s “Dear Muslima”] failed in that it makes no logical sense.

If the intention was an ironical way of saying “this is a storm in a teacup, don’t we all have more important things to be concerned with”, then it makes logical sense. And no, that isn’t saying that Watson’s or women’s feelings generally don’t matter, it was purely a comment on one incident. As I’ve already said, I think it was a misjudged comment, because the storm wasn’t really about the original incident or the video about it, but was mostly about reactions to those things and reactions to reactions. So, I think that Dawkins’s intervention was ill-judged, but not illogical or fallacious and not as heinous as is made out, and not really a big deal.

But he has sat back and watched it unfold without speaking up.

Well yes, and that likely owes to the storm of aggression he got from the Horde in response, so that he quickly stepped out of the affair. It is inconsistent for the Horde to do their best to escalate the affair and ostracise Dawkins, and then complain that Dawkins has gone away and isn’t there as a moderating influence.

Sometime the Horde may wake up to the amount of harm they do to their own cause by their aggressive alienation of as many people as possible. Doesn’t it give you pause for thought when Chris Clarke (hand-picked by PZ for being in accord with Pharyngula attitudes) steps away from FtB owing to the nastiness there?

If the Horde tried being reasonable — not refraining from criticising people, but also not vastly exaggerating and over-reacting to minor differences — then they may get more conciliation in return.

He could take the wind out of those bigots sails with a single word to Rebecca: “Sorry.”

Which is the standard Horde meme that fault is always on the other side and it’s always them who need to apologise. How about the Horde apologise for their aggressive escalation?

How about an open letter from the Horde to Dawkins says: “We’re sorry we over-reacted to “Dear Muslima”, we now accept that it wasn’t intended as “a dogwhistle to belittle women in the atheist movement and undermine any complaints they may raise”, it was merely a comment on particular incident and a suggestion that the fuss over it, on all sides, was out of proportion.” One might then get some productive and conciliatory dialogue (I know, I’m way too optimistic).

238 Coel December 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

Oops, sorry for the blockquote screwup in 237.

[Edit: I’ve fixed it – MN]

239 Coel December 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

@ theophontes 233

The Horde use the term “splash damage”. And, no, it is not fine to refer to women (or men) by their genitals. No matter how much one feels one is not offended personally. Michael appears to have some grasp of the concept:

I get the concept, and I largely agree with it. If people are met with sexually derived slurs and such then it is derogatory and dehumanising. I deplore people who do this.

However, the Horde make a virtue of freely and gleefully using all the insults and abuse that they do allow themselves, and they spray this liberally on anyone who disagrees with them. To my mind this is just as “dehumanising” and just as much a failure to treat other people decently.

Why is it not ok to refer to women or men by their genitals but entirely ok to refer to people by their rear opening? The term “f*ckbrained assholes” is in regular use and is an actual category for Pharyngula posts. If the answer to this is that men’s and women’s rear openings are similar whereas their genitals are sexually differentiated then that’s the sort of micro-theological reasoning that just gets me rolling my eyes.

The meme of the “rotting porcupine” for insertion in that anal opening used to be common on Pharyngula but is now deprecated because of its connotations as a rape threat. OK fine. But “F*ck you” is a very common reply to anyone with a differing opinion on Pharyngula. Isn’t that just as much a rape threat? If construing it like that is absurdly over-literal, then isn’t much of the Horde micro-theology about language also over-literal?

In essence I find the Horde hugely hypocritical about this, for being hugely sensitive about language used towards them, yet being the most aggressively abusive and insulting grouping in the atheist online world.

240 theophontes December 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

@ Dave Allen # 130

It would seem to me to be a significant cognitive distortion to assume that an individual’s attitude towards boorish and/or bigoted remarks marks them out as a member of a given online community (and do note that several people who post heavily on the Slymepit also do so on one or more FT Blogs – the activities are not mutually exclusive).

Then I should rather say that the Slymepit, which acts as a platform for people to make boorish and/or bigoted remarks is the real bone of contention. Though there may be people who comment there who do not display rampant bigotry (sexism, racism, ableism and the like), there are many others who do. The community, by providing a platform for bigots, is thereby endorsing bigotry.

They will be willing to discuss with me my attitude towards slurs.

What is your position?

@ Coel #131

It was a comment on one incident.

But it was not one incident. When Dawkins sits down to think about what he wishes to say, he generally does it very articulately and intelligently. When he makes snide, snap remarks, he seems to fail far to often. If he vetted his comments even a little, he would likely not make such mistakes. A person need not be a racist to make racist remarks. It would be better if he did not, if only that he otherwise undermines the good that he does do.

@ Skep tickle # 132

(*older than he had been at the time of the abuse around age 12 – well into his teens, it sounds – and notably older than the children under his care were)

It would be better if you read all the comments in the thread in question, this has been detailed far more than you suggest.
(The thread has been broken into parts in order to aid navigation. Check clickable links at bottom of page.)

greeted in that thread with virtual hugs and claims by commenters

See Dave Allen’s #56.

@ Guestus Aurelius #138

“mansplain”

“Punching down” would be more apt.

One attitude that must somehow be addressed, is that many people take on the right to punch down purely on the basis of their having a penis. I would be interested to know if there are suggestions to succinctly describe such.

Karmakin at #139 suggests “Toxic masculinity” is not appropriate. However: “Toxic” here is not being used to describe all masculinity, but to point out a conception of masculinity that discriminates against the non-masculine. (I fail to understand what Karmakin is getting at for the rest of the comment.)

@ Pitchguest #140

Actually, there were more than enough racist bigots who denied Nelson Mandela was a real fighter for social justice. He was also mocked as not being like other famous fighters for social justice. He was even described as a subversive, criminal and terrorist. And yet he prevailed. He struck a massive blow against racism.

As pilloried as Rebecca Watson has been by bigots, she is fighting hard against rampant misogyny (not least in the atheist community), and may well have a lasting effect.

the nearest mental institution

Classy as ever Pitchguest.

241 Phil Giordana FCD December 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

“As pilloried as Rebecca Watson has been by bigots, she is fighting hard against rampant misogyny (not least in the atheist community), and may well have a lasting effect.”

She’s not fighting hard as much as she’s drinking hard. Free booze too. But it’s okay because drunken sex is rape, somehow.

Now, let me be clear: If I disagree with Watson, it doesn’t mean I’m a misogynist. It means I disagree with Watson. And I disagree with her a lot. I also disagree a lot with Myers. So, am I a misandrist as well? or a biologisandrist? A minessotandrist?

242 Coel December 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

@ theophontes:

Let me continue the discussion of dehumanising language by giving an example. Recently a man underwent a heart transplant, and said that he is grateful to people who donate organs, saying that he’d: “been given the gift of additional lives, additional years of life … I always thank the donor, generically thank donors for the gift that I’ve been given”. He also said that he didn’t know the identity of the donor of the heart. He said that he recognised that: “For the family of the donor, they’d just been [through] some terrible tragedy, they’d lost a family member”, but that he didn’t know who this person was and that: “the way I think of it from a psychological standpoint is that it’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart”.

Now, the psychology of transplants is complex, and doctors recognise that psychological attitudes are important to the outcome. For example, the recipient of the first hand transplant asked for it to be removed because he couldn’t come to terms with it psychologically, and had become “mentally detached” from it. This sort of thing is very common.

Diana Sanders is a psychologist who counsels transplant patients, and she was born with a defective heart and herself received a transplant. She said: “The more I thought about things the worse it got, … There was an alien organ inside me I didn’t want there any more.”

Now, if a heart-transplant patient, in order to deal with it psychologically, prefers not to dwell on the past history of that particular heart, while being very grateful to donors in general, then I for one am not going to judge that as wrong.

PZ, of course, likes to judge. He takes the least sympathetic and least charitable interpretation of this that he can, and declares in dehumanising terms that because of the above the person: “… is simply an awful human being”, an “unempathetic, soulless dead-eyed bug”.

Again, the charge here is hypocrisy. PZ, FtB and the Horde demand empathy, respect and consideration for people they approve of, their in-crowd, and if they don’t get it they can be complaining about it for years and years, still bringing up the same snippets of wording years later. Yet they shower any amount of derision and derogatory, dehumanising language on those who are in their “out group”.

243 Dave Allen December 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm

“Then I should rather say that the Slymepit, which acts as a platform for people to make boorish and/or bigoted remarks is the real bone of contention.”

I don’t think it acts merely as a platform for ugly remarks. Rather it is an experiment in providing people interested in this sort of thing (and other topics besides) as free a voice as possible. My impression is that most unambiguously sexist/racist/homophobic stuff there tends to get challenged, either directly or through regular bemoaning that that sort of thing occurs. Beyond that I would say the most callous stuff there tends to be aimed at particular people and acts, and circumstances and personalities need to be brought into the mix in order to understand what that’s about.

“Though there may be people who comment there who do not display rampant bigotry (sexism, racism, ableism and the like), there are many others who do. The community, by providing a platform for bigots, is thereby endorsing bigotry.”

By that logic:

By providing a platform for anyone who wishes to make a counter-argument the Slymepit effectively undermines bigotry – to it’s face.

“What is your position?”

My general feeling is that far too often online discussion is effectively derailed by those who either indulge in, or react to , taboo language. I therefore tend to eschew such language and ignore others who use it.

I don’t buy any narrative suggesting that words cause intrinsic harm, I do recognise that – as a sociocultural phenomenon – some words are more taboo than others, but I think it’s too much of a mess to determine whether that’s a reason to ban or reclaim or suppress or celebrate them.

I reckon if an individual resorts straight away to the most taboo forms of language that probably means they are out for a fight rather than a discussion, and I would tend to let them stew. However, I don’t mind talking to the person next to them provided they aren’t so unreasonable an individual.

So the fact that I would never waste my time talking to Chantily Brix doesn’t mean I assume anything of her allies.

I do think that if one is going to advocate for the suppression of certain words – given human nature it is massively unproductive to do so whilst calling those who oppose you rude names. But I recognise such drama drives up interest when things are getting stale.

I’m not sure I make a good ally in your disagreement with Skep Tickle by the way, because I do think there is something rather mad about cleaving to principles in the way those who so readily accept and forgive the account under discussion have done. I’d agree that the action isn’t hypocritical under a certain perspective – but I think it’s mad to assume the perspective of “let the horror of rape be strictly objective even if the world burns”.

And part of the post to recommended to her was saying that in this sort of discussion we do risk making those who coped well with rape to intimidated to even talk about how they did that or what factors might have positively contributed to recovery or resilience, because we’re too focussed on emphasising the worst possible scenarios so as not to diminish the impact the crime has on those who are significantly negatively effected by it for the long term.

244 Brive1987 December 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Theo,

I said “Coel, there is no evidence the person was under 12. In fact they make a point (quote above) of stressing there was a substantial age difference between them and their victims and that they well understood the “wrongness” of what they were doing at the time of the latter assaults.”

NOTHING in that para is inconsistent with the FtB thread. He clearly stated the rapes he committed occurred when he was 12 – not earlier. The assaults inflicted upon him are another matter – but not the point of the comment frag you mined there.

I am compelled to reiterate – sort out your reading comprehension. Stop wasting everyone’s time with this level of nonsense.

Re your stated purpose here. Your words confirm my point. You straight out stated your fisking of our comments was not for our re-education, but served a purpose for the lurkers. QED.

You are on the money on one thing. Your fisking is anything but forensic. I happily withdraw that word and acknowledge a forensic take down was never your [trigger warning] “intent”.

245 Brive1987 December 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Theo says: “I am engaging your ideas here. If I can refute your ideas, will you still cling to them?”

When you start – fine. but so far you are applying appalling charity to selected sentences. But let’s be honest. This is a clash of ideology and unless I adopt your concepts of privilege, patriarchy and rape culture then I remain your avowed “fucker”. If you we’re really interested in a free marketplace of ideas you wouldn’t button down at FtB

246 Aneris December 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm

theophontes: By insulting one person, people are led to focus negatively on the supposedly contemptable characteristics of a group. The Horde use the term “splash damage”.

You aren’t state of the art. According to Oolon and Ophelia Benson, the once problematic word that was thought to cause “splash damage” is no longer causing problems, because used…

“… in the right context by the right people, is a healthy reaction to people who use it as an epithet to degrade and belittle women or to insult men by comparing them to women’s genitalia.” – Ophelia Benson, “One thought too many” (oct 14, 2013)

How come? Because “Kate Smurthwaite convinced [Ophelia Benson] of that when [OB] saw her perform in Dublin”. In other words, we see already a new rationalisation scheme brought into place and some more double standards. Completely unsurprising.

Another factor may be the Block Bot harrassocrats found out that many feminist use it, too, which landed them a spot on the Block Bot list. For the non-authoritarian twitter community, being on the Block Bot has now become a badge of honour – and completely “rift” oblivious people came to that conclusion.

Other than that, Pharyngulanhas pronouncing which words are acceptable and which aren’t is one of the biggest joke of the internet of the last five years: a commentariat that has driven off even the co-host of the blog, who couldn’t recommend “his own blog” to his friends anymore. I hope you won’t want to “Tone Troll” Dawkins for his “Dear Muslima” comment, won’t you?

No links this time, due to the moderation filter.

247 Tigzy December 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Theophontes said:

‘Actually, there were more than enough racist bigots who denied Nelson Mandela was a real fighter for social justice. He was also mocked as not being like other famous fighters for social justice. He was even described as a subversive, criminal and terrorist. And yet he prevailed. He struck a massive blow against racism.

As pilloried as Rebecca Watson has been by bigots, she is fighting hard against rampant misogyny (not least in the atheist community), ‘

Holy shit – you really do believe that Watson is on the same plateau as Nelson Mandela, don’t you. Holy shit! Honestly, I was thinking of being a bit charitable, and putting your earlier statement down to a brainfart. But – wow.

Look, I’ll spell it out to you. Getting ugly tweets and being asked for coffee in an elevator is not quite the same thing as serving 27 years incarceration as a political prisoner. Being a privileged white girl who humblebrags about guys hitting on her is not quite the same thing as being an outspoken black man in apartheid era South Africa. Also, it must be noted that Rebecca Watson might have taken on the mantle as a skeptical, pro-science voice, but she has proven herself to be supremely incompetent in this field, as evidenced by the ‘Galileo was killed by the Catholic church’ statement, and her absolute failure of an evo-psych talk that was thoroughly ripped to shreds by Ed Clint. Her last two pieces for PopSci informed us that A) a so called ghost-detector she used didn’t work, and B) no, the government probably isn’t using drones as a cover-up for alien spacecraft.

So no, we aren’t at all dealing with someone who attracts opprobium because…well, because she only ever comes across as some vapid, self-important starlet determined to exploit her teaspoon’s worth of fame by any means possible. Apparently, it’s cuz Rebecca Watson is an important, outspoken skeptical woman. And 2+2 makes 5, Winston.

And though Nelson Mandela may have indeed struck a massive blow against racism, I doubt someone who started something called ‘skepchicks’ is going to strike a massive blow against sexism.

For what it’s worth, you just might as well have compared Nelson Mandela to a Kardashian.

Theophontes also said:
‘[Rebecca Watson] may well have a lasting effect.’

Well, I can agree with you there, if the lasting effect you’re talking about is a hangover.

248 MadMike December 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm

“Where the problems start, is when people start to use bigoted slurs. Where one portion of society is portioned off and labelled according to a feature (generally physical or psychological) over which they have no control. By insulting one person, people are led to focus negatively on the supposedly contemptable characteristics of a group. The Horde use the term “splash damage”. ”

Really? You’re claiming that the horde has never used any bigoted slurs against old white men? Or is being a white man something you can actually choose? Was the whole race/gender/age thing a choice, or something they were born into? Answer, please.

249 John Greg December 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

MadMike said:

You’re claiming that the horde has never used any bigoted slurs against old white men?

Well of course they have silly boy.

But, well, you know, it’s Okeedokee-PeachyKeeno when they do it. Because, when they do it, they do it because the targets deserve it being done, dincha/doncha know?

Higher moral ground and all that.

250 tina December 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm

These sort of born again atheists of the plus will ultimately implode because this kind of psychopathology must always turn in on itself when the target outgroup refuses to join the game by accepting their guilt and submitting to the mandatory re-education (shut up and listen). This happens because there can’t NOT be a target free from the vague original sin varieties of wrong-think projected onto the outgroup or target individual. Where the charge becomes too highly specific the accuser risks bumping into reality or a law court. That risk might even be played for the martyrdom payoff.

Why was it was necessary for them to create this with us or against us dynamic in the atheist world? I guess so that the jockeying for influence, power, status, air miles and ego strokes could begin. I would hazard there is more concern about that than with much else

As with all authoritarians though, they really are terribly inconsistent and brittle people who can’t abide ridicule or sceptical scrutiny.

I doubt Dawkins is much bothered by them.

Just a different species of flea.

251 Pogsurf December 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm

theophontes at #233

Apologies for misspelling your nym two different ways before, I think it has to blamed on my fat fingers.

Apparently many people had a sense of humour failure. Do we blame the clown or the audience? (Maybe he should have made a joke about indentured workers in Dubai and slaves in Mauritania. With the right punchline it could be a hoot. Or powerful satire.)

You still seem to have trouble acknowledging that an obvious piece of satire was satire. Would it kill you to say Dawkins made a joke, and for you it fell flat? Since you have asserted that “many” had a sense of humour failure, and this must be a real world claim, I assume you can show me the evidence for this. No idea why you need to blame people when jokes don’t work, you must be a lot of fun at parties. Your parenthetical comments seem to indicate he constructed the joke in the wrong way, but if you still insist it wasn’t a joke, why would you say that? Just honestly state what your objection to Dear Muslima is, and we might make some progress.

(See my #122) As long as you are not lashing out at rape victims, this will not apply to you. I am happy to discuss issues raised with regard to the OP in a more civil fashion.

I haven’t spotted anyone here lashing out at rape victims, why do you talk in such an inflammatory manner? If you disagree with me here, kindly provide the relevant comment numbers. Similarly, if you want to make the same claim about commenters at the Slymepit, why not provide a link to the post? You are a skeptic as opposed to a propagandist aren’t you?

(I shall be addressing the issues you raise in more detail as a response to the OP.)

The penny has dropped and you have figured out what a fisk is. Well done.

@ Tigzy #125

Pissant.

What a cheapshot, you had only just said:

And what better way to treat ridiculous arguments than with ridicule?

and Tigzy was simply making a jokey response to your arrogant posturing at #122.

252 Pogsurf December 4, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Apologies for lazy wording above.

“I haven’t spotted anyone here lashing out at rape victims…”

should read

“I haven’t spotted anyone here lashing out at people for being rape victims…”

253 MadMike December 5, 2013 at 1:24 am

My guess is that my question will remain unanswered, or deflected at best. This is the mighty horde, deprived of their safe space. Notice the amazement that a slymepitter be allowed to actually speak on a forum not censored from the outset, the hit and run tactics and the many, many attempted red-herring arguments. All the while never rebutting Michael Nugent’s post, nor successfully answering any of the voices supporting Nugent’s defense of Dawkins.

If you consider this is a thorough fisking of these “fuckers,” I pity you.

254 Skep tickle December 5, 2013 at 3:50 am

theophontes #231

Thanks Michael and Slaptickle. I was worried for a while.

LOL – what a slip of the fingers – you changed the meaning of my ‘nym quite a bit there, sir (or ma’am if applicable).

Re my age-claim above: yeah, I was going by memory, which as it turns out was faulty. Go figure.

255 John Greg December 5, 2013 at 8:00 pm

That Theophantasy person? Whew! What a frisky fisker s/h/it is, eh?

Yowzawowza Dudebro! Hang ten.

/squeee

256 Jan Steen December 6, 2013 at 4:58 am

Theophontes, what have you done?

Like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, hell … lets bring this up to date: Rebecca Watson!

257 theophontes December 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm

@ Guestus Aurelius #143

One cannot accuse the person of having committed any crime. This has not been proven and one should treat the person as innocent until they are proven guilty. Self-loathing may lead to feelings of guilt and a need to punish oneself. This is no proof either of guilt or that the incident ever took place.

(Unlike USA, more civilised countries, like China, have “Defense of Infancy” laws that would prevent children under 14 from bearing criminal liability for such. Australia goes so far as to presume that a person under the age of 14 is incapable of committing a crime. Of course there are countries worse than the USA: in North Korea one can be a prisoner from birth.)

This kind of distortion of Dawkins’s words is precisely what MN was lamenting in the original post.

Dawkins felt it appropriate to amend his original position, which he did. Having done so, we cannot focus on the old position. This is why I emphasised that it is a moot point. He could take the wind out of all his detractors sails by simply correcting some other “trivial” mistakes.

@ Pitchguest #144

what happened years after

How many years after?

Now, say instead of a rape he decided to kill someone.

In that case we would know that it was not a phantasm on his part, as there would be a body.

The issue of culpability of a minor is a serious one, so we can examine your hypothetical murder in more detail. There have been several cases before the (US) courts in recent years, concerning minors (<18). In every case, there were issues of abuse or neglect that underlay their criminal behaviour. A twelve year old who has been physically, sexually and emotionally abused over the course of two and a half years prior (this started while he was nine years old), would likely not be held criminally culpable by way of reduced capacity. Certainly such a person would not receive the death penalty:

“Juveniles function very much like the mentally retarded. The biggest similarity is their cognitive deficit. [Teens] may be highly functioning, but that doesn’t make them capable of making good decisions,” he says. Brain and behavior research supports that contention, argues Drizin, who represents the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern on the amicus curiae brief for Simmons. The “standard of decency” today is that teens do not deserve the same extreme punishment as adults.

The Atkins decision provides advocates with a “template” for what factors should be laid out to determine “evolving standards of decency,” says Drizin. These factors include the movement of state legislatures to raise the age limit for the death penalty to 18, jury verdicts of juvenile offenders, the international consensus is on the issue, and public opinion polls. In 2002, the court also considered the opinions of professional organizations with pertinent knowledge, which is how the brain research comes into play. Last, the justices considered evidence that the mentally retarded may be more likely to falsely confess and be wrongly convicted-a problem that adolescents have as well.

Obviously that last sentence is very pertinent in the situation we are discussing. (Link is here)

…that he might have made the whole thing up. This is also something that the FtB “side” hasn’t even thought to consider.

So you don’t regard me as part of the FtB “side”? But to your main point: yes, certainly there is a good chance that he made the incident up. As I pointed out before, using Dawkins own words.

@ John Greg #145

Elizabeth Loftus has thoroughly and exhaustively debunked recovered memory claimage.

Which would indicate that the “memory” was generated recently. Either ex nihil, or grafted onto a completely innocuous memory.

@ Guestus Aurelius #147

I don’t treat privilege as a litmus test for determining whether a person’s complaints are valid.

“Dear Muslima” is using a false argument. This from a person who insists, loudly and publicly, on placing a very high value on truth. That is not the only example of poor logic and/or poor science (eg: The whole Muslims/Trinity/Nobel prize fiasco.)

@ Brive1987 # 155

He clearly demands to be judged as being a wilful rapist at the time. That’s his narrative, why do you deny him his story?

See the piece I quoted above. Particularly: ” …more likely to falsely confess and be wrongly convicted-a problem that adolescents have as well.”

@ tina #160

The deal here is about control and manipulation of the narrative by a bunch of authoritarians trying to make Atheism PLC conform to their mix of social justice and feminist ideologies. The ‘othering’ techniques they use are as old as the hills and tediously predictable.

If that is your narrative, I’m sure you’ll stick to it.

@ Pogsurf #161

To me this looks like the meanest possible interpretation, in the meanest possible world.

But that is exactly as many people took it. Granted they where extremely mean (and still are), but Dawkins can easily correct misunderstandings by tackling these mean spirited interpretations.

“Any complaint a person makes…” and you couldn’t then be able to claim that Dawkins was misogynist on the back of it.

He was specifically using this bad argument on women. But, yes, the argument is still false if extended to people generally.

Theophantes [sic] wants to see Dawkins as a sexist,

He might not be sexist, even if he does occasionally make sexist remarks. He could easily clarify what he meant, but has chosen to leave his errors out there.

Take a look at Michael’s well argued case in the main article, and fisk that if you can.

Aah. There is a good suggestion. The problem would be that I would actually be fisking Dawkins, because Michael’s OP simply passes on without making an independent position clear. Though he does allude to there being valid criticisms. I shall happily provide some valid criticisms to make up the deficit.

258 John Greg December 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Theosophist said:

Which would indicate that the “memory” was generated recently. Either ex nihil, or grafted onto a completely innocuous memory.

Ah, I see. So are you now agreeing with those of us who have been doubting the veracity of his claim?

259 Guestus Aurelius December 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Theo,

In comment #143, I responded to your claim that [name withheld] “bears no responsibility for” the rapes he committed. I pointed out that the relevant mitigating factors are not exculpatory factors, and that to insist otherwise is blatant rape apology.

In comment #257, you “responded” to my #143 by declaring that there’s no proof that the incident even took place.

Why are you shifting the goalposts? You’re the one who insisted that [name withheld] “bears no responsibility for” the rapes he committed. Obviously we—and the Horde—have been operating under the assumption that the incident did take place. Since the Horde’s reaction to the story is what’s at issue here, whether the incident actually took place is irrelevant.

So let me ask you directly: assuming that the incident really took place (as you did in your comment #136), how do you respond to my point that mitigating factors (the rapist’s young age and his prior victimhood) are not exculpatory factors?

You said:

(Unlike USA, more civilised countries, like China, have “Defense of Infancy” laws that would prevent children under 14 from bearing criminal liability for such. Australia goes so far as to presume that a person under the age of 14 is incapable of committing a crime. Of course there are countries worse than the USA: in North Korea one can be a prisoner from birth.)

I would respond that, A) the laws of other countries are irrelevant, and B) the laws of the US are only tangentially relevant, since the Horde’s reaction to the story is what’s at issue here.

Let me remind you of the whole point of the discussion: On the one hand, the SJL is uncharitable with and quick to crucify out-groupers (like Dawkins, a victim of pedophilia) for disagreeing or even just for choosing their words poorly when the topic at hand is something the SJL feels passionate about (like sexual abuse); on the other hand, the SJL is exceptionally forgiving of transgressors when they’re in-groupers (like [name withheld], an admitted rapist), provided that they confess their sins to the SJL, apologize, and toe the SJL’s ideological line.

That is how the discussion of the [name withheld] incident is relevant. The issue isn’t whether the incident really occurred, and the issue isn’t whether the laws governing the incident are just. The issue is the SJL’s hypocrisy.

Please try to stay on topic. Doing so will make your fisking even more impressive.

You also said:

Dawkins felt it appropriate to amend his original position, which he did. Having done so, we cannot focus on the old position. This is why I emphasised that it is a moot point. He could take the wind out of all his detractors sails by simply correcting some other “trivial” mistakes.

You’re shifting the goalposts again.

The issue isn’t whether Dawkins’s statement was deserving of criticism (I agree that it was). The issue is the SJL’s characteristically uncharitable and vitriolic reaction to it.

I implore you to read MN’s post again. Consider how Dawkins’s detractors reacted to his statement. Note, for instance, how PZ Myers put words into Dawkins’s mouth and then compared them to NAMBLA. I ask you: do you honestly believe that such mean-spirited responses were warranted to the poor wording of a victim who was sharing his story?

Did you read The Friendly Atheist’s criticism of Dawkins’s statement? If not, I recommend that you do so. It was incisive without assuming bad intentions or resorting to invective.

I’ve been responding to you in good faith, and I request that you extend me the same courtesy. Please stop shifting the goalposts. Please address my salient points.

260 Guestus Aurelius December 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm

P.S.

Theo, you also said this to me:

One cannot accuse the person of having committed any crime. This has not been proven and one should treat the person as innocent until they are proven guilty. Self-loathing may lead to feelings of guilt and a need to punish oneself. This is no proof either of guilt or that the incident ever took place.

Again, whether the incident actually occurred is irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion, but the part of your statement that I emboldened really stuck out to me—I agree with it wholeheartedly.

Am I safe to presume, then, that you apply the “innocent until proven guilty” standard to everyone? If, say, an atheist blogger in Minnesota with a not-insubstantial following were to publicly accuse a big-name skeptic of rape on the basis of hearsay, am I safe to presume that you’d condemn the blogger’s actions and withhold judgment on the accused?

261 Pogsurf December 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm

theophontes at #257 says:

The problem would be that I would actually be fisking Dawkins, because Michael’s OP simply passes on without making an independent position clear.

but in the main article Michael had said:

But, in my opinion, the pattern of personal smears against Richard in recent times is disproportionate to any reasonable disagreement, and is instead unjust, hurtful and irresponsible.

I don’t believe you have read the main article.

262 MadMike December 7, 2013 at 12:02 am

FFS, theo, get to the point. Your interpretation of the morality of various laws are not at all relevant. You’ve shifted positions an attempted to justify rape, ignoring the fact that nobody is denying he may be less culpable due to his age at the time. There is a huge disconnect between how ‘your side’ views it’s own vs those your precious leaders have declared enthata. Your attempts to justify this only show that you will go through amazing mental acrobatics to avoid dealing with the main point.

Dawkins may have screwed up, but in no way did the FtB or Scepchick attempt to criticize in any meaningful way. Nor did you answer my earlier question about whether the horde ever used bigoted slurs against old white men. You won’t answer, will you? This says a lot about you and those you defend.

263 Jan Steen December 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

Interesting to see that Theophontes is now willing to accept that [nym redacted]’s memories of abuse (active and passive) may be spurious.

Not that it is relevant to the discussion, because the Pharyngula commentariat, aka The Horde, have always been adamant in their belief of the recovered memory stories by [nym redacted]. Therefore we have to see their comments in that light, that is, as if [nym redacted] was indeed a self-confessed rapist. But it may put Theophontes in an awkward position within the Cult, I mean, Horde, as we will see.

Not long before [nym redacted] made his dramatic confession of having voluntarily raped three children while he was twelve years old, he posted in one of PZ Myers’s Dawkins-bashing threads the following:

I never told. Still haven’t told anyone outside of this blog. I didn’t even remember any details beyond not liking scouts until I was in my 40s. So, Jenny6833am, are my flashbacks, body memories, panic attacks, massive guilt, because I was brainwashed into thinking that it really was wrong to be anally raped by a middle-aged man when I was 9 years old?

He then uses this anecdote to join in the Dawkins bashing:

As a survivor (so far) what I got out of [Dawkins’s statement about his own abuse as a child] was that I really shouldn’t talk about the pain and guilt and suicidal feelings because Dawkins wasn’t harmed when he was sexually assaulted as a child.

This is a horrible misrepresentation of what Dawkins has actually said. Dawkins has expressly made the disclaimer that he wasn’t speaking about children who had actually been raped.

A commenter called stephens then made this comment:

If I’m reading you correctly in that you didn’t have specific memories until you were in your 40s, you should consider the possibility that those later memories are not real. Repressed memory is a hugely controversial subject in psychology, one that’s not accepted as proven to exist by mainstream science. Elizabeth Loftus is one example of a widely respected expert in the field who argued against it.

This commenter also pointed out that [nym redacted] had misrepresented Dawkins’s statement about the implications of child abuse.

This did not go over well at all.

What stephens said was “vile rape apologetics”, “fucked up”, “unbelievably triggering”, they were a troll, etc. In short, the usual Pharyngula script.

After some back and forth between stephens and the Horde, the renowned author of The Happy Atheist steps in and warns stephens that their next post was going to be their last.

[nym redacted] then repeats his disingenuous strawmanning with renewed vigour, even after his dishonesty had been exposed by stephens:

Dawkins was sexually assaulted as a child and he and his fellow survivors didn’t suffer. Some of us did go through hell but Dawkins still dismisses our experience as being automatically analogous to his and thus not a big deal (as opposed to the teaching of hell with is).

PZ let it pass.

So we see that PZ Myers protects those that spread disinformation about Richard Dawkins, while silencing those that expose the character assassination practiced by his Horde. This is how PZ reciprocates the support and encouragement that Dawkins was foolish enough to provide him with.

Lesson one: never turn your back to PZ Myers.

Lesson two: Theophontes will soon be called out as a vile rape apologist by the Horde. Any moment now.

Meanwhile, the shameless [nym redacted] has practically been hugged to death amid assurances of how much the Horde love and believe him. He clearly and deliberately misrepresented Dawkins. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if he wasn’t telling the truth about his abuse either.

The Dawkins bashing thread referred to here can be found by googling pharyngula + consciousness-raising-needed.

264 Brive1987 December 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

Theo, you think it’s ok to dismiss his nattative that he is a bona fide rapist and point me to tis:

“Last, the justices considered evidence that the mentally retarded may be more likely to falsely confess and be wrongly convicted-a problem that adolescents have as well.”

I don’t know if you are accusing him of being ‘retarded’ or adolescent. Neither seem to fit the bill given he “confessed” (who to?) as an adult.

Yet another comprehension fail I’m afraid.

265 Coel December 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

Theophontes:

“Dear Muslima” is using a false argument. … That is not the only example of poor logic and/or poor science (eg: The whole Muslims/Trinity/Nobel prize fiasco.)

These are only false or fallacious is you read into them stuff that is not actually there. Effectively you are presuming: “Dawkins much have been meaning or was implying X and Y, and X and Y are fallacious”. If you simply read exactly what he says, no more, then they are not fallacious.

If you disagree, please explicitly point out the fallacies (being sure not to interpret beyond his actual words) .

266 Brive1987 December 7, 2013 at 11:03 am

Theo,

Re my complaint that you would have us ignore his narrative of being a rapist.

You referred me to this:

“Last, the justices considered evidence that the mentally retarded may be more likely to falsely confess and be wrongly convicted-a problem that adolescents have as well.”

I’m not sure whether you are now calling [redacted] retarded or adolescent? Given his “confession” (to whom?) was recent and he is middle aged, I suspect both your labels are incorrect.

He is an apparently functioning adult male reflecting on a self professed crime committed in his youth. He is interpreting his past actions according to your peculiar SJ rape culture ideology and against this, correctly making his call.

Own the crime – in all senses.

267 shivar December 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Theophontes said:

“One cannot accuse the person of having committed any crime. This has not been proven and one should treat the person as innocent until they are proven guilty. Self-loathing may lead to feelings of guilt and a need to punish oneself. This is no proof either of guilt or that the incident ever took place. ”

But it’s OK for PZ and his “horde” to accuse Michael Shermer of rape, with commenters like Nerd of Redhead directly calling Shermer a “proven rapist”.

Nice double standards you all have set up for yourselves.

268 Jan Steen December 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm

A minor correction to my previous post is needed.

Not long before [nym redacted] made his dramatic confession

should read

Not long after [nym redacted] made his dramatic confession

The confession happened on 1 September, the Dawkins-bashing comment was from 11 September 2013. So the guy was by then already know to the Horde as a self-confessed child rapist, and still they and PZ Myers went along with his hack job on Dawkins. Unbelievable. Hypocrisy raised to stellar levels.

I just learned, by the way, thanks to a commenter on the Slymepit, that [nym redacted] has a long history of going after Richard Dawkins. Just after Dawkins made his Dear Muslima comment, [nym redacted] responded by asking “Did you just make the argument that, since worse things are happening somewhere else, we have no right to try to fix things closer to home?”

He therefore has the dubious honour of being the first in a long line of misguided people who claimed that Dawkins was committing a logical fallacy with his comment.

269 John Greg December 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I sort of get the impression that Theosophages is playing a game of Phrase Scrabble. It’s like s/h/it’s got a box of pro-FTB counter-argument phrases that sh/h/it just grabs from and tacks on to whichever particular rebuttal s/h/it is presenting for the moment. The dots don’t seem to connect very often.

Also, while I often find FTB-based so-called fiskings to be, at best, of dubious veracity, Theosplantain’s fisks don’t even carry any resemblance to an actual fisk … so far as I can tell.

270 theophontes December 9, 2013 at 6:15 am

In turning to the OP, I first beg a little indulgence of the readers here. I find I must digress a little and tell you of a dream I had.

It all started, I think, with my eating some very old French cheese from the back of the fridge. This in turn led to a whole evening of tossing and turning, so that by morning my initial ideas for responses to Michael‘s post about Dawkins, had become conflated with fevered rememberings of Voltaire:

I had been in an argument with Dr Pangloss, who insisted that my reading of Dawkins had it quite wrong. That I had been far to cynical and that, quite contrary to what I had espoused, the man had nothing but benevolence at heart. “His comments are always for the best in the best of all possible words”.

I asked him if Dawkins satirical work “Dear Muslima” could not be seen as less than the best way to engage women in the atheist movement. He suggested that it was a subtle matter (“matière subtile”) and that most did not get the nuances of the generous ethical message that it held. “They percieved it as a shot across their bow, but I assure you that the intentions were for the highest good and to encourage others. (In his own words: “pour l’encouragement des autres”). It would have (“et encore il doit!”) all turned out for the best, by necessity, had others not allowed their judgements to be coloured.

I later spent no small time arguing with Candide who was of very much the same turn of mind of the good doctor. That he had spent so much time observing the bitter struggles within the atheist community would surely wear away at such an attitude? Apparently not, as it appears that is all he knows.

271 tina December 9, 2013 at 8:02 am

Theophontes @257
“If that is your narrative, I’m sure you’ll stick to it.”

I know, darling. But now you’ve given me Post Twitter Stress Disorder. *shakes*

272 Brive1987 December 9, 2013 at 9:03 am

Theo, I prefer your fisking.

Out of interest is it your opinion that RW feared rape at the hands of a man or by patriarchal subtext?

Re “eating some very old French cheese from the back of the fridge” – I’ve never heard it called that before. :-)

273 tina December 9, 2013 at 11:19 am

In my dream, the Belgian God of Chocolate was discussing sex with the Greek God of Wine in an elevator when Nietzsche got in on the 3rd floor and farted.

274 John Greg December 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Aha. And now the fun begins!

275 MadMike December 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Okay…Was that a surrender or a (admittedly classy) flounce?

276 Guestus Aurelius December 9, 2013 at 10:59 pm

We’ll see if it’s a flounce. I don’t think it was a surrender, and I certainly don’t think it was classy. Instead of engaging with the salient points we’ve made or cordially and unambiguously bowing out, he’s gone cryptically allegorical on us in what I construe as a puerile attempt to parade his intellectual superiority.

Color me dazzled, Theo, by your erudition.

If I’m reading you right—and honestly I’m not sure that I am—you’re intimating that those of us who agree with MN that some of Dawkins’s detractors have gone overboard are, like Pangloss, naively overoptimistic, blind to the harsh realities of the world (specifically, to the less-than-pure intentions of our hero Dawkins). Is that it, Theo? And are you suggesting that we take a lesson from Candide, who ultimately wised up and rejected Pangloss’s “best of all possible worlds”?

If that’s what you’re getting at, then you’re wrong. I give Dawkins (and most people) the benefit of the doubt not because I’m some naively overoptimistic Pangloss, but because my parents taught me not to be a misanthropic prig. I prepare for the worst in people but do my best to treat them charitably unless they give me good reason to think they lack integrity or have bad intent. Dawkins hasn’t met that criteria. Not even close.

The classic SJL response would of course be something along the lines of “Intent isn’t magic” or “Check your privilege—calls for civility are a silencing tactic.” But that’s not because they’re wised-up Candides. It’s because they’re misanthropic prigs who reach for the nuclear option “Every. Single. Time.”™

Socially inept, ideologically blinkered, sanctimonious blowhards.

Sprun them, Theo. “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

277 Guestus Aurelius December 9, 2013 at 11:01 pm

*Spurn

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