Adam Lee’s legitimate anger about harassment is unfairly misdirected at Richard Dawkins and the atheist movement

by Michael Nugent on September 23, 2014

Adam Lee has responded to my criticism of his article in the Guardian about Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the atheist movement. Adam had asked critics to provide detail of inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the Guardian article, and I did so.

In his response, Adam failed to address nine of the issues that I raised about inaccuracies and misrepresentations. I have addressed those points separately here, and I have asked Adam to respond to them.

In his response, Adam also raised other issues and questions related to ‘the deep rifts’. I am responding here to these issues. I want to keep this discussion of our opinions about ‘the deep rifts’ separate from the factual question of whether there were misrepresentations in the Guardian article.

Before I start, I want to say that I have admired Adam’s writing for many years, although I disagree with him strongly on this issue.

1. Misrepresentations and emotive language

Adam wrote: You said that you were going to address the question of where my article was “inaccurate”, but the majority of your article is a complaint about various choices of wording I made, the thrust of which is that it’s unfair for me to use emotive language in support of the conclusions I advocate. I reject this.

I agree, I put too much emphasis on this. It is fair for you to use emotive language in support of the conclusions you advocate. Equally, it is fair to highlight that you are using it. I don’t think it was helpful for you to use it in this context, as I think it makes it harder to resolve the problems that you are highlighting, but I agree that it is a legitimate style of polemic.

However, the majority of my article was outlining areas where your article was inaccurate or misleading. I’ve outlined them again in this post. I look forward to reading your response to them.

2. Harassment and threats against activists

Adam wrote: Over the last few years, I’ve seen some outstanding activists driven off the internet or out of the atheist movement entirely by torrents of horrendous harassment and threats. It’s an ugly silencing tactic, and it’s still going on: Rebecca Watson tweeted that she blocked or reported twelve abusive accounts yesterday. Not last month or last week, but yesterday.

As I said in my response to your article, I believe that this is the most legitimate of the arguments that you made. I believe that we should not tolerate, in any of our online or offline communities, any sexual harassment or abuse or threats of violence against women that we would not tolerate if they were directed against our family or close friends, however small or large the scale of the problem.

I have directly challenged this in my contribution to Amy’s series of posts on speaking out against hate directed at women.

I share your anger about this, and I understand that it is partly this anger that has caused you to  write your article in the way that have written it.

On the Internet, many women face a pattern of online sexual harassment, including rape threats, in the technology, business, entertainment, atheist, skeptical, pop culture, gaming and many other online communities. This can cause some women to feel hurt and frightened, to hide their female identity online, or to retreat altogether from the Internet. And this can in turn affect other aspects of their lives. Our online identities and networking are increasingly important to our social lives and careers. And our friends and employers may see this hate speech when searching online about us.

Tackling sexism is a complex problem, with no magic answers, as is tackling the problems of hate speech and incitement to violence and defamation directed against anybody. We should rigorously analyse the extent of these problems in our communities, both online and offline, and we should test and refine the best ways to eradicate them.

As an added nuance, in these ‘deep rifts’ within parts of mostly American atheist blogging and activism, some people on both perceived sides have targeted some women in a sexist way. Some people on one perceived side have criticised some women using derogatory terms associated with feminism or body parts. Some people on the other perceived side have criticised some women using derogatory terms such as gender traitor and chill girls.

Adam, I suspect that we agree so far in our analysis.

3. The impact of remarks by prominent people

I believe that clueless, dismissive, or hostile remarks by prominent male atheists reward this behavior and encourage it to continue. Am I angry about that? Hell, yes! My words were chosen quite carefully to reflect that conclusion.

This may be our first area of disagreement, not in substance but in emphasis and tactics in addressing this aspect.  Obviously, to some extent, remarks by anybody prominent in any area will have some influence on the thinking of people who admire that person. That’s why advertisers use celebrities in advertisements. I suspect we might disagree on the extent of encouragement such remarks might cause, but I accept that there is some, however unintended.

But there is a wide range of nuance in the three types of remarks that you describe: clueless, dismissive, and hostile remarks. In terms of prominent male atheists associated with ‘the deep rifts’, most of the controversial remarks made by PZ Myers are much more hostile than most of the controversial remarks made by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

And if somebody makes a remark that you consider clueless or dismissive (I’ll park the question of that being a subjective analysis, and grant you your interpretation for the purpose of this point), and then they clarify the remark with a qualification, you have two possible ways to minimise the encouragement that you believe this may give to impressionable hostile people.

Either you can repeatedly publish the remark without the clarification, and attribute it to the prominent person, thus causing more of the influenceable hostile people to become aware of the remark but not the clarification. Or else you can repeatedly publish the clarification (e.g. Richard Dawkins says don’t EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober), thus causing more of the influenceable hostile people to associate that remark with the prominent person.

You say that your emotive words were chosen quite carefully to reflect your conclusion. I think you were mistaken in who you targeted your emotional words at. If you had targeted your rhetoric of snarling etc at the people who actually engage in harassment, and a lesser rhetoric at those who you believe unintentionally aid it, that would have been more proportionate.

Remember your original theory: that hostile remarks by prominent male atheists reward certain behavior and encourage it to continue. If that is the case, then your hostile writing in a national newspaper will reward people who want hostile discourse, and penalise those of us who want reasoned discourse.

4. Are certain issues about sexism and feminism

I  wrote: The paragraph then refers to comments about thought police, click-bait for profit and fake outrage, which are not issues about sexism or feminism.

Adam wrote: That couldn’t be more wrong. These are absolutely issues about sexism and feminism.

I think both of our assertions here are too absolute. That’s my fault, as I introduced the mistake. I believe that attributing motivations to those who disagree with us, instead of addressing their arguments, can indeed be issues about sexism and feminism, if doing so is motivated by a desire to either advance or challenge sexism or feminism.

5. Richard is not saying that feminism is a non-issue

Adam wrote: In context, what Dawkins was saying is that feminism is a non-issue, that the only reason people write about it and attack him or other atheists for allegedly sexist statements is that they’re acting in bad faith to drum up attention for themselves, or because they’re “outrage junkies” who simply enjoy getting angry over nothing. Amy Roth’s comment in my article explained this quite clearly.

I disagree with this. I believe Richard was saying that, in the context of the particular ‘deep-rifts’ subculture of parts of mostly American atheist blogging and activism, some people make arguments that he considers to be in bad faith for various reasons too complex to describe here.

But that is not the same as saying that feminism is a non-issue. Indeed Richard said at the recent world humanist convention that he is a feminist, and that everybody else should be as well, a statement that was met with applause from the global gathering who were present.

I believe that Amy is conflating two things, when she describes Richard’s comments about thought police and click-bait arguments, as if they were arguments against standing up to misogynistic hate speech. They were not. Richard has often spoken out against hate speech, most recently in his joint statement with Ophelia.

6. Rhetoric always used against people arguing for social justice

Adam wrote: This is the same kind of demeaning, minimizing rhetoric that’s always used against people who argue for social-justice-based conclusions.

No it is not always used against us. I argue for social-justice-based conclusions, and I have done all of my life. I rarely find that this argument is used against me when I am arguing for social-justice-based conclusions. Perhaps that is because I argue in such a way that does not lend itself to me being labeled as an outrage junkie. The important question is not whether the accusation is made, but whether the accusation is justified.

Ironically, I have been the target in recent days of some demeaning, minimising, defamatory and frankly silly rhetoric, that has come from some people who I assume would consider themselves to be arguing for social-justice-based conclusions, but that is an argument for another day.

7. Rhetoric used against atheists

Adam wrote: It’s used against atheists ad nauseam, for example: that we’re thought police and outrage junkies who want to stop teachers from leading students in prayer, even though that’s a harmless historical tradition that no one ever complained about before. It’s an attempt to deny legitimacy to any criticism of harmful practices that are in accord with conventional wisdom.

Yes, I agree that it is more often used in an unjustified way by religious people against atheists. Although that is starting to change in Ireland. When my late wife was being buried two weeks ago after donating her body to medical science, I asked the Dublin Medical Schools to replace the headstone on their burial plot from one with a religious inscription to one with a secular inscription. They agreed to do so, and there was virtually no pushback from religious interests. Obviously things are different all around the world, but that is one small positive move away from those attitudes in one small part of the planet.

 8. Richard and Ophelia’s comments about fake outrage

Adam quoted Ophelia: “Part of what made The God Delusion so popular was, surely, its indignant bluntness about religion. It was a best-seller; does that mean he ‘faked’ his outrage?”

I  wrote: But when Richard wrote about outrage in The God Delusion, he was responding to things like the Vatican police, in the nineteenth century, kidnapping Jewish children who had been secretly baptised by Catholic nursemaids. By contrast, when some people have recently expressed ‘outrage’ against Richard, it has been mostly about tweets on Twitter.

Adam wrote: Michael, I hope you realize what you’re doing here. Whether you intended it or not, you’re saying that you’ve taken it upon yourself to decide which issues are or aren’t worthy of our attention, and you want to be accepted as the arbiter of what feminists should or shouldn’t get upset about.

No, I am not saying that. Ophelia has since picked up this baton, in her blog post ‘The arbiter of what feminists should or shouldn’t get upset about‘. Ophelia adds (about me) that: ‘He’s not the boss of us. Why is he trying to be that?’

Please think about what you are saying here. Everybody decides what issues are or aren’t worthy of their attention. Some people, including you and me and Ophelia, also express our opinions about what we think other people should consider focusing on. But all three of us must know that we cannot decide what issues are actually worthy of other people’s attention, because only each individual person can determine that.

Alternatively, you could interpret almost every blog or article or book or piece of activism about anything, as being someone wanting to be accepted as the arbiter of what other people should or shouldn’t get upset about in any area of their lives. Also, including the word feminism in this context is a red herring. I’ll address that in my response to your next sentence.

9. A man talking down to feminists 

Even leaving aside the moral implications of a man talking down to feminists in this way, do you think this is a strategy that’s likely to meet with any success at all?

Firstly, I am a feminist. Secondly, there are some feminists (and some women) on either side of these disagreements. And thirdly, in this instance I was addressing Ophelia’s comments about the outrage expressed in The God Delusion, so we were discussing a range of interrelated topics. Do you think that Ophelia was talking down to an atheist? Of course not.

This is a complicating and unhelpful factor in some of these discussions. Somebody who is a feminist says something, and somebody else (who may also be a feminist) disagrees with them. Then some people describe that disagreement as ‘talking down to feminists’ or ‘wanting to be the boss of feminists’.

Adam, do you believe that you are a man talking down to those feminists (or women) who disagree with your analysis? If not, why do you believe I am a man talking down to those feminists (or women) who disagree with my analysis? I don’t think either of us is talking down to anybody. We are having a respectful public conversation, trying to tease out complex issues for the betterment of everybody involved.

10. His worse followers treat it as permission

Adam wrote: I’m by no means the first to criticize Dawkins; plenty of prominent feminists and atheists have been explaining for years how certain of his remarks are untrue, hurtful, or founded in ignorance about the viewpoint and experiences of women. I guarantee those women could tell you that whenever Dawkins says something nasty about them, they get a noticeable uptick in harassment. His worse followers treat it as permission.

Firstly, I don’t believe for a moment that anybody harasses women because they believe that Richard has given them permission. If there are such people, they may as well believe they are getting permission from the man in the moon.

I believe there are some people who enjoy harassing people on the Internet, and who do so based on whatever happens to be the focus of their attention that day, but you would have to substantiate any claim that they are treating anything Richard says as permission to do so.

If you do believe that some people treat comments by Richard as getting permission to harass people, then I suggest that you should help to publicise as widely as possible the joint statement between Richard and Ophelia:

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

Adam, you had a platform in the guardian last week to discuss Richard’s role and impact on these issues. You could have written in the Guardian:

Hypothetical paragraph that you could have written in the Guardian:

Some people who harass women online mistakenly believe that Richard Dawkins is encouraging them or giving them permission to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. Richard has said, in a joint statement with Ophelia Benson, “Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally.” The two prominent atheists, who disagree on many issues, agree that we should disagree without destroying each other. They both stress that this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, and no vulgar epithets.”

Adam, imagine how useful that would have been in countering your fear that some people believe that Richard is giving them permission to harass people online? Instead, based on your analysis, you may have intensified the possibility of that happening. If you have another opportunity to use this platform, please consider trying this approach.

11. The joint statement and subsequent comments 

Adam wrote: His joint statement with Ophelia Benson was a welcome attempt to mitigate that, but it was years late, and in any case, I think whatever good it did has been mitigated by his more recent reversion to type – lashing out nastily at feminists by calling them dishonest, witch hunters, thought police, etc.

Instead, this is what you wrote about the joint statement. Nothing about its content, just a passing reference with some negative qualifications, as a bridge to another emotive description of some of Richard’s recent tweets.

Are you aware that, on the day the joint statement was published, Ophelia reassured commenters on PZ Myers’ blog that of course she didn’t consider it vulgar to call somebody a fuckwit? If you had been aware of that, would you have included it in your article?

With regard to your second point, I believe that you are conflating Richard’s criticism of people who engage in personal smears against him, with criticism of people because they are feminists.

In recent years, Richard has been the subject of a stream of increasingly irrational and hostile personal smears. These range from implicit to explicit claims that he is Islamophobic, racist, bigoted, sexist, misogynistic and an apologist for pedophilia.

At least some of the people who have engaged in some of these smears would coincidentally describe themselves as feminists. In my opinion, Richard was responding to this stream of smears by criticising people for their behaviour, not for their feminism.

On the other hand, some atheists and feminists, and people of various other beliefs, have disagreed with Richard in considered terms, as should be expected and encouraged in any freethinking community. The pattern of personal smears against him by others makes it more difficult to discuss these reasonable disagreements in a constructive way.

12. Richard’s language

Are those comments also “phrased to generate prejudice in readers”? Will you write a follow-up chiding Dawkins for using such language?

I’m happy to address that here. As I said, Richard was criticising behaviour and perceived motivation. He was not threatening or harassing anybody.

He was not telling anybody to stuff a rotting porcupine up their ass, or die in a fire, or fuck themselves with a rusty chainsaw. That type of language, previously encouraged by PZ Myers, was a large contributory factor to the escalation of hostility in these ‘deep rifts’ within parts of mostly American atheist blogging and activism.

He was not accusing anyone of seeming to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children, or of being a lying fuckhead.

Richard sometimes uses sarcasm and ridicule at times when I would use a different approach. That said, I think sarcasm and ridicule are legitimate responses in some discussions of ideas, just as you, Adam, believe that emotive rhetoric (such as describing Richard as snarling, accusing, roaring, scoffing, arguing and sneering) is legitimate language to reflect your anger.

With regard to content, I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree with Richard about the things he says. As an example, with regards to his comments about being abused at school, I thought Richard was mistaken to assume the impact of the abuse on his school companions, and that he was correct to acknowledge that. But neither of us lashed out at each other because of this.

We disagreed with each other, in the spirit of the joint statement between Richard and Ophelia, before the joint statement was even conceived, because that is how reasonable adults tend to disagree, with or without joint statements telling us that we need to.

In the same spirit, I agree and disagree with parts of the content of Richard’s recent comments about his critics. I doubt that they publish their blogs for the primary purpose of profit, as Richard seemed to imply. They do need to generate income to keep their blog networks functioning, and they do operate as profit-making enterprises, but I doubt there is enough money in it to be their primary motivation.

I broadly agree with Richard about the fake outrage, though I would call it exaggerated for effect rather than fake. At least, I hope that it is exaggerated for effect, as otherwise some people seem to me to be in states of outrage that are unhealthily disproportionate to what they seem to be outraged about. But I might be mistaken.

I am baffled in this context by PZ. In person, he is as far from being outraged as almost anyone that I know. He is quiet, polite, civil, friendly, and good company. Yet that character is not reflected in what he writes on his blog. So either he exaggerates his outrage for effect (which many good writers do) or else he compartmentalises his outrage very effectively.

Adam, in the same spirit as your request to me, will you please write a follow-up analysing the contribution of PZ and some of his colleagues to the escalation of these problems?

13. Is Twitter different from other arenas of discourse

Adam wrote: Your characterization of this as a controversy merely about “tweets on Twitter” is highly condescending. Is Twitter somehow different from any other arena in which people might express an opinion? Do you think that if religious figures make homophobic, racist or misogynist remarks on Twitter, those should also be exempt from criticism?

Yes, I do believe that twitter is a different from most other arenas in which people might express an opinion. Twitter combines unprecedented reach with high scope for misinterpretation. And how society comes to terms with that novel arena is central to resolving some of the problems we are addressing.

With regard to reach, Twitter enables people to have a disproportionate impact on global conversations, compared to even a decade ago, and this can have both good and bad impacts. On balance, I believe it is good overall, but the bad impacts are central to what we are discussing here.

When I was in college, and politically active, it would have been impossible for us to have such an impact on global conversations. We needed printing presses, or access to broadcast networks controlled by others, and countless volunteers, to convey our messages even within our own city, never mind internationally.

Yet today, somebody with fifteen followers on Twitter has been able to tweet the defamatory smear that I am harassing women, and have that discussed by people on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. That smear would not have been possible without Twitter, any more than our attempts to promote positive social change would.

With regard to misinterpretation, I generally try to interpret what people mean on Twitter by the overall sense of a series of tweets in a discussion, rather than just one tweet. Focusing on just one tweet is like taking one sentence out of a spoken conversation, and trying to analyse it as a standalone argument.

I frequently say stupid things, and someone politely tells me how it sounds, and I correct myself. But it requires good will, which you often don’t get on Twitter, particularly when people repeatedly republish one tweet out of context as if it was a standalone thesis.

Imagine the difference in the latest controversy if everyone who was reinforcing the impressions you refer to, were to instead repeatedly publish that Richard Dawkins has tweeted “Don’t EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober.” Based on your analysis, surely that would minimise the chance of rape apologists feeling endorsed, rather than inflame the likelihood?

14. Summary

So anyway, Adam, that is my response to your response. And I am happy to tease out any of the issues that you have raised if you want to.

I understand and share your anger at the harassment and threats made against some women atheists, and indeed against any women. I have directly challenged this in my contribution to Amy’s series of posts on speaking out against hate directed at women.

But I think that you are misdirecting your anger at Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the atheist movement, instead of against the people who engage in such behaviour. In doing so, you are being unfair to these people by unjustly harming their reputation on a high-profile media platform.

You are also conflating the ‘deep rifts’ that have intensified in recent years within parts of mostly American atheist blogging and activism, with the atheist movement as a whole, which is global as well as multi-localised and individual, and which is mostly unaffected by or unaware of these ‘deep rifts.’

I also look forward to reading your response to the nine issues listed here, which you did not address in your last response to me.

And can you please keep the two responses separate? This post and your last comment are evolving into a discussion of our opinions about aspects of ‘the deep rifts’, which we can discuss independently from the factual question of whether there were misrepresentations in your Guardian article.

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{ 97 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blueshift Rhino September 23, 2014 at 4:24 am

This was brilliant:
“Adam, imagine how useful that would have been in countering your fear that some people believe that Richard is giving them permission to harass people online? Instead, based on your analysis, you may have intensified the possibility of that happening. If you have another opportunity to use this platform, please consider trying this approach.”

Now consider the possibility that he knew what would happen before he did it and did it anyway.

2 Jan Steen September 23, 2014 at 6:19 am

I can’t for the life of me understand why you pay so much attention to worthless hacks like Adam Lee and copy paster extraordinaire Ophelia Benson. That some people have a soapbox in an obscure corner of the internet doesn’t make their opinions of interest.

3 Iamcuriousblue September 23, 2014 at 7:32 am

“His worse followers treat it as permission”

On the other hand, not only do many of PZ Myers followers take his tone as permission to be hateful, Myers has explicitly encouraged this behavior from his followers before.

“I am baffled in this context by PZ. In person, he is as far from being outraged as almost anyone that I know. He is quiet, polite, civil, friendly, and good company. Yet that character is not reflected in what he writes on his blog. So either he exaggerates his outrage for effect (which many good writers do) or else he compartmentalises his outrage very effectively.”

And I’m sure the above is part of the psychology of demagogues. Not all of them start out that way, but become corrupted upon discovering the power of their platform.

4 Sawrs September 23, 2014 at 8:59 am

Again, Michael Nugent. In your last post, you quoted an “atheist woman” who decried close readings. Are you now, by your actions if not your words, distancing yourself from this condemnation of reading things and then responding to them? Do we have your permission (Sam Harris’s permission, Richard Dawkins’s permission) to quote people, even if (heaven forefend!) if the quotes have been taken from the interwebs?!!?!

If the answer is no: I can’t see what you’re doing here. You’re quoting people. You’re parsing their words. You’re extracting meaning. You are making objections, you are making recommendations. Why do you object to other people doing the same? Is it because their critiques are of your friends?

5 Jonathan September 23, 2014 at 9:35 am

Sawrs:

“You’re quoting people. You’re parsing their words. You’re extracting meaning. You are making objections, you are making recommendations. Why do you object to other people doing the same? Is it because their critiques are of your friends?”

There is a difference between objecting to the conclusions they draw and objecting to their right to draw conclusions.

6 tina September 23, 2014 at 10:23 am

Feminism, (a significant issue in these rifts), is like soup: 57 varieties all fighting to be flavour of the month. Where the membership criteria for who is or isn’t a member of whatever ‘ist’ under discussion remains opaque, vague, unclear or whatever, you will get factions claiming ownership rights to that title and others denying them, thus enabling the No True Feminist fallacy to perpetuate itself forever.

7 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 23, 2014 at 10:30 am

@ Jan Steen # 2 {snicker}

Adam Lee … in an obscure corner of the internet

Ja, ou, …er, Jan.

I see you did not take up my suggestion to check the rankings of theguardian.com on Alexa.

Oh well. I tried. Stay ignorant if you feel it suits you.

8 Jonathan September 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

Theophontes:

“I see you did not take up my suggestion to check the rankings of theguardian.com on Alexa.

Oh well. I tried. Stay ignorant if you feel it suits you.”

I suspect you well know that Jan was probably talking generally, and not just about Adam Lee.

Oh well. Stay passive-aggressive if you feel it suits you.

9 Phil Giordana FCD September 23, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hex 593001, RGB 89,48,1 also known as “poop brown” would suit them better.

10 Jan Steen September 23, 2014 at 11:34 am

Yeah, Mr. Lee had his fifteen minutes of fame on the CIF section of the Guardian, which is open to all sorts of cranks. His insidious hit piece has already been sufficiently skewered here and elsewhere. What else is there to discuss? Now may he sink into well deserved oblivion again.

As to PZ being such a nice person “in real life”, consider that he had this admonition in his commenting policy until recently:

This is a rude blog. We like to argue — heck, we like a loud angry brawl. Don’t waste time whining at anyone that they’re not nice, because this gang will take pride in that and rhetorically hand you a rotting porcupine and tell you to stuff it up your nether orifice. If you intrude here and violate any of the previous three mores, people won’t like you, and they won’t hold back—they’ll tell you so, probably in colorful terms.

Quite the internet tough guy, our PZ Myers is.

11 John welch September 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I think Tina has the right of it. There is no feminism in the sense of a single definition that everyone agrees on. There is instead a collection of , in many cases, vaguely related beliefs that call themselves “feminism” including those explicitly antithetical to equality.

Yet when this simple, obvious reality is pointed out, then you get the massive “no true Scotsman”. As if now, there’s single definition and anyone differing from it is not a “real” feminist”.

If we cannot even accept this reality, regardless of “side”, then there’s zero chance of improvement. You can’t fix a problem you refuse to understand.

12 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Sorearse:

Again, Michael Nugent. In your last post, you quoted an “atheist woman” who decried close readings.

Why the scare quotes around ‘atheist woman’? Are you actually questioning whether Grania Spingies, co-founder of Atheist Ireland, is an atheist? You couldn’t even be arsed naming her.

Anyway, read what Michael Nugent actually wrote instead of what you need him to have written for your comment to make sense:

Grania Spingies, co-founder of Atheist Ireland, is one of the many atheist women around the world whose views are not reflected in Adam’s article. Grania wrote about this argument: “I am disgusted by the behavior of those who claim to be promoting feminism by feverishly poring over sentence fragments to see if they can be parsed into meaning something that fits their narrative of suspicion. How any of them think they are actually improving anything for women by trying to convert the arena of ideas and debate into a safe room for infants is beyond me.”

That’s not ‘decrying close reading’ you illiterate fuckwit, that’s decrying the deliberate misreading of what is being said.

In a single paragraph you managed to negate her name, question he atheism with scare quotes and completely misrepresent what she said; how’s that for misogyny?

Are you now, by your actions if not your words, distancing yourself from this condemnation of reading things and then responding to them? Do we have your permission (Sam Harris’s permission, Richard Dawkins’s permission) to quote people, even if (heaven forefend!) if the quotes have been taken from the interwebs?!!?!

If the answer is no: I can’t see what you’re doing here. You’re quoting people. You’re parsing their words. You’re extracting meaning. You are making objections, you are making recommendations. Why do you object to other people doing the same? Is it because their critiques are of your friends?

13 Patrick September 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm

“Before I start, I want to say that I have admired Adam’s writing for many years, although I disagree with him strongly on this issue.”

You’re never going to fit in with the FTBullies if you keep being that generous with your interlocutors.

This has been a magnificent series of posts that are very much to your credit, Mr. Nugent. I hope, though, that you soon decide to return to your work with Atheist Ireland and leave Lee and the SJWs to their well earned and rapidly increasing irrelevance.

14 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Ignore the last two paragraphs; as you can probably tell from their vacuousness they were quotes from Sorearse.

15 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Lee:

Even leaving aside the moral implications of a man talking down to feminists in this way, do you think this is a strategy that’s likely to meet with any success at all?

Has Lee mansplained this to Grania yet? It’s honestly like they filter out the voices of every woman who doesn’t fit their definition of ‘feminist’

16 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 4:43 pm

That’s not ‘decrying close reading’ you illiterate fuckwit, that’s decrying the deliberate misreading of what is being said.

Michael, considering you just pointed out numerous times in this very article how “fuckwit” is not appropriate use of language for PZ Myers and his commenter, can you please say something about your commenters?

17 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Michael, considering you just pointed out numerous times in this very article how “fuckwit” is not appropriate use of language for PZ Myers and his commenter, can you please say something about your commenters?

There’s a difference between swearing and the sexually violent language Myers actively promoted on his site.

Maybe you’d like me to stick a porcupine up my arse while I’m at it.

There’s a lot of petty stuff been posted by Sawrs and A Hermit over the last few days but your comment is by far the most pathetic.

18 tina September 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm

QFT: (Grania Spingies Co-founder of Atheist Ireland)

“I am disgusted by the behavior of those who claim to be promoting feminism by feverishly poring over sentence fragments to see if they can be parsed into meaning something that fits their narrative of suspicion. How any of them think they are actually improving anything for women by trying to convert the arena of ideas and debate into a safe room for infants is beyond me.”

…and, of course, their narratives of threat, harassment, victimhood, rape, oppression bla bla bla. But these are precisely the tools of the SJW mindset and the naming & shaming strategies of identity politics.

Sawrs @4 knows very well that close analysis of language is a crucial component of a sound argument. Pretending not to for the sake of getting in a cheap shot at Michael is beyond pathetic.

Why do these people not bother to think before writing this crap? Go back to Pharngula and get better spoons and some pouncehugs.

19 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Kaoru Negisa

You know, if you are going to be a hypocrite best to disable the link to your blog . Took me 20 seconds to find this:

Words mean things. If I called Higgins a “heartless cunt,” that would mean something. Claiming that that isn’t a gender-based insult designed to imply not only that she was bad, but that she was bad because of a comparison to women who are inherently bad, would be obtuse at best, dishonest at worst. Which is why I prefer to call her a “heartless fuckwit.

http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com/?s=Fuckwit&submit=Search

Also, from a fairly typical post:

You read that right. Some asshole and his equally assholish son decided that the best way to fire a shot in some “feud” was to mock a 10 year old with Cerebral Palsy.

Also, South Carolina, whatthefuck? A “feud”? Seriously? It’s 20-fucking-12. Grow up, put away the Dixie flag, and join us in the civilized world where we settle our problems in ways that don’t involve adults making fun of disabled kids. (Fairness to SC, there are people like this everywhere, just got hung up on the word “feud”).

20 tina September 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Oh….I quite like this one from Kaoru…

….(there are no witches trying to cast black magic on you, assholes! If even one of those kids had magic, they would have fucked you up for imprisoning them by now! But they don’t, because black magic doesn’t fucking exist, you child abusing, superstitious fucksticks!).

I don’t know…fuckwit…fuckstick….fuckwad?

It’s a mystery.

21 sinister September 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I have found that these people’s downfall is going to be the very Internet they rally on. Consistant hypocrisy and the world once on the internet always on the internet rule is their kryptonite. Forgetting this problem time and again they attack people for doing the same things they do. It’s funny , but also sickening. They think they are moral arbiters but they have none of their own. They prey on existing organizations because it’s easier to take someone’s hard work than to do their own, and I’m fed up with it.

Just stop, go make your utopia in your own community, we don’t want your social justice “values” here.

22 JetLagg September 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Beautiful series of posts here. I’m glad to see this conversation is happening.

23 Shatterface September 23, 2014 at 7:01 pm

It’s a mystery.

It’s okay when they do it.

24 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I didn’t claim that those words are a problem. I’m perfectly fine with you or anyone else using those sorts of words to make a point. Mr. Nugent is not. If he wants to carve out exceptions, that’s up to him, but so long as he’s claiming that “fuckwit” is over the line, and citing commenters on a blog as part of the problem, then he needs to be consistent in the application of that.

He attempts this sort of carve out here by saying that some uses of it are worse than others, but in no way defines by what measure it is “worse.” When Mr. Nugent claims that the comment section on Pharyngula is full of people saying nasty things and using intemperate language, as well as asking if Adam Lee would have quoted Myers knowing that he used that very insult, implying that he should not have, then he should also enforce that same level of decorum here.

25 noelplum99 September 23, 2014 at 7:58 pm

I just want to give my admiration to the way Michael Nugent is handling this issue.

It actually sounds like an adult talking for once, amongst a chorus of noisy, petty, belligerant teenagers. I include myself in that chorus more often than I find comfortable to admit.

Quite how Michael has managed to remain so measured and reasonable I am not quite so sure. I am just pleased he has. However, whether this reasonableness, or indeed any conceivable approach, will lead to anything approaching a resolution I have my doubts. There is so much water under so many bridges; so much genuine palpable dislike; so many things that would need to be overlooked on both sides. The can has not just been opened, the worms have set up camp I’m afraid.

We’ll see. Anyway, a great and considered response Michael

26 piero September 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

@Kaoru:

I agree with you that we should keep some level of decorum out of respect for the blog host. However, you must also admit that even the most intemperate comments on this thread pale in comparison to “die in a fire” and “shove a rotten porcupine…” As with everything else, there are degrees of profanity ranging from mostly harmless to totally unacceptable.

27 HJ Hornbeck September 23, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Some people on one perceived side have criticised some women using derogatory terms associated with feminism or body parts. Some people on the other perceived side have criticised some women using derogatory terms such as gender traitor and chill girls.

Damn straight, one side clearly uses “gender traitor” and “sister punisher” far more often.

“chill girl” site:freethoughtblogs.com: ~374
“chill girl” site:slymepit.com: ~33,000
“sister punisher” site:freethoughtblogs.com: ~46
“sister punisher” site:slymepit.com: ~14,000

I hope Nugent is willing to join me in condemning the SlymePit for using such foul language.

28 Edward Gemmer September 23, 2014 at 9:00 pm

We’ll see. Anyway, a great and considered response Michael

I agree. It is nice to see some stuff that isn’t filled with sarcasm and attempts to belittle others.

29 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 9:34 pm

@piero:

There are certainly degrees of words, yes. However, I also think there are priorities at play.

For example, I find phrases like the ones you used to be merely dismissive. I find accusations of being “thought police” to be actively branding people as enemies of the ideals that most of us share, especially since it’s a phrase leveled at all of us by creationists and anti-LGBT activists on a regular basis. I would consider the latter to much much worse than the former.

After reading much of this, I am coming around to Michael’s point that we can make our arguments without those sorts of insults and I will endeavor to do so in the future. But we’re also not talking about “die in a fire” or anything to do with mammals.

In this very post, Michael suggests that Adam should reconsider quoting PZ due to his use of the word “fuckwit” in a different context. One of his commenters went on to use that very same word to insult somebody in this thread. What I have received as a response to my pointing this out, yours excluded, is a series of tu quoque arguments when I made no claim that that word should be off limits, as well as digressions into other statements that can be dealt with separately.

I feel that if Mr. Nugent is to be consistent, then Myers’s use of fuckwit should be no more dire than that of anybody else, including the people on his very blog in the post where he decries its use by somebody else. We can talk about those other phrases as well in another context, but right here and now, he has given responsibility to a blog owner for their commenters, pointed out a specific unacceptable word, and has not yet said that it is just as unacceptable for people who support him as those who support Myers.

30 tina September 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm

One issue is the use of ’emotive language’. While it gives text some colour and life, provides emphasis, conveys strength of feeling etc, it has to be stripped out from the content of an argument because it contributes nothing to the actual nuts and bolts of that argument.

I think Michael is pretty good at that. Me, not so much..

I think he has supernatural powers. We should worry.

31 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Also, I think we need to discuss when words may be appropriate. For example, the quoted sections from my blog above, I call people who were abusing thousands of children by locking them in a church basement and starving them for fear that they were possessed by demons “assholes” (among other things). If anything, I think I was being generous in my descriptions of them, and a certain amount of emotional rhetoric is valid. Similarly, when discussing Laurie Higgins, a woman who has done untold harm to LGBT people through her radio show and activism, I did call her names. I think that emotive language is appropriate for people who harm others, especially directly and consistently.

Rhetoric is a complex subject, but our word choice is significant and there are times when a calm and reasoned piece doesn’t have the same impact as one with more bile. Many atheists are more than happy to discuss the people who enforce sharia law as “barbaric,” and I see no difference between that and calling them fuckwits, assholes, etc., except in that it’s probably worse in many respects.

I can, however, see the point that violent dismissive language can be threatening and my perception of the level of threat is no more valid than those who dismiss rape and death threats as not being serious. I have a lot more thinking to do on this, but it has made me consider that while I may see “die in a fire” as a meaningless Internet slang phrase indicating that the speaker is no longer interested in hearing a particular bad argument repeated, for example, some people may consider it actually a threat and it’s important to be cognizant of that.

32 John Greg September 23, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Dr. Hornbeck PhD, BSc, BBS, etc., opines:

“Damn straight, one side clearly uses “gender traitor” and “sister punisher” far more often.

….

I hope Nugent is willing to join me in condemning the SlymePit for using such foul language.”

Except, you amazing flaming something-or-other, Pit folk do not use those terms as pejoratives or directed insults; Pit folk use those terms in satire and in figurative paraphrases.

33 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm

“Except, you amazing flaming something-or-other, Pit folk do not use those terms as pejoratives or directed insults; Pit folk use those terms in satire and in figurative paraphrases.”

Honestly, hardly anybody uses those terms seriously. When people like Benson et. al. use it, it’s often quoting the inaccurate accusation that they use it all the time. There are people who use it regularly, but they are actual radical feminists, a brand of feminism distinct from the far more popular liberal feminists of much of the American atheist movement. Liberal feminists tend to strenuously disagree with the radical feminist movement on most points. For example, the idea that women must reject home life or that trans*women are just men that are trying to invade female spaces. Much of the frustration that comes from our side of the fence, for lack of a better term, is that we are far too often associated with people who hold positions that we argue against with the same fervor as we do against gendered slurs or gender essentialism.

34 piero September 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm

@Kaouru:

I find myself in the embarrassing position of agreeing with you.
Seriously now, I think you are right in most respects. It is not clear to me whether you disapprove of “barbaric” or not.

35 piero September 23, 2014 at 10:13 pm

@Kaouru:

Ooops! I was finding myself in agreement with everything you said in your latest comment, until I hit the “gender essentialism” bit. As far as I know, the possibility of biological causes for gender identity has not been ruled out; therefore, “gender essentialism” is merely an ideological construct used to smear the enemy.

36 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

@piero

We may just be coming to a reasonable conclusion together %)

I’m not sure if I disapprove of barbaric or not, to be honest. On one hand, I do want to be more careful with my language going forward, but if sharia law is not barbaric, I honestly don’t know what that word can possibly mean. Similarly, if people who participate in mass child abuse are not assholes, can that word have any meaning at all?

There ought to be a place for emotive language and insult in discussions since it is a valuable rhetorical technique, but how to know when to be dismissive is not that easy. Can I tell somebody who comes at me with “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” to fuck off when it’s clear they aren’t looking for an education but to score an ideological point? Is “fuck off” significantly different from “You’re wasting my time and I’m not going to engage your obviously bad faith question”? They mean the same thing, but one is shorter and makes me feel better to say.

These are questions I think I will be grappling with for some time, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been engaged with movement atheism for a little while and have focused on talking about comic books on YouTube instead. I feel more comfortable in my close readings than my opinions at the moment.

37 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 10:22 pm

@piero

“Ooops! I was finding myself in agreement with everything you said in your latest comment, until I hit the “gender essentialism” bit. As far as I know, the possibility of biological causes for gender identity has not been ruled out; therefore, “gender essentialism” is merely an ideological construct used to smear the enemy.”

Not in the way that we’re using it. What we mean by that is the idea that gender is fixed, is directly correlated with sex, and confers certain traits that are fundamental to that gender. That is to say, for example, the argument that girls are not good at math. This first assumes that “girls” means “people assigned female at birth,” and liberal feminists tend to reject the idea that there is no such thing as being transgender or that trans*women are not “women”. It also assumes that there is no correlation between messages given to girls that they are not only not good at math, but that it is fundamentally un-girly to be into it and poor math performance. There are shades of gray and certainly a place to see what biological factors are at play, but when liberal feminists talk about “gender essentialism,” we’re talking about the extremes that are far too prevalent, such as the idea held by Christian Patriarchy (their term, not ours) families that women are meant to do housework and produce children, regardless of their interests and aptitudes.

38 tina September 23, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Remember that emotive language is also used to heavily skew reader bias in favour of the authors conclusion. Intent isn’t magic, or something. So what about the language Lee uses in his piece on RD that Michael is taking issue with? It damages RD’s reputation? No? This is OK? What?

39 Sawrs September 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Sawrs @4 knows very well that close analysis of language is a crucial component of a sound argument. Pretending not to for the sake of getting in a cheap shot at Michael is beyond pathetic.

Well, precisely. So I fail to see why Michael Nugent objects to analysis when it’s presented by his opponents:

I wrote: Grania Spingies, co-founder of Atheist Ireland, is one of the many atheist women around the world whose views are not reflected in Adam’s article. Grania wrote about this argument: “I am disgusted by the behavior of those who claim to be promoting feminism by feverishly poring over sentence fragments to see if they can be parsed into meaning something that fits their narrative of suspicion. How any of them think they are actually improving anything for women by trying to convert the arena of ideas and debate into a safe room for infants is beyond me.”

(emboldening my own)

40 Kaoru Negisa September 23, 2014 at 10:58 pm

“Remember that emotive language is also used to heavily skew reader bias in favour of the authors conclusion.”

Well, yes. That’s rhetoric. We all choose words that are designed to slew reader bias in favor of our conclusions. Atheists frequently refer to religion as “superstition,” for example. RD has recently been using the word “ragebloggers” to refer to people who have criticized him. I just used “criticized” instead of “smeared.” Does calling people “Feedingfrenzy Thoughtpolice Bullies” damage their reputation? Is that OK?

I’m starting to realize that part of this is perceptual. Lee does read Dawkins’ comments as “sneering,” for example. Dawkins seems to legitimately believe that criticism from certain quarters are insincere attempts to smear him and reads the comments that way. I don’t read the comments sections, but most of what I see on FtB looks like legitimate criticism to me and is often backed up with citations that appear to me to be ignored.

For example, Michael took issue in the original post with Myers calling Christina Hoff Sommers a liar. I read that post, and Myers spent sometime pointing out how Sommers claimed that liberal feminists both hate men and thought there was no difference between men and women (including citation of her statements to that effect). Both of these are blatantly and obviously untrue statements on Sommers’ part and that seemed pretty clear to me. However, clearly some people have seen that and don’t feel that that merits such a label. Is it wrong, then, to say that she is a liar? Is it different when Adam Lee, who I don’t feel said untrue things in nearly such an extreme manner as Sommers but some people clearly do, is called a liar?

We have a lot of common values, and part of the rhetorical process is explaining things in a way that attracts people to our conclusions. I don’t know if you can entirely excise that from the way that we communicate or if it’s necessarily a good thing to attempt it. I’m starting to see the need for moderation at the very least, but it’s something I’m just getting a handle on.

As a side note, thank you for asking those questions. They are making me have to think about things and I hope my “typing aloud” as it were was somewhat comprehensible.

41 tina September 23, 2014 at 11:13 pm

He is objecting to the analysis of arguments that have been deliberately fragmented for effect.

42 noelplum99 September 24, 2014 at 12:42 am

@Kaoru Negisa

For my part the issue of language has surely to take into account the position of who is using the language. My expectation is that a Dawkins, a Myers, a Benson etc would work to higher standards than the lowest denominator amongst their readers and commenters and the same would be true for Michael Nugent here. To suggest some kind of race to the bottom whereby we only hold atheist commentariat to the worst examples of the responses they allow to stand seems somewhat bizarre.
For my own part, I would expect to be held to a somewhat higher standard than the most prejudiced of the several hundred comments a typical YouTube upload would attract and, on the other hand, I would not regard it as a reasonable suggestion that I should admonish every single commenter whose language or opinion was more obectionable than my own.
So this is part of the issue I have with the FtB “usual suspects”, that it is not the comments of the commenters but the language they themselves use. In just the last week Ophelia Benson has accused Michael Nugent of being creepy and xenophobic; worse Greta Christina called Sam Harris a “sexist patronising asshole”. I wouldn’t have expected either of these individuals to censor (or censure) their commenters for such language but they both seem somewhat at odds with their status that they so freely talk about another senior figure using such language. I certainly would be shocked to hear Dawkins, Nugent, Harris etc calling another senior atheist figure an “asshole” or “creepy” – would you not?

Of course Myers is in another league entirely. His blog is nothing short of a hate site in many ways (in the comments, at least).

@HJ Hornbeck

Good point. I think Michael Nugent’s examples were very poor. In terms of colourful language the SJW side definitely give a better account of themselves, though they play nasty and smearing games of their own. they are just a bit more sophisticated about it. I think a much better word Michael could have chosen is “misogyny” which is thrown around like confetti.
I am told that many of those using it do not actually mean “hatred of women” when they use the word but that does not mean they are ignorant that this is what people take it to mean.
I call it ‘smearing by equivocation by proxy’ (http://noelplum99.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/redefining-misogyny-lesson-in-smearing.html) and it is a very very cynical political piece of trickery.
I will tell you: call me a cunt/prick/dick/twat in preference to a misogynist any day of the week…… that is a word to reserve for only those you truly think hate women.

43 john welch September 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hjornbeck @ 27:

I hope Nugent is willing to join me in condemning the SlymePit for using such foul language.

Given the ‘pit uses them in reference to people on your “side” actually calling people that, (most notably Abbie Smith) then falling all over themselves to justify it as okay when YOU do it, but OH so wrong when anyone else does, yes, there’s a difference.

But since you want to play that gam…exactly when is anyone going to call out Svan and Canuck for the multiple times they not only said Greg Laden was justifed in his threats of physical violence and attempts to trigger Justin Griffith’s PTSD from his combat tours, but also, a year later, held an anniversary posting to lament that no one got that Greg was trying to HELP griffith, and that his threats were a “Patton Slap”.

And that’s the side that spends how much time screaming and protesting even the slightest threat?

Or Francisco Baopa (last name probably spelled wrong) commenting on Ophelia’s blog how he and the other commenters should dox participants in the pit, and then vandalize their homes as a way of scaring them straight? Number of castigations from Ophelia? zero. I guess threats to try to terrorize people are okay and “just a joke” when y’all do it. But someone you don’t like do it and AAAAAH!

Or Laden, (agin) not only stalking Abbie Smith, but contacting her employers, and then lying about how not only was she using her employer’s resources to post comments to her blog, but her employer was “obviously” assisting her in doing so. She still refuses to talk about where she works now in public just to keep your lot from bothering her employers. That was totes okey-dokey. But when people talk about messing with your lot, OMG HARAAAAASMENT.

Or PZ evangelizing putting a merchant out of business for ten minutes of stupidity at skepcon, and then even AFTER the guy apologized, stating the apology wasn’t groveling enough, and if you’re any kind of atheist, you’ll reject it as well, and “fuck him into the ground”. But heaven forfend someone criticize one of your lot, apology or no.

Or PZ and Rebecca Watson *splaining to Stef McGraw how she was *wrong* about what she felt when watson called her out during that session of Watson’s, and how because Watson never raised her voice or used profanity, and instead did her the favor of calling her out “by name”, she should feel honored. But when poor Rebecca was “mansplained” to about Elevatorgate, oh that was just horrible and unacceptable.

or PZ saying that anyone not completely agreeing with his view of feminism is just like Marc Lepine.

And then there’s Oggvorbis, who after admitting to having raped someone was treated like a special snowflake, but OMG SAM HARRIS SAID SOMETHING THAT MIGHT BE MILDLY SEXIST, BURN THE WITCH, BURRRRRRN HIMMMMMM.

Hell, when Michael tried to foster a direct dialogue, and the participants from the ‘pit were being sincere, albeit terminally longwinded about it, Svan said straight up she was in it to torpedo it, she had no intention of trying to start a dialog, and what was the reaction from your side to such a blatant example of intellectual dishonesty?

Cheering. And. Encouragement.

Over.

And.

Over.

Your side is the one demanding that people behave in a specific way, and never use certain words, and in no case, in not a single case, can you point to a year, hell, a month where someone on your side isn’t doing the *exact* thing you say is so very wrong when someone you dislike does it. Even worse, when called out on it, you then resort to the most pathetic tu quoque crap ever to justify your continual ignoring of the rules that everyone else MUST obey else they be labeled sub-human scummmmmmm.

It is literally impossible to have a serious dialog with anyone or any group that will not even play by its OWN rules, much less anyone else’s. It is impossible, literally, to trust that you ever believe anything you say, that you mean anything you say, or that you plan to stand behind what you say. It is like arguing with a child who thinks that if they just lie enough, no matter how badly, somehow, their parents will suffer sufficient brain damage to believe them. Or that they’ll just wear the old farts down.

I do not always agree with Michael, but he has shown, with astounding consistency, that he will hold himself to the standards he asks, (not demands) of others. When proven incorrect, he admits it. Not just in a comment, buried well out of site, but up front.

His behavior shames almost everyone involved in this idiocy, including me, and I wish I could figure out how to be more like him, and less like me.

If you want to start playing by your OWN rules, let me know, and I’ll be happy to talk to you instead of at you. But until your “side” stops with the continual hypocrisy, I don’t see any other option than this spiral of stupidity.

44 John Greg September 24, 2014 at 4:35 am

Hear, hear!

45 Skep tickle September 24, 2014 at 6:33 am

john welch @43: That was very well said. Thank you.

(and: how’ve you been, man?)

46 piero September 24, 2014 at 9:36 am

@John Welch:

His behavior shames almost everyone involved in this idiocy, including me, and I wish I could figure out how to be more like him, and less like me.

Seconded. I also wish I was less angry and more positive, at least in this space where ideas can actually be discussed (rational discussion is, of course, impossible in the mythical realm of porcupines and butterflies).

47 Ariel September 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

John Welch #43

“Or Francisco Baopa (last name probably spelled wrong) commenting on Ophelia’s blog how he and the other commenters should dox participants in the pit, and then vandalize their homes as a way of scaring them straight? Number of castigations from Ophelia? zero.”

What are you referring to? Can you provide a link?

I was intrigued so I did a search, finding two situations.

ONE:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/05/hey-at-least-she-wont-get-any-lashes/

There is indeed someone called Francisco Bacopa there, commenting:

“So where does this cop live? Where does his wife work? Where do his kids go to school? We can make his life a living hell if we want to.”

It was not about the pit though, so maybe you were talking about a different situation? Please explain.

Note also that shortly below this comment, we have Ophelia reacting: “WHAT?!
Francisco, that comment @ 4 is totally unacceptable. If I’d been around when you posted it I would have deleted it.”

Did you have this situation in mind or something else? Please, answer.

TWO:
http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/01/loop-loop-loop-loop/

In Comment 18 the same person says:

“If I were supplied with any address in Southeast Texas of one of your harassers I would gladly paint a butterfly on their driveway to send a message.”

And Ophelia reacts:

“Call for a higher level of harassment? Why on earth would I want to do that? I don’t want ever-escalating harassment; I want an end to harassment.
I don’t have any addresses and if I did I wouldn’t share them (except with law enforcement if necessary).”

Note also that afterwards in the same thread, Francisco Bacopa apologizes.

Which of these situations did you have in mind? Maybe none – since your description doesn’t fit, maybe you were talking still about something else?

Please, next time either don’t write anything at all or provide links, substantiating your claims. Otherwise it’s a mere smearing, and smearing is exactly what Michael wants everybody to avoid.

48 Anton Kozlik September 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Michael, I regularly read your blog and over the past year have dropped my subscriptions for the atheist blogs from the USA. Personally, I believe that “Americanism” is a religion above all others, and nastier. Now, Adam Lee is based in New York City. Please don’t let this American based idiot, or his observations, contaminate your blog. I wonder how many of your readers realize he is from the USA, and if they did, would they pay him any heed. I am in Canada and resent how much US bloggers and writers think they control the universe. Your blog has been a relief from the PZ’s of this world.

49 Blueshift Rhino September 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

As ironic as this may sound, one way to remain happy and positive in the face of the nastiness and idiocy is to give yourself an opportunity to release the negative feelings that the nastiness and idiocy usually evokes. One place to achieve such release is The SlymePit, where these negative feelings are often converted to sarcastic humor and crude gifs. If, in contrast, you remain in so-called “safe places,” where one has to watch every word (i.e., one is “safe” but not free), the negative feelings seem to build and build.

A few folks, such as Michael Nugent, do not seem to need a SlymePit. He appears amazingly immune to the nastiness and idiocy, no matter how much of these are thrown his way. But a bunch of the folks disagreeing with him appear to really be in need some form of release. If you won’t join The ‘Pit and have, for example, a puncture in your favorite inflatable mermaid, then, please, find some other option. Soon.

50 Submariner September 24, 2014 at 1:48 pm

It’s true the “gender traitor” and “sister punisher” phrases have gone out of vogue.

Now it’s, “parroting misogynist thought” and “collaborating in their own oppression”.

Great comment, John @43

51 Rowena September 24, 2014 at 1:58 pm

The other day I was called a ‘disingenous dumbfuck’ by a feminist for saying politely that I didn’t believe Dawkins was either a rape apologist or a misogynist.

52 Ariel September 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I tried to send this comment a couple of hours ago but somehow it didn’t go through. This is my second attempt.

John Welch #43

“Or Francisco Baopa (last name probably spelled wrong) commenting on Ophelia’s blog how he and the other commenters should dox participants in the pit, and then vandalize their homes as a way of scaring them straight? Number of castigations from Ophelia? zero.”

What are you referring to? Can you provide a link?

I was intrigued so I did a search, finding two situations.

ONE:
“_http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/05/hey-at-least-she-wont-get-any-lashes/”

There is indeed someone called Francisco Bacopa there, commenting:

“So where does this cop live? Where does his wife work? Where do his kids go to school? We can make his life a living hell if we want to.”

It was not about the pit though, so maybe you were talking about a different situation? Please explain.

Note also that shortly below this comment, we have Ophelia reacting:

“WHAT?!
Francisco, that comment @ 4 is totally unacceptable. If I’d been around when you posted it I would have deleted it.”

Did you have this situation in mind or something else? Please, answer.

TWO:
“_http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/01/loop-loop-loop-loop/”

In Comment 18 the same person says:

“If I were supplied with any address in Southeast Texas of one of your harassers I would gladly paint a butterfly on their driveway to send a message.”

And Ophelia reacts:

“Call for a higher level of harassment? Why on earth would I want to do that? I don’t want ever-escalating harassment; I want an end to harassment.
I don’t have any addresses and if I did I wouldn’t share them (except with law enforcement if necessary).”

Note also that afterwards in the same thread, Francisco Bacopa apologizes.

Which of these situations did you have in mind? Maybe none – since your description doesn’t fit, maybe you were talking still about something else?

Please, next time either don’t write anything at all or provide links, substantiating your claims. Otherwise it’s a mere smearing, and smearing is exactly what Michael wants everybody to avoid.

53 john welch September 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Ariel please. Your lot accuses anyone even vaguely associated with the pit of any and every bad action you choose, with nary a hint of proof. The last one I saw was that Abbie was somehow hosting and running the pit, even though this is patently not true.

note: nary a shred of proof proof was provided.

But again Ariel, we see the pattern. You demand behavior from the people you disapprove of that you do not hold yourself to.

You demand standards from those you disagree with that you refuse to meet.

Until your side is, as a whole, going to meet the standards you demand from others, stop asking *anyone else* to meet them. I have better things to do than play games at your behest when I’m the only one obeying the rules.

Until your lot behaves in the way you demand everyone else does, you’ve got a better chance of spontaneously turning into a yeti than “demanding” I do a damned thing.

54 john welch September 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Also, I love that Ariel ignored every item but one in a rather long list. Almost as if she’s trying to distract from a long, well-known pattern of behavior to make years of silliness about a single point.

Funny how that distraction works, and how easily it fails.

55 Ariel September 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm

John Welch:

“Until your side is, as a whole, going to meet the standards you demand from others, stop asking *anyone else* to meet them.”

I was talking to John Welch, not to any “side”. I thought also – very naively – that John Welch will have a conversation with Ariel, not with a “side”.

Evidently, I was wrong. Thank you for the exchange. It was nice meeting you.

(Just for the record: I’m not completely sure which “side” I represent. I noticed that my interlocutors – wherever they come from – have a tendency to place me on the opposite side than theirs. It’s probably my fault.)

56 john welch September 24, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Ariel,

if you want to have a discussion, that’s great. However, what you did wasn’t an opening to a discussion. You accused me of lying, and demanded I prove otherwise.

That’s not a discussion, that’s an accusation followed by a demand.

If you want to have a discussion, try not leading with accusations of lying and demands for proof of otherwise. It makes the other person more receptive.

57 Deepak Shetty September 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Adam Lee’s legitimate anger about harassment is unfairly misdirected at Richard Dawkins and the atheist movement
Again you dont state out your position clearly enough.

a) Did Dawkins in the form of his tweets , attempt to defend Shermer?
If so , why?
b) In light of everything that we now know (one more witness who testifies to Alison being drunk enough such that she s unable to stand) v/s Shermers statement that she was sober and they had consensual sex also official complaints made to Randi for which no action was taken
Do you think Dawkins needs to say anything now? has he done so? if not, why not?
If he had stayed out of it altogether , its one thing – he decided to support Shermer so why is the anger misdirected?

58 Deepak Shetty September 24, 2014 at 3:57 pm

@Shatterface
You know, if you are going to be a hypocrite best to disable the link to your blog .
Surely you missed the point of the comment – It’s not addressed to you (if Kaoru asked you to stop using the word then it would be hypocrisy)
however the question was to Michael – if he’s going to denounce Ophelia’s use of the term , surely he should denounce you too – especially usage on his own blog, towards commenters , in posts pleading for civility?

59 Deepak Shetty September 24, 2014 at 4:00 pm

@Submariner
“collaborating in their own oppression”.
what exactly is wrong with this? We say this all the time for e.g. middle and lower income folk who vote Republican.
How exactly do you criticize people or views if you are going to find everything offensive?

60 piero September 24, 2014 at 4:39 pm

@Deepak:

Do you think Dawkins needs to say anything now? has he done so? if not, why not?

No, because he tweeted when the evidence against Shermer was just a statement from the alleged victim. If new evidence is provided, that won’t change the fact that rape was assumed to have happened without compelling evidence. Reaching a conclusion without evidence is irrational, independently of the truth of the conclusion.

61 piero September 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm

@Deepak:

We say this all the time for e.g. middle and lower income folk who vote Republican.

First, you must prove that middle and lower income folk who vote Republican are acting against their interest. It is not enough for the Democrats to say they are on their side. The present situation in the US has come about after a long series of Republican and Democratic governments alternating in power, so the lower income demographic has been reduced to poverty by both.

Second, it is one thing to declare that some people act against their interest, and a very different one to regard them as enemies because of that. It shows that you don’t really care for the underprivileged: you care for the underprivileged who support you.

62 Sedan Taboos September 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm

“I love that Ariel ignored every item but one in a rather long list.”

I think if your very first example is so patently wrong and misrepresented then it kind of invalidates your whole argument.

I have no idea whether your claims, in general, are true, but you are not giving any credibility to your “side” by your posts here. Perhaps Ariel (and her “side”) baited you into looking foolish, hypocritical and defensive, but if so, it sure worked.

63 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 24, 2014 at 4:57 pm

@ tina #6

57 varieties

Wow, 57? That is fifty more than what I can name:


• Abnegation
• Amity
• Candor
• Dauntless
• Erudite
• Divergent
• Factionless

@ Jonathan #8

I suspect you well know that Jan was probably talking generally, and not just about Adam Lee.

He specifically included Adam Lee.

passive-aggressive

Ignorance is regarded as a virtue amongst reactionaries. He may well turn into a yeti if I start “demanding” change.

@ Jan Steen #9

Quite the internet tough guy, our PZ Myers is.

You make your case. We can now all agree: PZ Myers is a Poopyhead!!!

And you can tell him I said so.

@ John Greg #32

Pit folk do not use those terms as pejoratives or directed insults; Pit folk use those terms in satire and in figurative paraphrases.

“cunt” site:slymepit.com 307,000
vs
“cunt” site:freethoughtblogs.com 4,610

(Refer also to the results that turn up to understand how differently the words are used in discussions.)

@ noelplum99 #42

I am told that many of those using it do not actually mean “hatred of women” when they use the word but that does not mean they are ignorant that this is what people take it to mean.

This is called No True Misogynist ™ . What such a person does is cherry pick through the kid’s section of their local library until they find a dictionary with a definition that limits itself to something as simplistic as “hatred of women”. The more obvious place too look, of course, is something like the Oxford Dictionary. But then they would have to consider that the accusations of misogyny apply to themselves.

@ Blueshift Rhino #49

give yourself an opportunity to release the negative feelings that the nastiness and idiocy usually evokes. One place to achieve such release is The SlymePit

The specific term you are looking for is “hoggling”.

64 piero September 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm

@john welch:

I did a search on Ophelia Benson’s blog, and what Ariel quotes is accurate. Furthermore, following Bacopa’s apology, Ophelia commented:

Thanks, Francisco. Perhaps you’ve seen that your comment has been made into a new meme to beat me over the head with? They claim that I encourage it, which is odd, given that I disagreed with it. Odd, but typical.

Let’s not be typical, shall we?

65 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm

@ piero #63

Kudos for checking.

If you have time, try the search I referred to in my comment to John Greg in my #62 above. And read a few comments from either side of the fence to get a notion of how one-sided the problem really is.

(You can do the same comparative search for any number of crass sexist slurs. The exercise will quickly put matters in their true perspective for you.)

66 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 24, 2014 at 5:31 pm

If anyone is unfamiliar with doing such searches on google, then Let Me Google That For You:

LMGTFY (slymepit)

vs

LMGTFY (freethoughtblogs)

67 John Greg September 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm

theophonetics, you continue to amaze/enervate.

Pointless yabber that is, well, really rather pointless.

I guess that’s what you call “fisking” these days: endless reams of resonstituted, disconnected, wandering, and rhetorically empty jibberjabber aiming to prove, what? That you suffer from the same fundamental intellectual weakness that the SJL in general suffer from? That’s OK, wee one. We already know that. Reading? Comprehension? Logic? Veracity? Sense? Nah, not in SJLville.

Say something substantive for once, and at least try, try, try to present a cogent, clear, concise, and meaningful point.

Hmm?

68 John Greg September 24, 2014 at 7:20 pm

theopointlessness, in case you do not get it, and I posit that you do not: It is not the use of a word that is evilmeanwickednasty; it is the context and the intent.

And even then, I do tend to be on the side of the angels who tend to believe that no words actually hold chthonic, Shaitanic, and frumpy evil embedded in their very existence; their very font; their very consonants!

Ah, that must be it: consonants of evil, all open vowels exempt.

69 john welch September 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Piero @64:

Oh good, she finally did that then. It wasn’t even close to immediate, and after seeing the original comment, I stopped reading her site entirely. Which is an occasional pain, in that when I stop reading a site, I actually, you know stop.

But I’m quite pleased to be wrong about that one.

Sometimes, being wrong is kind of awesome.

70 JetLagg September 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

@theophantes:

I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make with those google searches. That other English speaking countries besides America have different ideas about what words are offensive?

71 piero September 24, 2014 at 7:49 pm

@theophontes:

Actually my search for “cunt” obtained 310,000 hits on slymepit.com and 2,140 on freethoughtblogs.com

I browsed some of the hits and it appears that the word is indeed used as an insult by the slymepitters, or at least by some of them. I didn’t know that site existed before commenting here on Michael’s blog; I’ll have to obtain more information before I can form an opinion, but so far it doesn’t look like a place I’d like to hang around.

72 piero September 24, 2014 at 8:02 pm

@john welch:

Well, Bacopa posted on January, 22nd; Ophelia’s reply came on the 23rd; Bacopa’s apology on the 25th, and Ophelia’s fianl comment on the 26th. I don’t know whether these are the usual timelags in her blog.

However, I realised that Bacopa’s apology wasn’t in fact an apology. He said:

I just wanted to make an apology here. I suggested that I should be supplied with addresses of anyone harassing Ophelia anywhere between Austin and Lake Charles and that I should graffiti tag their property. At this time that is an inappropriate response.

(My emphasis)

I presume Ophelia did not pay enough attention to the exact wording. I don’t believe she condones vigilantism. However, it strikes me as odd that Bacopa, given his frequent calls for direct action, sometimes even unlawful direct action, was not banned at the time, and appears not to have been banned since.

73 noelplum99 September 24, 2014 at 9:16 pm

@Theophontes

You confuse me.

On the one hand you plead that “misogyny” has other definitions, and it is true, as I admitted in the linked blog piece, that the definition has expanded to mean other things. However, those new definitions are still conflated with hatred (or severe dislike – is that any better?)
of women.

Then you start lecturing others on the word “cunt”. The OED offers tou several definitions for this word also. You have to realise that the usage of the word “cunt” is not referencing femal genitalia when used as an insult, it is referencing negative characteristics portrayed by intentional agents. Genitalia do not have such agency.
So, by your own measure, you can stop fretting about its usage, the only issues of conflation/equivocation you have already dismissed wrt “misogyny”. As long as those of us who are using the word are not referencing female genitalia, or tangible characteristics of such genitalia then you have answered your own argument.

74 Shermertron September 24, 2014 at 9:53 pm

It sounds like theophontes believes in magic spells; that the use of a word alone can have infinite power. I mean, I got over that when I was three, but everyone matures at a different level.

But seriously, what a silly and fallacious argument: “The Slymepit must be bad because they use a NAUGHTY WORD! Moooooooooooooooooooom! The Slymepit used a naughty word! You are soooo gonna be in trouble.”

75 Karmakin September 24, 2014 at 11:24 pm

@noelplum99 “On the one hand you plead that “misogyny” has other definitions, and it is true, as I admitted in the linked blog piece, that the definition has expanded to mean other things. However, those new definitions are still conflated with hatred (or severe dislike – is that any better?) of women.”

Personally, I like the definition of “encouraging or aiding in the oppression of women”. Clear enough, let’s people know what you mean.

That said, by that definition, there are many of us who believe that many of the people who sling around the label of “misogynist” are themselves guilty of more than a little bit of misogyny. Things such as the victim narrative, presenting women as having little to no agency, setting up expectations of moral and ethical superiority, all these things contribute IMO (and in other’s opinion) to the oppression of women.

I’ll keep on hammering on this point. This isn’t a battle between one group who believe in equality for women and another group that doesn’t. This is between people who believe in equality for women and another group who thinks that their so incompetent in this regard that they’re doing more harm than good.

76 noelplum99 September 25, 2014 at 1:12 am

@Karmakin

That is a lovely definition* but you know, as I know, that the vast majority of the public would not define the word so. Therefore, when applied to people, regardless of what you want it to mean, it labels them as something else. This is what I mean by ‘conflated with hatred’, as it is what I meant by smearing via equivocation by proxy in my earlier comment.

*other than, for many of those who use the term, the oppression of women is so ubiquitous that to avoid guilt, by their standards, would be like walking to the shops without squashing an ant. Anyway, in reality it seems to be just used as a synonym for sexism.

Paras 3 and 4 are very insightful btw and I concur.

77 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 25, 2014 at 5:57 am

@ piero #60

Reaching a conclusion without evidence is irrational,…

But this is not the argument that Dawkins used. The accusation of predatory rape against Shermer could indeed have been rebutted in such a manner. (At least prior to all the later evidence.) But this is not what he chose to do. Instead he belittled Shermer’s alleged victim by comparing her to someone in a DUI incident. He tried to lessen the crime itself by transfering responsibilty to the victim.

#71

2,140 on freethoughtblogs.com

That is strange. I got roughly double that. I ran the search in Hong Kong. I wonder if the servers are not quite in sync?

[slymepit] so far it doesn’t look like a place I’d like to hang around.

I agree with you on that. But it appears that this place might become their new colony. I’m just waiting for the gendered slurs to start being used here. The slymepit may well be coming to you.

@ John Greg #67

TL;DR: …word salad…

#68

It is not the use of a word that is evilmeanwickednasty; it is the context and the intent.

I have indicated that RD’s brainfarts need to be read in context. Your side of Teh Great Rift ™ has a problem with this.

How on earth do I fathom what your actual intent is? You may be drunk, you may be playing the fool, you may have been deprived of a proper education, you may be trying to prove to me you are a clown..? Why you blather on like you do is beyond me.

@ JetLagg #70

That other English speaking countries besides America have different ideas about what words are offensive?

Like “nigger” is still acceptable in England? Or “wigger”?

You say these words do not offend outside of the USA? Prove this to me by using gendered slurs, on this site, in the manner you claim to be appropriate.

@ noelplum99 #73

You have to realise that the usage of the word “cunt” is not referencing femal genitalia when used as an insult, it is referencing negative characteristics portrayed by intentional agents. Genitalia do not have such agency.

Well, if you are right, I’ll have to agree with you. I cannot stand in your way and suggest you sell this idea to the person in charge of this blog.

Or, better yet (if you truly have the courage of your convictions) just start using such slurs here and explain your logic after the fact (if it is even noticed by the moderators).

@ Shermertron #74

I mean, I got over that when I was three, but everyone matures at a different level.

I’m calling bullpucky.

I don’t think such sexist slurs have “infinite power”, I do think that your consistent use of them here will get you banned.

Why not take up my challenge above?

78 noelplum99 September 25, 2014 at 8:38 am

@Theophontes,
Why would I do that? It is not as if I am calling anyone a misogynist here either. Michael is clearly hosting an environment where he wishes people to converse without such slurs (all of them) and I am more than happy to go along with that.

79 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 25, 2014 at 10:33 am

@ noelplum99 # 78

Why would I do that?

Who could possibly take offence, by your reasoning?
(On the other hand, I suspect that Michael’s reasoning is closely alligned to my own. Surely, if you spend time here, and respect his reasoning, you may ponder why this is so.)

It is not as if I am calling anyone a misogynist here either.

Which term is certainly not a slur. I cannot imagine he could fault anyone using this term here. If a commenter was to make a misogynistic remark, surely it would be appropriate to label that as misogynistic.

Questions if I may:
If someone made a racist remark, would you not say the remark is racist?
If the term misogynist only applies to people who hate women, then to whom does it apply? Would the term apply, for example, to the fighters in DAESH (aka ISIS/ISIL), who routinely rape women and sell them off,or gift them, as so much chattel? Less extreme people? People who systematically discriminate against woman (assume we can magically work out their intent.)?

What type of comment here, or elsewhere, would you be prepared to describe as misogynist? (Hypothetically, given that you would not go as far as actually typing the word.)

80 Guestus Aurelius September 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm

@theo:

If someone made a racist remark, would you not say the remark is racist?
If the term misogynist only applies to people who hate women, then to whom does it apply? Would the term apply, for example, to the fighters in DAESH (aka ISIS/ISIL), who routinely rape women and sell them off,or gift them, as so much chattel? Less extreme people? People who systematically discriminate against woman (assume we can magically work out their intent.)?

What type of comment here, or elsewhere, would you be prepared to describe as misogynist? (Hypothetically, given that you would not go as far as actually typing the word.)

These are actually pretty good questions.

If I may be so bold to speak for noelplum99, what he and I (http://www.michaelnugent.com/2014/09/17/recent-media-misrepresentations-of-the-atheist-movement-and-the-role-of-pz-myers-in-the-culture-of-demonising-people/#comment-1007147) and others object to is the knowingly misleading use of the word “misogynist.”

If a word is used one way in common parlance, that doesn’t mean that academics or activists can’t use the word in another way among themselves. Have at it.

But when said academics or activists use that word out in the wild, basic decency and intellectual honesty should compel them to use the word as it’s generally understood—not as it’s used in their specialized circle. This is particularly true when, on the one hand, the general public takes the word to mean something extremely bad, and on the other hand, the academics or activists use the word among themselves to mean various things ranging from the extremely bad to the only slightly bad or even to what Jane Q. would regard as the innocuous.

Of course, it’s not just “misogyny.”

For instance, some activists use the word “racism” as a synonym for what sociologists call “systemic racism” or “institutional racism,” and some also include unconscious racial bias within their definition. Completely ignorant of these usages, the vast majority of people take “racism” to mean something that happens on the conscious personal level. Many of them could understand institutional racism and unconscious bias if someone explained those things to them. Productive dialogue could ensue. But if someone thinks they’re being called an outright bigot, they might understandably respond by escalating or walking away.

The vacillation between the different usages of words like “misogyny” and “racism” seems often to be an intentional rhetorical strategy. When it’s indeed intentional, it’s textbook intellectual dishonesty.

81 Tigzy September 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Really? We’re bringing up the ‘cunt is a gendered slur’ thing again, are we?

You know, ‘cunt’ can only be a gendered slur against women if:

A: having a cunt is intrinsic to being a woman.
B: not having a cunt is intrinsic to being a man.

Tread carefully, now.

82 John Greg September 25, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Tigzy said:

“You know, ‘cunt’ can only be a gendered slur against women if:

A: having a cunt is intrinsic to being a woman.
B: not having a cunt is intrinsic to being a man.

Tread carefully, now.”

HAHAHA. I see what you dood there.

Calling all Hornbecks; calling all Hornbecks!

83 john welch September 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Piero@72

Color me unsurprised on all accounts. It would have been nice had Francisco actually apologized and realized what he’d advocated was fucked up. But, they’re just “others” so who cares about them.

Also even less surprised that Ophelia didn’t ban him the way she’s so fast to ban people who actually disagree with her. Because again…

“It’s okay when WE do it.”

I keep referring to them as akin to Scientology and that group’s old “Fair Game” schtick for a reason.

84 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 25, 2014 at 5:04 pm

When you call someone a misogynist, you know damn well that they’ll almost certainly interpret it as an accusation that they hate women.

No I do not assume such ignorance, from my interlocuters, as to what such words mean. Why should I do that? I would assume (if I were to assume anything) that any person holding forth in a discussion of feminism would at least have a reasonable understanding of the word.

Let me give you an analogy: Imagine someone attending a veterinary convention and insisting that everyone stick to Merriam-Webster definition of (say) “cat” during proceedings. (Go for it. Llook “cat” up in the good ol’ Merriam-Webster. Personally, I feel stupider after having done so.)

That’s the common definition of the word.

Yeah. They can’t even define a cooking fat cat! Try looking into the Oxford Dictionary. Or better still, Wikipedia. Or better still, Google Scholar. Or just adopt a cat and care for it.

You say more about yourself, by way of your argument, than you probably intend to.

academics or activists

There is nothing specialised about using proper terminology in a conversation. If you cannot understand the terms in use, you have only yourself to blame. Rather than using your computer to flaunt your ignorance, use it to understand the words and terms being used … prior to using them yourself.

Completely ignorant of these usages, the vast majority of people take “racism” to mean something that happens on the conscious personal level.

You argue from ignorance the one minute and then discuss “institutional racism” the next. Which is it to be? Hither and thither, you seem to miss the target each time. If someone uses the term “wigger” to insult an Irish person, then they are indulging in racism. That much is easy enough to understand. Try asking people other than noelplum99 sometimes.

85 Guestus Aurelius September 25, 2014 at 5:21 pm

theo wrote this:

No I do not assume such ignorance, from my interlocuters, as to what such words mean. Why should I do that? I would assume (if I were to assume anything) that any person holding forth in a discussion of feminism would at least have a reasonable understanding of the word.

Let me give you an analogy: Imagine someone attending a veterinary convention and insisting that everyone stick to Merriam-Webster definition of (say) “cat” during proceedings. (Go for it. Llook “cat” up in the good ol’ Merriam-Webster. Personally, I feel stupider after having done so.)

But in my comment above, I wrote this:

If a word is used one way in common parlance, that doesn’t mean that academics or activists can’t use the word in another way among themselves. Have at it.

But when said academics or activists use that word out in the wild, basic decency and intellectual honesty should compel them to use the word as it’s generally understood—not as it’s used in their specialized circle.

In theo’s hypothetical, someone enters a discussion with people already conversing using the specialized sense of the word. In my hypothetical, the opposite has occurred.

Do you acknowledge this difference, theo?

86 Guestus Aurelius September 25, 2014 at 5:36 pm

There are two issues I’m trying to get at:

1) For the sake of clarity, anyone using specialized terminology in a conversation with non-specialists should carefully explain that terminology before using it. This is simply about knowing one’s audience and communicating effectively.

2) When the semantic gap between a term’s common and specialized usages is wielded as a rhetorical weapon, something nefarious is afoot.

87 Guestus Aurelius September 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm

By the way: for similar reasons, I object when, in response to “Evolution’s just a theory,” science-minded people say, “So is gravity!”

Science-minded people understand the difference between how “theory” is used in science and how it’s used in common parlance. Presumably the “Evolution’s just a theory” people don’t understand this difference. This should present the science-minded people with an excellent opportunity to educate.

But the science-minded people also know (or should know) that there’s a difference between scientific theories and the phenomena that scientific theories explain. In the case of gravity, the phenomenon of “what goes up must come down” is plain for everyone to see, while the scientific theories that explain it (Newton or Einstein—take your pick) aren’t obvious at all. In the case of evolution, however, it’s not just the theory that’s counterintuitive. Even the phenomena that the theory of evolution explains are largely invisible to non-specialists. Unless you work with microbes, you probably never “see” natural selection happen. The rest of us just have to trust the scientists (or not).

That’s why I object to the snappy “So is gravity” comeback. Its rhetorical impact relies sneakily on a comparison between something obvious (the ubiquitous phenomenon of “what goes up must come down”) with something that’s not obvious at all (the theory of evolution, or even just the phenomena that the theory explains—again, take your pick).

I bring this up to show you that I’m discussing this topic in good faith, theo. I try to be an equal-opportunity nuisance when it comes to calling out dishonest word games.

88 Vaal September 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm

(Ok, back in for a moment, since this language thing is a pet peeve)….

@theophontes,

Re: the term “misogynist” being interpreted describing someone who hates women…

theophontes: “No I do not assume such ignorance, from my interlocutors, as to what such words mean. Why should I do that?”

Because that is what the word often MEANS. If you don’t understand this when you attempt to communicate, you are being extraordinarily naive…and ineffectual.

theophontes ” I would assume (if I were to assume anything) that any person holding forth in a discussion of feminism would at least have a reasonable understanding of the word.”

You don’t seem to understand how words actually attain their meanings. Words take on their meanings by the way they are used. Dictionary definitions, for instance, are not from-high or in-a-vacuum arbiters of what words mean. Rather dictionaries represent WHAT PEOPLE MEAN in using words. When enough people start to use a word to mean something new or different than the old reference, that becomes a new meaning for the word.

So to take “misogynist/misogynistic…”

Dictionary.com: “misogynistic”: adjective: 1. reflecting or exhibiting hatred, dislike, mistrust, or mistreatment of women.

Misogynist: Noun. 1. a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women.

Mirriam-Webster
misogynistic: adj. having or showing hatred or distrust of women
misogynist – noun – A PERSON WHO HATES WOMEN

Wikipedia:
Mysogyny: Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls….

Or take your own reference you raised, the Oxford Dictionary:

Misogynist: A person who dislikes, despises or is strongly prejudiced against women.

You can not be so ignorant as to be unaware of the common MEANING of the words and the relevance to clear communication. Take when anchor Simon Hobbs purportedly outed Tim Cook as “Gay” in that news program. If Hobbs said afterword “don’t you know ‘gay’ actually means light hearted? It’s not my fault people are ignorant of the ‘correct’ meaning that I was using.” He’d be rightly pilloried as either horribly disingenuous, or utterly incompetent in terms of communication and how language works.

Again, that a word has a certain meaning on one context, specialized vs the meaning understood in the general public, that does not make the single specialized meaning “THE CORRECT” meaning of the word.
It just means that is ONE meaning of the word. This goes even for words like “Theory.” Of course it has a certain meaning scientifically, but it ALSO has a real meaning in more wide, informal use, which is why THAT meaning “e.g. speculation, conjecture” is often included in dictionary definitions of the word “Theory.”

Recognizing that “Theory” has more than one meaning is why
skeptics/atheists/scientists have spent so much time reminding or explaining to audiences what “theory” means in scientific circles and how they are using the term. Communication 101, when words have more than one meaning.

But then it seems we are to assume you are using the “proper” sense of the word “misogynist” as it is used within feminism…and that the readers should know this does not entail the woman-hating slur.

Well, that would be nice if the word wasn’t used, even within feminist circles, to connote or denote woman-hate. Just perusing various feminist articles on Dawkins and Harris, the words “sexist” and “misogynist” are all too often conjoined to “asshole” or the like. But even more explicit on this point, here’s an article on feminist/artist Amy Roth and her well known exhibit concerning misogyny:

http://skepchick.org/2014/09/a-womans-room-online/

AMY ROTH: “The people who say these things to me haven’t experienced the misogynistic, targeted attacks that certain women receive online. I created this installation to educate the public that the harassment and attacks are a serious problem, online life is real, and we as a society need to address these issues.”

So right here is a feminist clearly linking the term “misogynistic” with attacks, harassment (and clearly “hate”). And as if this link weren’t explicit enough, the messages you can see in the pictures of misogynist messages from the exhibition are clearly of the “hate woman” genre exactly in line with the typical public use of the term “misogynist.”

Note also the long list of other feminist contributors to the exhibit, including Rebecca Watson etc. When feminists themselves use the term “misogynist” in reference to clear woman-hate and threats to women, you can hardly complain if your audience assumes the same.

So this disingenuous, or ignorant stance on “Oh, misogynist, if you think it means woman-hating that’s on YOU and your misunderstanding of the term” doesn’t fly at all.

When a word has a very specific meaning to most people, and if it’s also used sometimes with the same connotations within the feminist community, if you are using it differently it’s up to you to make sure you say when you are not using it to slur and not go “tut-tutting” the “ignorance” of others who think you may be using the term with such negative impute.

BTW, none of the above suggests for one minute that the feminists mentioned don’t have completely legitimate grievances and points of view! I’m only taking to task the post from theophontes, who gave an entirely unconvincing stance on the use of the term “misogynist.”

89 Guestus Aurelius September 25, 2014 at 7:03 pm

@Vaal

We’re clearly on the same wavelength here.

I wonder how deep this goes.

Let me ask you a totally fair yes-or-no question to find out: what was your reason for becoming a rape apologist?

90 Guestus Aurelius September 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

So, yes or no?

91 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 26, 2014 at 1:26 am

@ Tigzy #81

Indeed, it is not just cis-gendered woman who are being denigrated by such slurs but, as you point out, many other groups of people too.

I would go so far as to say that such terms affect us all negatively. Including misogynists who use such slurs.

92 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 26, 2014 at 1:42 pm

@ Guestus

We’re clearly on the same wavelength here.

Woah, Tiger! No need to so openly declare you ignorance!

93 Tigzy September 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Theo

So you’re saying that ‘cunt’ is especially reprehensible because it can be applied to a broader section of the populace than just cis women?

Dance carefully now, Theo.

94 JetLagg September 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

@Theo

Like “nigger” is still acceptable in England? Or “wigger”?

You say these words do not offend outside of the USA? Prove this to me by using gendered slurs, on this site, in the manner you claim to be appropriate.

1) Nigger is not still acceptable in England. In fact its use is sometimes considered criminal.

2) Yes, different countries have different ideas about what words are offensive, and why, and in what contexts. Anyway I’m not sure how using it on this site would prove that. Might I suggest you google it instead?

95 Vaal September 26, 2014 at 3:18 pm

theophontes,

Why are you wasting your time here in a comments section when you clearly have a much larger, possibly more fruitful project: a letter-writing campaign to all the dictionaries explaining how they’ve got the meaning of “misogynist” and “misogyny” wrong. As I showed, look up the terms and antipathy toward women is given as the prime meaning of the word.

You convince the dictionaries not to promote antipathy to women as a prime meaning for “misogyny” and you’ll have a much better chance with of convincing us that it is ignorant to presume such an inference.

Or perhaps – and I’m sure this is on your to-do list – start with writing to feminists like Amy Roth and all those who contributed to her “misogynistic-messages” exhibit, for clearly, publicly associating the term “misogynistic” with hate for, harassment and attack of women? If you don’t want antipathy toward woman to be readily associated with the term “misogynist” it looks like you’ve got some feminists to chide as well.

You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you so don’t let folks in a meager comments column distract you. 😉

96 theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) September 27, 2014 at 4:35 am

@ Tigzy

Dance carefully now, Theo.

Read carefully now, Tigzy. You are starting to make shit up.

97 Tigzy September 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Theo

That’s not dancing, that’s flailing.

Try again. If you can.

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