A new wave of smears, now about battered women, stormfront and paedophile apologism

by Michael Nugent on June 9, 2016

Peter Hitler 3

Update: This statement has been agreed between Atheist Ireland and Person A, whose name I have removed from this article and replaced with this pseudonym.

“Person A has apologised to Atheist Ireland and to the individual people who have been hurt and whose reputations have been harmed by Person A’s comments quoted here.

In particular, Person A has said the reference to ignoring a battered woman in a hijab on the ground was a satirical joke which was too strong, but which was not aimed at anyone in particular. Person A deleted that, and other references to Atheist Ireland, from their Twitter account, immediately on being made aware of how it was being interpreted.

Person A believes that Atheist Ireland is an honourable, decent organisation, whose members work voluntarily for an ethical secular society where everyone’s human rights are equally respected, and agrees that Atheist Ireland has none of the malign characteristics attributed in the false and unjust comments referred to in this article.

Person A acknowledges that it is false and unjust for others to allege that Atheist Ireland is associated, directly or indirectly, with racism, bigotry against Muslims, ‘Islamophobia’ or ‘Islamophobes’, and encourages other people to withdraw these seriously hurtful and harmful allegations. In particular, Person A would never in a million years have linked Atheist Ireland with Stormfront or paedophile apologism in the way that others have done here.

Atheist Ireland believes that Person A is a good person who did not intend the comments they were responsible for to be hurtful or harmful to Atheist Ireland or to any member of Atheist Ireland. We both believe that online dialogue can cause good people to become desensitised to the effects that off-the-cuff jokes or comments can have on other people.

Atheist Ireland and Person A are discussing how best we can work together to encourage people to engage in more civil discourse online, when they legitimately disagree on political or other matters. We hope that this can be a constructive turning-point in the culture of such tweets/posts etc. We are both sincere about this, and we will both act charitably and reciprocate each other’s sincerity as we seek ways to further this aim.”

Original Article

Even by the increasingly disgusting standards of online defamatory smears, a small group of people have crossed a new line recently. They have tweeted that Atheist Ireland would ignore a battered woman in a hijab on the ground, likened our website to that of white pride group Stormfront, and associated one of our members with paedophile apologism. They casually make these disgusting smears as if it is an acceptable form of civil discourse. It is not.

These smears are part of an escalating campaign by this small number of people to associate Atheist Ireland and me personally with the discredited concept of ‘Islamophobia’. This is a political phrase used by Islamists to silence criticism of human rights abuses, by conflating bigotry against Muslims, which we oppose, with criticism of Islamism, which we support.

When did we reach this tipping point? When did some people start to feel entitled to casually publish and endorse outrageous defamatory smears that have no basis in reality? I am now asking the people responsible to withdraw and apologise for these smears, and this request is on record should I or others decide to take the issue further.

1. Background to the recent wave of smears
2. The smear about ignoring a battered woman in a hijab
3. The smear likening our website to Stormfront
4. The smear about paedophile apologism
5. The conversion of Peter Ferguson
6. The harm caused by the word ‘Islamophobia’
7. The caveats that should be the main points
8. The tactic of guilt by association
9. Peter’s discussions with Andrew Rattigan
10. Some final thoughts

1. Background to the recent wave of smears

In recent years, while Atheist Ireland has been consistently working for an ethical society, we have been through at least four waves of smears. The first wave, from religious people, seems to be based on prejudiced theology or academics, including claims that atheists are not fully human, and that I was verging on racism for saying most Catholics live in the developing world.

The other three waves of smears have come mostly from fellow atheists, which shows that being an atheist is no guarantee of behaving ethically. A recurring pattern is that these people criticise or misrepresent somebody else, and we either fail to join in with them or else defend their victims. They then smear us with guilt by association, then they drop the ‘by association’ bit, and start to smear us directly.

Firstly, the discredited shock-blogger PZ Myers and his colleagues smeared us as sexist, misognynistic, fascist and xenophobic, and outrageously claimed that I defend, support, and provide a haven for rapists. Secondly, Aoife Fitzgibbon O’Riordan alleged that I was using dog-whistle homophobia to defend dog-whistle misogyny, and Aidan Rowe alleged that I support trans-misogynistic hate speech. And now we are on the third wave of secular smears, which I am analysing in this post.

Not only are these defamatory smears unjust to their victims, but they also gradually devalue the power of important words. It means that when we come across actual examples of serious bigotry or worse, we have fewer useful words to effectively describe them. These once-compelling words are starting to sound like just another example of crying wolf.

2. The smear about ignoring a battered woman in a hijab

Tweet 1 Person A

Perhaps the most disgusting of the current smears came in two tweets on 3 June. Peter Ferguson tweeted:

Muslim: “Help, I am being attacked by Islamophobes.”
*Atheist Ireland Man to the rescue*
“Islamophobia isn’t a useful term.”
*Flys away*

Person A replied, and Peter Ferguson and Leonie Hilliard liked this:

*Looks into middle distance, ignoring battered woman in hijab on ground*
“Grammar is safe while I am around.”

This is a repulsive defamatory smear. Despite being framed as a joke, it associates Atheist Ireland, and identifiable Atheist Ireland spokespersons, with not being concerned about Muslims being attacked, and with ignoring a battered woman in a hijab on the ground. And the two people who liked the second tweet know us personally. They know that this smear is not only untrue, but that the opposite is true. That adds a dimension of personal hurt and betrayal to the smear that is hard to deal with.

Seriously, Peter and Leonie, why on earth would you publicly endorse this hateful smear? You know how hard that we (real people, including Jane, Ashling, Derek, John, Helen, Andrew and others, some of whom you know personally) work every day, on a voluntary basis, to promote an ethical world in which Muslims have the same human rights as everybody else. You know that we work in alliance with the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Ireland. You know the work that I have done for decades to oppose violence.

You know that we spent the week before you liked this disgusting tweet at a conference in Limerick of the International Network on Hate Studies. There, we condemned prejudice-based crimes that target people because of their identity. We said that, at their worst, such crimes are similar to terrorism, which both hurts innocent people, and also sends a threatening message to other people who share that identity. We discussed and endorsed educational, psychological and social actions to challenge the prejudice, and legal action to challenge the crimes.

You may not know about the behind the scenes work that we do to help individual migrants who are being persecuted by Islamists, because for obvious reasons we don’t publicise personal cases, but your outrageous rhetoric is undermining this important work. Can you imagine how a migrant, already frightened about their situation, not knowing who to trust, and depending on us and others for help, would feel if they saw this false and defamatory smear?

3. The smear likening our website to Stormfront

MN Stormfront
On Saturday, Peter Ferguson published a post on his blog titled ‘The trouble within Atheist Ireland.’ It includes many false claims, which I will analyse later in this post, but I want to highlight here one of the most dangerous of those claims. Peter wrote:

“A Stormfront member could visit the [Atheist Ireland] site and see nothing that would suggest that AI is antithetical to their brand of Islamophobia.”

I’ve included above the banner of the Stormfront website, to show what it is like, because I don’t want to link to it.

Really, Peter? Even putting aside that you use the word ‘Islamophobia’ in a harmful way that conflates different things, do you think that your hypothetical Stormfront member would be comfortable with these recent articles on the Atheist Ireland website?

AI Dialogue Day 2

Atheist Ireland at International Hate Studies Conference in Limerick
I have described above our contribution to this conference last month. We discussed and endorsed educational, psychological and social actions to challenge prejudice, and legal action to challenge crimes, that target people because of their identity, including Muslims.

Maryam Namazie moves blog and launches new website
“Atheist Ireland is happy to have helped Maryam to design and host this website… Maryam and Atheist Ireland both share the view that we should respect and protect the rights of Muslims as people, while strongly challenging the human rights abuses imposed by Islamism on Muslims and others.”

Historic meeting of Irish Atheists, Evangelicals and Ahmadiyya Muslims for Secularism
This post describes the historic meeting at which Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Association of Ireland, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland united to start a campaign for Separation of Religion and State. We agreed that we will promote the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience, religion and belief, equality before the law, and freedom from discrimination for all citizens. All three organisations continue to work successfully together on this project.

Irish Atheists, Evangelicals and Muslims unite for Secularism at Inter Belief Day
This post includes a video of Jane Donnelly and I, Pastor Nick Park of the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, and Imam Ibrahim Noonan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Ireland, speaking together in support of separation of church and state. It also includes a video of Sunni Muslim scholar Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri speaking at the conference, which was recorded by Atheist Ireland and hosted at Umar’s request on our YouTube channel.

From Atheist Ireland response to Programme for Government
“We believe that [the Government’s commitment to tackle radicalisation and terrorism] should be accompanied by a commitment to respect the human rights of individual Muslims living in Ireland.”

Dublin Anarchist Bookfair breaks agreement with Atheist Ireland
“Atheist Ireland opposes discrimination and abuse based on religion or race or ethnic background, including anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry, and Islamist abuses of human rights of Muslims and others. We oppose fascism including fascistic street violence, whether it comes from the minority of violent people who attend the anti-immigration events of Pegida throughout Europe, or the minority of violent people who attended the recent pro-immigration event in Dublin.”

Sec Alliance 5

Peter, your casual smear here is simply false. Atheist Ireland is actively involved in fostering inter-belief dialogue and cooperation in Ireland, and that task is made more difficult by your irresponsible falsehoods. You should withdraw your smear and apologise for it.

4. The smear about paedophile apologism

In his post, Peter wrote:

“Shit really hit the fan in the last few days. Furthering the discussion on identity politics Andrew linked to an article on [name deleted] magazine about students wanting segregation on some campuses. I pointed out that Andrew was, again, attacking the fringe to negate the whole and while doing so he is linking to a magazine that has engaged heavily in paedophile apologetics.”

Firstly, this misrepresents what happened. Peter did not describe the magazine as “a magazine that has engaged heavily in paedophile apologetics.” In fact, Peter made a more direct and all-encompassing allegation about the magazine. [Edit: Peter has now repeated his original claim in a  comment here. He described Andrew as “quoting from a paedophile apologists magazine”. That is not a comment on the reliability of a source. It is an unambiguous, unqualified and all-encompassing defamatory allegation about the morality of people associated with the magazine.]

Secondly, the discussion in which Peter made the allegation had nothing to do with paedophilia, and the article that Andrew had linked to had nothing to do with paedophilia. Both were about identity politics. Peter simply introduced the issue of paedophilia into an unrelated discussion, in a way that associated Andrew with paedophile apologism, for no reason that was relevant to the discussion.

Associating people with paedophile apologism is an extraordinary defamatory claim. It is up there, or more accurately down there, with PZ Myer’s defamatory smear about defending, supporting and providing a haven for rapists. In this case, our moderation team considered it to be defamatory to the editorial team of the magazine in question, as well as to Andrew, so we deleted it.

So, before I analyse the rest of Peter’s article, and some of the other smears in the current wave, I want to emphasise the gravity of the three specific smears I have so far discussed: tweeting that Atheist Ireland would ignore a battered woman in a hijab on the ground, likening our website to that of white pride group Stormfront, and associating one of our members with paedophile apologism. I again ask the people responsible to withdraw and apologise for these disgusting smears.

5. The conversion of Peter Ferguson

PF Tatchell

What is most confusing about Peter’s blog post titled ‘‘The trouble within Atheist Ireland’ is that it contradicts the ethical arguments that Peter was consistently making up to a few weeks ago. Up to this, he has been defending people who have been victims of the type of smears that he is now directing at Atheist Ireland. He has even defended Atheist Ireland against similar smears. And he has described the people who engage in such tactics as the Regressive Left.

In 2013, when defending Richard Dawkins against similar smears, Peter wrote:

“Islamic fundamentalism is one of the greatest threats to free speech and expression there is. It is not the only threat, nor might it be the greatest; however, it is the only threat which when criticised are people accused of racism/bigotry/Islamophobia.”

In 2015, when defending Atheist Ireland against PZ Myers, Peter wrote:

“The casual usage of such labels must also be tackled. Sexism, misogyny and harassment are serious issues, not weapons to be used against people you disagree with. By accusing people so flippantly PZ et al. erode away the gravity of the labels and actual charges of sexism and misogyny may not be taken as seriously.”

Earlier this year, when defending me against the wave of smears before his, Peter wrote:

“Nugent is, again, embroiled in a debate where his name is being smeared. It seems to be the go to tactic nowadays and we have seen it with Maryam Namazie being labelled Islamophobic and Peter Tatchell being called a racist. It’s not a new tactic but it’s one that is growing rapidly among the left. But Nugent is well capable of taking care of himself so I won’t discuss that here.”

Note that Peter was also defending Maryam Namazie against the specific smear of ‘Islamophobia’ which he is now trying to associate with Atheist Ireland. Maryam recently described ‘Islamophobia’ as a political term coined by Islamists and their apologists to scaremonger people into silence and censor dissent.

Soon after that, Peter retweeted the quote pictured above from Peter Tatchell, and he added the commentary “Couldn’t agree more”

“Good people are being forced out of the progressive movement by hair-splitting, holier-than-thou ‘left-wing’ puritans. Their dirty tactics of smears and false accusations are borrowed from the far right, and have a whiff of McCarthyism.”

He also tweeted the book cover in the first image on this post, saying:

“I found the Regressive Left’s educational guide.”

The full image is of a children’s book cover featuring Hitler on a magic carpet, with the title: “Everyone I don’t like is Hitler — a child’s guide to online political discussion.”

Peter aso tweeted, pre-conversion:

“This is why the left can’t get anything done. This group have spent many years doing great work but they did this one thing I didn’t like so I am going to spend my time tearing them down.”

And on the specific tactic of using smears to silence people from criticising Islam, Peter has tweeted in recent months:

“There are far too many people on the left who think that tackling Islamophobia and criticising Islam are mutually exclusive.”

“Reformist and ex Muslims often say they feel abandoned by the left. All too depressingly apparent why they feel that.”

“Why is it so difficult for people to be pro-migrant while also recognising that Islamism is a problem? On the one hand you have the far right which use these tactics to forward their racist agenda and blame all Muslims. On the other side you have leftists who ignore Islam’s role in these attacks and in extremism, often throwing ex-Muslims, women and LGBT under the bus.”

“How do people who peddle the ‘extremism is caused by marginalisation’ myth explain the attacks in Baghdad and Lahore? 11 terrorist attacks this month. Ten of them in areas where Muslims are not marginalised. So no, it’s not due to marginalisation.”

“Imagine the uproar if the ‘not truly Muslim’ apologetics that occurs after attacks was used re Catholicism and Magdalene laundries, and with Mother and Baby homes, with symphysiotomy, child abuse and its cover up. Would we accept it for one second?”

How did Peter change so dramatically so quickly? To use Peter’s own phrase, his recent opinions would not be out of place on the Atheist Ireland website. However, if they did appear now on the Atheist Ireland website, and Peter applied to them the criteria he using to attack Atheist Ireland now, it is easy to imagine what he might say about himself.

6. The harm caused by the word ‘Islamophobia’

Maryam Warwick

Let me again explain the problem with the word ‘Islamophobia’. It is typically used to conflate two ideas (criticism of Islam, which is just, and bigotry towards Muslims, which is unjust) and it uses language that suggests that those who criticise Islam have a mental illness.

By building the term around the word ‘Islam’ rather than the word ‘Muslim’, some people can use it to try to silence criticism of Islam, even when that criticism is aimed at protecting Muslims, who are the most common victims of Islamic human rights abuses.

It has been used by Islamist states at the United Nations to silence criticism of Islam, and the Ayatollah Khomeini regime used it to describe Muslim women who protested against being veiled after the overthrow of the Shah.

Peter and others engaged in the current wave of smears use the word ‘Islamophobia’ in a way that we don’t. They seem to use it to mean bigotry against Muslims, while actually it conflates that with criticism of Islam. But what we have in common is that we both oppose bigotry against Muslims.

Yet Peter includes the following allegation in his recent post:

“So when it comes to combating Islamophobia, how does Atheist Ireland’s credentials stack up? Not good. I can’t find anything on the site where they have done anything or said anything which makes it clear they oppose Islamophobia. They have discussed the plight of Muslims who suffer at the hands of Islamic extremists but that doesn’t prove anything.

Plenty of right wingers often use LGBT and women’s issues to criticise but say nothing of those issues in the west. There is even a term for it – Pinkwashing. LGBT people are used as a tool. I am not saying Atheist Ireland are doing that, but it can’t be used as evidence they care about the plight of Muslims in Europe.”

This is a disgusting analysis. Peter is firstly using the fact that we don’t use his preferred word for a problem, to conclude that we don’t address the problem using other less harmful words. But more significantly, he is suggesting that, even though we repeatedly say that we oppose bigotry against Muslims, that doesn’t prove that we do.

Peter, that is a shocking smear, even by Internet smear standards. You are implying that we might be lying when we repeatedly say we are opposed to bigotry against Muslims. That is a disgraceful suggestion to make. We are not lying. We are telling the truth. Which brings me to my next point.

7. The caveats that should be the main points

Peter has added caveats to several of his smears, along the following lines. He introduces some reprehensible tactic, thus putting it into the mind of the reader, in a post titled ‘the trouble with Atheist Ireland’. Then he says that he doesn’t think Atheist Ireland is engaged in it, but he has still associated us with it. Here are some examples:

“The tactic is clear. They are trying to turn the European population against Muslims by trying to make a mental link between ordinary Muslims and terrorism by encapsulating terrorism into any discussion about Muslims and Islam. Now, I am not saying that’s what Andrew was trying to do. I vehemently believe that’s not what he was trying to do.”

“Ergo conjuring up the atrocities and terrorism in the mind of the reader when discussing Muslims. Like I said before, this is the tactic of the right wing Islamophobes. I also want to repeat that I don’t believe that’s what Andrew is doing, but, unfortunately, it appears to be no different.”

“Again, Andrew could have used any prayer to make his point. But he choose to use the one most closely linked to terrorism again. Probably not his intention but again it appears indistinguishable from dog whistling Islamophobia.”

“Plenty of right wingers often use LGBT and women’s issues to criticise but say nothing of those issues in the west. There is even a term for it – Pinkwashing. LGBT people are used as a tool. I am not saying Atheist Ireland are doing that but it can’t be used as evidence they care about the plight of Muslims in Europe.”

“Atheist Ireland hasn’t done or said anything that is Islamophobic, and I am not saying they have done but they have shown pure disinterest when it comes to Islamophobia, and in this context now appear to be publishing dog whistling content.”

The most charitable interpretation of this is that Peter thinks that some people might mistakenly believe that Atheist Ireland is ‘Islamophobic’ or is using such tactics, even though he personally knows that we are not.

If this is the case, then Peter should be writing posts and tweets to explain to those people why they are mistaken, not reinforcing their false beliefs. He should be writing posts titled “the trouble with the criticisms of Atheist Ireland.”

That’s what he would have been doing a few months ago, and indeed what he was doing a few months ago, before his Road to Damascus conversion from criticising what he calls the Regressive Left to using the tactics he was criticising.

8. The tactic of guilt by association

Peter uses the tactic of guilt by association several times in his post. Here are some examples:

“We see this tactic used by right wing Christians when they bring up paedophilia while discussing homosexuality.”
“I pointed out that Andrew was linking to a magazine that has engaged heavily in paedophile apologetics.”
“Atheist Ireland Chairperson, Michael Nugent, has shared a stage not once, but twice, with Mark Humphries and Ian O’Doherty.”
“Atheist Ireland also hosted Anne Marie Waters. And I don’t see any “disassociation” from her.”
“If you don’t know Andrew then it appears to nothing more than the underhanded, dog-whistling Islamophobia we see strewn across The Sun and the Daily Mail.”
“It’s publishing content that wouldn’t be out of place in the Daily Mail.”
“A Stormfront member could visit the site and see nothing that would suggest that AI is antithetical to their brand of Islamophobia.”

This tactic adds nothing to the credibility of Peter’s allegations. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on the basis of who else agrees or disagrees with them, or who has shared a stage with other people. This is particularly so when Peter also misrepresents the supposed ‘baddies’ with whom he is trying to associate other people.

SkI Islam

Peter blogs on SkepticInk. Here are some other posts on SkepticInk that reject the use of the word ‘Islamophobia’ for broadly the same reasons that Atheist Ireland rejects the word:

The scourge of Islamophobia
No Cross No Crescent blog on SkepticInk
“Islam routinely practices discriminatory traditions that Rosa Parks fought to end; it openly displays symbols of misogyny and oppression; and it cynically pays lip service to condemning terrorism while at the same time promoting the very ideological basis of terrorism. And finally, to add insult to injury, it accuses anyone who dares to call it out of intolerance; they have even coined a word for this, “Islamophobia”, to be used as a bludgeon against anyone who dares open his/her mouth about any of the above (and much more). The trick has worked like magic: as we have seen, even the British government has been too scared to act against Sharia courts that violate British law by issuing rulings against victims of domestic abuse, lest it be accused of “Islamophobia”.

‘Islamophobia’ — a term for self deception
The Prussian blog on SkepticInk
“The neologism “Islamophobia” has been forcibly inserted into our language with less protest than it deserves. It has even made its way to Collins English dictionary. Time for a little clarity on the matter. Islamophobia is a term of abuse, analogous to the term “racism” or “racist”. The point is to suggest that someone holds an irrational prejudice against Islam and its practitioners, a prejudice that cannot be rationally justified. Now there is no honest person cognisant of the nature and practice of Islam who can seriously believe that having qualms about Islam cannot be rationally justified. No honest people will be convinced by this term; that is not what it is there for. It is not for the listener, but for the utterer.”

A response to accusations of ‘Islamophobia’
No Cross No Crescent blog on SkepticInk
“I have been unapologetic on this blog about the harm that is caused by Islamic doctrines. Unsurprisingly, this has made me the target of “Islamophobia” accusation. Those flinging this word apparently have not been practicing Muslims. Yet they go out of their way trying to protect Islam from being confronted with the ugly reality. I do not doubt that some of those people have good intentions; they see Muslims as a vilified minority in the Western world, and are “rooting for the underdog”. However, no matter what the motives, such people are deeply misguided.”

There’s no such thing as ‘Islamophobia’
Avant Garde blog on SkepticInk
“Kenan Malik has a post asking when does criticism of Islam becomes islamophobia? Here’s my answer: Never. And it’s really quite simple: there’s no such thing as Islamophobia. Yes, there are some Muslims that are persecuted because of their superstition, just as there are Christians being persecuted in Muslim countries, and as there’s an anti-atheist bias in public policy among almost every country. But we don’t go around yelling “Atheist-phobia” or “Christian-phobia”. It’s  just bigotry and there’s no point in calling it Islamophobia. Zealotry is wrong, and using the term “Islamophobia” is to say Muslim victims are more important than Christian or Atheist or Buddhist victims. (And it goes without saying that Islam is not a race.)”

Also, don’t forget Peter’s own post on SkepticInk before his conversion, in which he defended Maryam Mamazie from being labelled Islamophobic.

Michael Nugent, smears and transphobia
Humanisticus blog on SkepticInk
“Nugent is, again, embroiled in a debate where his name is being smeared. It seems to be the go to tactic nowadays and we have seen it with Maryam Namazie being labelled Islamophobic  and Peter Tatchell being called a racist. It’s not a new tactic but it’s one that is growing rapidly among the left. But Nugent is well capable of taking care of himself so I won’t discuss that here.”

Based on his own post-conversion standards, would Peter say that he himself is sharing the SkepticInk blog platform with people who engage in Islamophobia apologetics? Or that SkepticInk is publishing dog-whistling Islamophobia that wouldn’t be out of place in the Daily Mail? Or that a Stormfront member could visit SkepticInk, and see nothing that would suggest that SkepticInk is antithetical to their brand of Islamophobia?

Of course he wouldn’t say any of those things, because they would be absurd and unjust things to say about SkepticInk, and they are equally absurd and unjust things to say about Atheist Ireland.

9. Peter’s discussions with Andrew Rattigan

Peter’s article includes a lengthy analysis of discussions between him, Andrew Rattigan, John Hamill, me and others about a paragraph in an article written by Andrew in Secular Sunday newsletter. I’m not going to add to that discussion here, as I think everything that needs to be said has been said. However, I want to make clear that I accept Peter’s right to disagree with Andrew’s position as outlined in that article.

But what Peter has left out from his analysis of this discussion is that Peter began the exchange by alleging that Andrew’s article was borderline if not outright racism, and when challenged on that he changed his allegation to one of anti-Muslim bigotry and bigoted nonsense. As you might expect, that didn’t exactly get the conversation off to a civil start.

PF Racism

As the discussion continued, Peter clarified that his reason for describing the paragraph as bigoted was because Peter thought Andrew was generalising about all Muslims, or nearly all Muslims. Peter then continued to ignore every clarification that Andrew made about what he was trying to convey. As an aside, Peter himself recently tweeted:

“Hilarious to see supporters of Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail act superior to each other. Stop. You’re all awful.”

Now, Peter here actually used the word ‘all’ in saying “you’re ‘all’ awful”. But no reasonable person would continue to insist that Peter literally meant every supporter of Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, if Peter clarified that he did not mean it literally. Unless there is reason to believe someone is dishonest, which there is not here, you should respect such clarifications.

To be clear, I think it was okay for Peter to misinterpret Andrew, and it was okay for Peter to speculate that other people might also misinterpret Andrew. But once Andrew had clarified to Peter what he actually meant, which he did very early in the exchange, then Peter should have been trying to stop the spread of the mistaken analysis, not continuing to propagate it for weeks.

Instead of writing articles about ‘the trouble within Atheist Ireland,’ he should have been writing articles about ‘the trouble with the criticisms of Atheist Ireland,’ which is exactly what he was doing until very recently.

10. Some final thoughts

Peter uses the word ‘dog-whistle Islamophobia’ several times. To accuse someone of ‘dog-whistle’ behaviour is even worse than accusing them of the behaviour itself. ‘Dog-whistle’ politics is where you use code words so that people who share your political views will understand what you are saying while the general public does not. In this case, Atheist Ireland is not engaging in either the substantive allegations or the dog-whistling allegations.

Peter is one of a small group of Tweeters who regularly smear Atheist Ireland and also tag each other in discussions. These include @ruxtab, who has described Peter’s article as

“Excellent piece by @Humanisticus on how @atheistie have entered territory of engaging with pretty horrible orgs.”

The organisations mentioned in Peter’s article include Pegida, UKIP, the Ku Klux Klan and Stormfront. Even Peter does not allege that Atheist Ireland has engaged with any of these organisations. Yet this new smear is now introduced by @ruxtab, and Peter, who is tagged in the new smear, has not seen fit to correct it.

@ruxtab has also complained that I had accused him of defamation for using the phrase “‘going full Dawkins” about me. Actually, the phrase that @ruxtab had used about me was “going full Dawkins as he favourites an outright Nazi.” A big difference there.

Another tactic that some people use is to accuse us of racism, then when we ask what race they are talking about, they accuse us of being pedantic. And when I say accuse us of racism, this can be as unsubtle as @sbprme writing

“Fuck off racist atheist pricks”.

This was in response to the article by Andrew that led to Peter making and withdrawing a false allegation of racism.

Now here’s another piece of random smearing from Person A, associating us with murderers, rapists, trivialisation of transgender issues, racism, and calling people bitches. Why even bother attempting to make a coherent argument when you can just make random vile associations?

Person A Tweet 2

I will leave further analysis of the Twitter front for later. I know that Twitter is not the ideal place to seek responsible dialogue, but the levels of casual abuse and defamation just seem to sink lower every day.

Peter concludes his two most recent posts attacking Atheist Ireland with the following sentiments:

“And this is to somebody who was a volunteer for Atheist Ireland. I have had dinner and drinks with these people. I shudder to think how they would treat somebody whom they’ve never met.”

“Again, it is important to remember that I had a good relationship with these people for years. And we often filter arguments and opinions through your personal relationship with people. So if Atheist Ireland are treating me in the above manner I hate to think how they treat people they’ve never met.”

Peter, the feeling is mutual. We are utterly baffled as to why you have decided to engage in a campaign of vilification against us, based on characterisations of us that you personally know to be untrue. The same goes for Leonie Hilliard, who we had also considered a friend, and who now seems unable to see a tweet criticising us without liking it.

Peter and Leonie, we didn’t initiate anything critical of either of you. We have simply been defending ourselves against false smears, something which unfortunately we have become used to having to do. It is harder when the smears are coming from people who know us personally and who we had considered to be friends, but you learn something new every day.

Finally, I repeat my request to the authors of these defamatory smears to withdraw them and apologise.

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ghost orchid June 9, 2016 at 2:39 am

Peter clearly wants to gain favour with regressive leftists for some reason, and since they have no actual arguments they must result to baseless smears against folks who actually get shit done.

2 David Leech June 9, 2016 at 3:05 am

Left and liberalism is a brain disease similar to religion. I have yet to see otherwise. It is just a pity that the right throw in with religion and I now hope they have seen the error of their ways.

3 Peter Ferguson June 9, 2016 at 3:50 am

2) You defended Richard Dawkins when he tweeted the “Feminists love Islamist” video. You said satire of bad ideas is good. The tweets me and Paul wrote were in direct reference to Andrew saying Islamophobia is shouldn’t be used to describe attack on Muslims. No concern was shown about the fact Islamophobic attacks were rising and women were the main victims. Our tweets were satirising this messed up priority. So we were using offensive satire, sorry you got offended.

3) I never likened Atheist Ireland website to Stormfront. That is just a bizarre invention on your part. The point I was making was that there is no content tackling the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, or tackling Islamophobia emanating from the right. As for the “evidence” you supplied. Like I said, I can say I am a builder all I like, unless I build something I am not a builder. So you can repeat “we are against anti-Muslims bigotry” ad nauseum but unless you follow this through action then they are just words.

4) I never associated Andrew with Paedophile Apologism. Again that is made up. I was undermining the source. Now this is probably a genetic fallacy, and I will take all the criticism in the world for employing said fallacy. But genetic fallacy is not the same as associating the person with the source’s opinions.

My more direct claim was that [name deleted] was a paedophile apologists magazine. It is. And the reason I refused to give permission is because I haven’t the means or permission to quote from the conversation myself.

5) There has been no conversion. This all nonsensical. I have done and will continue to criticise who use the term Islamophobia incorrectly. I will also continue to criticise the regressive left. (But that, too, is now being used haphazardly to mean “those who criticise use” by members of Atheist Ireland). So I stand by those quotes and I have said nothing that conflicts with them. My conversion is about as real as Hitchens’ death bed conversion to Christianity.

6) I know you are telling the truth that you oppose anti-Muslims bigotry from an idea perspective. My problem is that when it comes to actions you prefer to chin stroke over the term Islamophobia that actually combatting anti-Muslim bigotry instead of just saying you do. You can always prove me wrong by showing me where Atheist Ireland has combatting Islamophobia from right wing fascists and racists.

7) “The most charitable interpretation” Or, you know, reading the words I wrote which say exactly that. I must introduce those tactics into the conversation in order to show how some of Atheist Ireland’s content appears to be similar. I notice how you didn’t deal with this at all. And dog whistling content can be harmful to the Muslim community, especially in today’s climate. It’s the responsibility of Atheist Ireland not to publish any or content that is identical to it. It’s not up to people to go running around saying “this isn’t dog whistling content even though it’s identical to it”. Plus, I said I don’t believe Andrew was purposefully dog whistling, but I can’t say for sure.

8) This is not “guilt by association”. This is to show how Atheist Ireland doesn’t take combatting Islamophobia seriously and has no problem associating with and even defending Islamophobes. That is not the same as guilt by association. That is saying if Atheist Ireland was committed to combatting Islamophobia in any manner then they would not be associated with these people in any manner but instead would be challenging them.

If you felt the need to disassociate from PZ, this should be doubly the case for Ann Marie Waters. Yet it isn’t. The only mention of her is from when you hosted her and from when you defended her from PZ calling her a nutter.

I disagree with people who reject the word Islamopbia but I don’t think they are bad people for doing so. And never said as such. (Notice how the critics in Skeptic Ink discuss Islam and don’t treat Muslims as monolithic).

“Based on his own post-conversion standards, would Peter say that he himself is sharing the SkepticInk blog platform with people who engage in Islamophobia apologetics?”

No. I never said anyone is engaging in Islamophobia apologetics. Not once. Are you saying, Michael, that these authors are doing that?
“Or that SkepticInk is publishing dog-whistling Islamophobia that wouldn’t be out of place in the Daily Mail? Or that a Stormfront member could visit SkepticInk, and see nothing that would suggest that SkepticInk is antithetical to their brand of Islamophobia?”

You have basically found a couple of articles on Skeptic Ink that discuss the term Islamophobia and decided that all the criticisms that I levied against Atheist Ireland must also apply to them because you share one criticism in common. This beyond stupid, it really is. It’s doubly stupid since I never actually criticised Atheist Ireland or anyone for rejecting the term Islamophobia. The point I made painstakingly clear, which you either ignored or didn’t get, is that Atheist Ireland seem more concerned with chin stroking over the term than actually tackling Islamophobia. That is what I am saying. Reject the term all you like, I don’t care, but please prioritise tackling Islamophobia itself first.

9) I left that part out because I wanted to discuss the substance and not get bogged down in flapping over “smears” and labels. But I clearly failed as you’ve expended over 5000 words discussing nothing but imagined smears and guilt by associations and haven’t tackled any of the points I made.

I invite anyone who has read this, to read my piece in its entirety and listen to the points I actually made. And not the version Michael has selectively reproduced squeezed out every imaging smeared possible.
For example, Michael left out the fact there was a protest against Pegida in Dublin and Atheist Ireland were right across the road from it but decided not to join despite being so intent on tackling Islamophobia. But I am sure they said “I oppose anti-Muslim bigotry” to themselves.

After this Michael said he would research Pegida, four months later in an article he described this racist, fascist group an organisation that advocate stronger immigration policies. This would be like calling the KKK a Christian organisation.

My whole piece was about them publishing dog whistling content (not dealt with) and how they don’t seem to care about tackling the rise of right wing Islamophobia (via actions, not just saying the do). This, too, was not dealt with and no evidence was supplied to show they do.

There are many other points about Atheist Ireland not being able to accept criticism. The fact they changed their story about what Andrew meant. About how they used the most ridiculous evidence to back up Andrew’s claim. So on and so forth.

The fact Michael decided to focus on smears than any of the points I made lends further credence to the idea that criticism and introspection is not something Atheist Ireland engage. I am just to copy and paste “I never said that”, I have a feeling I will be using it a lot.

4 Peter Ferguson June 9, 2016 at 3:59 am

Sorry for any errors in the above but I hit publish before I could reread and edit.

I also want to point out that Andrew called the people criticising him racist in the Atheist Ireland newsletter, of which I am one. This has seemingly flew under the radar of Michael “THAT’S A SMEAR AND DEFAMATION, APOLOGISE NOW” Nugent.

5 Michael Nugent June 9, 2016 at 4:04 am

Peter, will you please withdraw and apologise for your defamatory smears?

6 Peter Ferguson June 9, 2016 at 4:23 am

You mean the ones you completely invented? No.

7 Michael Nugent June 9, 2016 at 4:30 am

No, I mean the ones that I have accurately described in the above article, including quoting you directly.

8 Peter Ferguson June 9, 2016 at 4:34 am

I have gone through each one (did I miss any?) to show how they are not smears. Keep pretending that they are if you like, I have no time for it.

9 Colin Morrison June 9, 2016 at 4:58 am

“But genetic fallacy is not the same as associating the person with the source’s opinions.”

And Christians never claim Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot was an atheist to tar us by association. Sorry, no, they do that every single time. Unbelievable.

10 Peter Ferguson June 9, 2016 at 5:05 am

That’s called the guilt by association fallacy, Colin. Not a genetic fallacy. The two are different. Hence why they have different names. Unbelievable indeed.

11 Edward Clint June 9, 2016 at 5:28 am

“And Christians never claim Hitler/Stalin/Pol Pot was an atheist to tar us by association. Sorry, no, they do that every single time. Unbelievable.”

That is also not an example of the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy requires that you be talking about the source or origin; “guilt by association” would involve two parties that are not related in this fashion.

But Peter’s usage is not necessarily fallacious. The error would be, “X said Y. X has in the past said Z things which are wrong; therefore, X having said Z proves Y is wrong”.

This is different from saying “X has low credibility and rates low in quality. Since sources with less credibility and quality are less likely to produce high quality content, a priori expectations of quality should be reduced.” This is a totally reasonable position. Real world examples are, “Fox news reported blahblah, but it’s Fox News, so take it with a grain of salt.” Or when witnesses are shown to be unreliable in a court of law, the jury, rightly, reduces their estimate the witness’s testimony is accurate or sincere.

12 Colin Morrison June 9, 2016 at 5:48 am

Apologies, a tired error on my part.

Was Peter’s piece a hatchet job, and employed guilt by association? Absolutely – just write ‘dog-whistle Islamophobia’ and ‘Atheist Ireland’ in the same piece enough times, and the job is done.

Was his ‘fly away’ tweet a disgusting smear? Absolutely.

Is he continuing this argument against overwhelming evidence because he thinks anyone in Atheist Ireland is still receptive to anything he says, given the invective he’s hurled at them? I don’t believe so.

Is his hypocrisy given his own denouncements of “holier-than-thou left-wing puritans” completely baffling? Absolutely.

Is Michael’s indignation against a backdrop of three years of nonstop smears completely understandable? Absolutely.

13 Shatterface June 9, 2016 at 7:54 am

I’ve never seen rats board a sinking ship before, especially rats so eager to gnaw at the rotting hull.

The regressive left are on their way out. FtB is dying, Atheism+ is deader than dead, and The Guardian is circling the toilet.

14 Shatterface June 9, 2016 at 8:00 am

9) I left that part out because I wanted to discuss the substance and not get bogged down in flapping over “smears” and labels. But I clearly failed as you’ve expended over 5000 words discussing nothing but imagined smears and guilt by associations and haven’t tackled any of the points I made.

When you’ve got no argument, just count the words.

Where have we seen this before?

15 Jan Steen June 9, 2016 at 9:07 am

I think the whole problem is that Peter Ferguson is just not very bright.

16 Adam Z June 9, 2016 at 11:12 am

I read the original discussion, and the article that prompted it, and wondered why Peter Ferguson seemed to take such an uncharitable interpretation of what was written. It’s difficult, without speculating, to make any sense of it all, but, once again, sad to see a genuinely ethical activist movement smeared yet again.

And the Alinsky stuff, which I was unaware of ’til now, is just bizarre. To discard the ethics you’re trying to promote, in order to establish the ethics that you yourself have discarded?? You’d end up, after the revolution, putting yourself up against the wall (metaphorically) – and you’d need a very long arm to pull the trigger.

17 Damion Reinhardt June 9, 2016 at 11:39 am

“Was his ‘fly away’ tweet a disgusting smear? Absolutely.”

That tweet was obviously a form of humorous hyperbolic satire. To take it as a literal accusation is to completely miss the point.

I actually disagree with Peter on what he is saying with that tweet (i.e. AI is evidently unconcerned with confronting bigotry against Muslims) but to call it a disgusting smear is to dabble in wilful misinterpretation.

18 Peter Ferguson June 9, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Also, Damion. I sent a tweet immediately after that one which gave context to it and explained what I satirising. Nugent has left that out. Perhaps now he can put it in so people are aware of the context.

19 JL June 9, 2016 at 3:05 pm

shatterface
“When you’ve got no argument, just count the words.

Where have we seen this before?”
maybe here?
https://twitter.com/JohnHamill151/status/740098259159486464

20 Michael Nugent June 9, 2016 at 3:07 pm

This post has been updated with an apology from one of the people whose tweets are quoted. See update at the top of the page.

21 Guestus Aurelius June 9, 2016 at 4:14 pm

There’s a running theme in comment 3 by Peter Ferguson that I find a bit strange. I’ve put some key bits in boldface:

3) I never likened Atheist Ireland website to Stormfront. That is just a bizarre invention on your part. The point I was making was that there is no content tackling the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, or tackling Islamophobia emanating from the right. As for the “evidence” you supplied. Like I said, I can say I am a builder all I like, unless I build something I am not a builder. So you can repeat “we are against anti-Muslims bigotry” ad nauseum but unless you follow this through action then they are just words.

6) I know you are telling the truth that you oppose anti-Muslims bigotry from an idea perspective. My problem is that when it comes to actions you prefer to chin stroke over the term Islamophobia that actually combatting anti-Muslim bigotry instead of just saying you do. You can always prove me wrong by showing me where Atheist Ireland has combatting Islamophobia from right wing fascists and racists.

8) This is not “guilt by association”. This is to show how Atheist Ireland doesn’t take combatting Islamophobia seriously and has no problem associating with and even defending Islamophobes. That is not the same as guilt by association. That is saying if Atheist Ireland was committed to combatting Islamophobia in any manner then they would not be associated with these people in any manner but instead would be challenging them.

You have basically found a couple of articles on Skeptic Ink that discuss the term Islamophobia and decided that all the criticisms that I levied against Atheist Ireland must also apply to them because you share one criticism in common. This beyond stupid, it really is. It’s doubly stupid since I never actually criticised Atheist Ireland or anyone for rejecting the term Islamophobia. The point I made painstakingly clear, which you either ignored or didn’t get, is that Atheist Ireland seem more concerned with chin stroking over the term than actually tackling Islamophobia. That is what I am saying. Reject the term all you like, I don’t care, but please prioritise tackling Islamophobia itself first.

For example, Michael left out the fact there was a protest against Pegida in Dublin and Atheist Ireland were right across the road from it but decided not to join despite being so intent on tackling Islamophobia. But I am sure they said “I oppose anti-Muslim bigotry” to themselves.

My whole piece was about them publishing dog whistling content (not dealt with) and how they don’t seem to care about tackling the rise of right wing Islamophobia (via actions, not just saying the do). This, too, was not dealt with and no evidence was supplied to show they do.

I’m curious about this “action” vs. “words” dichotomy. Atheist Ireland isn’t the government. It’s not like they can pass laws or investigate crimes. It seems to me that all they can do is speak out about the issues they care about, in the hopes of swaying public opinion and effecting change. Honestly, what else do you expect them (or anyone else) to do? Roam the streets and dish out vigilante justice to wrong-thinkers?

Nugent and AI use their words to denounce bigotry all the time. They even use their words to lobby for the government to take “action” (quote from the OP):

You know that we spent the week before you liked this disgusting tweet at a conference in Limerick of the International Network on Hate Studies. There, we condemned prejudice-based crimes that target people because of their identity. We said that, at their worst, such crimes are similar to terrorism, which both hurts innocent people, and also sends a threatening message to other people who share that identity. We discussed and endorsed educational, psychological and social actions to challenge the prejudice, and legal action to challenge the crimes.

But constantly speaking out against bigotry isn’t enough? I just don’t understand what else you expect them to do—nor, moreover, why you’ve decided that, of all people and groups, they in particular aren’t doing enough.

Along the same lines, I’m curious as to what “actions” you take to combat bigotry. What do you do beyond using your words to condemn it?

As an aside: you seem awfully comfortable lumping “right-wingers” together as bigots, while simultaneously raking others over the coals for generalizing about Muslims even inadvertently. For instance, from your blog post (again, boldface added for emphasis):

However, anybody who spends even a small amount of time keeping track of the rising right wing Islamophobia across Europe will notice a trope used to demonise ordinary Muslims employed twice here. Islamophobia doesn’t just manifest itself in the assault of Muslims and burning of Mosques, it exists on a spectrum from the extreme to the insipid. It would be great if Islamophobes laid their bigotry out in the open so people could see what they truly are. But they don’t. Instead they use underhanded tactics to link the Muslim population with terrorism. They achieve this by casually linking Islamic extremism with ordinary Muslims. They use such a tactic because it achieves the aim of linking Muslims with terrorism, it scaremongers, and they can deny they are being outright bigots and weasel out by saying “We didn’t say all Muslims”. We see this tactic used by right wing Christians when they bring up paedophilia while discussing homosexuality.

When Sadiq Khan was campaigning for Major of London the Conservatives ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in history by trying to link Khan to terrorism at every stage. If Khan walked down the same street as an Islamic extremist then there were headlines screaming “Sadiq Khan’s link to terrorism”. All across Europe at anti-immigration rallies you see things like “rape-ugees”, implying the Muslim refugees are rapists. Of course when challenged they will retreat into “I didn’t say all Muslims”.

The tactic is clear. They are trying to turn the European population against Muslims by trying to make a mental link between ordinary Muslims and terrorism by encapsulating terrorism into any discussion about Muslims and Islam.

Ergo conjuring up the atrocities and terrorism in the mind of the reader when discussing Muslims. Like I said before, this is the tactic of the right wing Islamophobes.

Also a video went viral showing Muslim refugees in a train chanting “allahu akbar”. Right wingers were spreading the video like wildfire claiming Muslims terrorists were invading Europe and they were ISIS recruits etc.

22 An Ardent Skeptic June 9, 2016 at 10:13 pm

Has everyone abandoned the original purpose of the telephone. I’m glad I’m old and remember that the telephone used to be used to speak with people directly. Important issues weren’t resolved via Twitter, Facebook, and Blogpost, but instead were resolved privately via direct communication (often on the telephone).

23 Peter Ferguson June 10, 2016 at 12:40 am

Michael. If you’re so offended by the allegation that I think you are not interested in tackling anti-Muslims bigotry. You can always rebut this by showing me where you have actually spent time actually combating anti-Muslim bigotry. (And not just at the hands of Islamists).

Also, if you care so much about tackling anti-Muslim bigotry why didn’t you or any other members of Atheist Ireland attend the protest against Pegida. You were in the vicinity were you not?

One more, why haven’t you ever felt the need to disassociate yourself from the harmful rhetoric of Ann Marie Waters. You hosted her in the same manner you did PZ and her rhetoric is far more harmful.

Will you be disassociating Atheist Ireland from her not that this has been brought to your attention?

24 IM608 June 10, 2016 at 1:12 am

Also, if you care so much about tackling anti-Muslim bigotry why didn’t you or any other members of Atheist Ireland attend the protest against Pegida.

I love these sanctimonious f**ktards who assume their priorities should be my priorities and demand an explanation why they’re not.

25 Peter Ferguson June 10, 2016 at 1:24 am

“I’m curious about this “action” vs. “words” dichotomy. Atheist Ireland isn’t the government. It’s not like they can pass laws or investigate crimes. It seems to me that all they can do is speak out about the issues they care about, in the hopes of swaying public opinion and effecting change.”

My problem is they aren’t speaking out about it. Let me use the Catholic Church as an example. And I am not comparing Nugent or Atheist Ireland with the Church, but I am comparing the logic used.

The Church frequently says “oh, of course discrimination against LGBT people is bad”. In fact it even says so in the Catechism. Does that mean the Church actually spends any time combating LGBT inequality. Of course not. Say “we oppose anti-Muslims bigotry” isn’t actually opposing it. Calling it out and labeling it is, attending protests is, writing articles critical of Islamophobia, people who propagate it and their tactics is. There are dozens of ways one can actively opposing Islamophobia via action.

26 Michael Nugent June 10, 2016 at 2:22 am

Peter, really, who do you think you are? You make disgusting defamatory allegations, then expect me to jump through hoops of your choice to disprove them.

That’s not how defamation works. You have made the allegations, and you have to support them, to the satisfaction of reasonable people, not your peculiar standards, which is essentially adding another defamatory allegation that you believe I may be lying when I repeatedly say that I oppose anti-Muslim bigotry.

You are so in above your head on this, and you don’t even realise it.

You seem to think that actually forming a historic working alliance between Atheist Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, taking part with them in an inter-belief dialogue day and now working on a joint book with them, taking part in an international conference on hate studies and comparing prejudice-based violence to terrorism, doesn’t support the fact that I and Atheist Ireland oppose anti-Muslim bigotry.

Good luck defending that argument before reasonable people. And your crazy addendum that this record is something a Stormfront member would be happy with. And your casual association of one of our members with quoting from what you call a paedophile apologists magazine.

To be clear in case you don’t understand it, let me remind you that you are now adding to your original defamatory smears, the new defamatory smear that you think I may be lying.

Can you please withdraw and apologise for your defamatory smears, as Person A has already done after an amicable exchange of views that has resulted in both of us encouraging people to engage in more civil discourse online.

27 Tim June 10, 2016 at 3:11 am

Given that Michael has chosen to allow comments to be posted (and to remain posted) on this site which he claims to be defamatory, is he not also the publisher of said comments, from a legal perspective? And given that one cannot defame oneself, it seems as though those comments could not serve as the basis of a successful defamation case.

28 Michael Nugent June 10, 2016 at 3:17 am

Tim, I am allowing the comments to be published here because they are already published online and, if someone searches for them online, they will also be able to find them here, in a place where they are also rebutted. In that sense it is damage control, as society is still coming to terms with how to deal with the Internet.

It is of course a judgment call as to whether this is wise or not, but it does not make the comments cease to be defamatory. When my late wife and I won a defamation case against Tim Pat Coogan, we chose to have the apology include the defamatory smear while also withdrawing and apologising for it.

I also think it is important that people are held accountable for their actions. Ideally, as always, I would prefer that those who smear me and us would realise how harmful and unjust their comments are, and just do the decent thing like Person A did. I’m not looking for blood, just for fairness and justice to be done and seen to be done.

29 Peter Ferguson June 10, 2016 at 3:19 am

The only comment I will apologise and retract is the one about Stormfront. That was overly hyperbolic (I don’t agree with smear or defamation) and unhelpful.

But I stand by everything else that I actually said and not what Michael twisted into imagined smears.

30 Michael Nugent June 10, 2016 at 3:31 am

Thank you, Peter, I appreciate that. The first paragraph, of course, not the second one.

It’s very late/early here so I’m going to bed. Let’s continue this discussion tomorrow.

31 Guestus Aurelius June 10, 2016 at 5:17 am

@25 Peter Ferguson

My problem is they aren’t speaking out about it. Let me use the Catholic Church as an example. And I am not comparing Nugent or Atheist Ireland with the Church, but I am comparing the logic used.

The Church frequently says “oh, of course discrimination against LGBT people is bad”. In fact it even says so in the Catechism. Does that mean the Church actually spends any time combating LGBT inequality. Of course not. Say “we oppose anti-Muslims bigotry” isn’t actually opposing it. Calling it out and labeling it is, attending protests is, writing articles critical of Islamophobia, people who propagate it and their tactics is. There are dozens of ways one can actively opposing Islamophobia via action.

In other words, they do speak out against bigotry, but not in the ways or to the extent that you would personally prefer.

Okay, but that’s hardly evidence that they don’t care about bigotry, which is what you’ve been insinuating.

As for the Church, it isn’t their job to combat LGBT inequality, and I imagine they don’t devote much time or resources toward that cause. So? They also don’t devote much time or resources to any number of other causes I’d deem noble. Doesn’t mean they don’t care about them.

That goes for any organization, or indeed for any person. Not focusing on something isn’t evidence of indifference toward it. (Whether the Church’s official stances are in fact bigoted is another question.)

You know what Atheist Ireland isn’t doing enough to combat? AIDS. Sure, they may say that they care about AIDS, but how can we believe them if they don’t take further action? Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that they are pro-AIDS. I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to get that impression, since they aren’t addressing AIDS to my satisfaction.

32 HH June 10, 2016 at 2:47 pm

I think I saw Peter complain at one point about AI’s priorities.

Here he is hand-wringing over anti-Muslim bigotry while anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish for the pedants) attacks are the growing far more rapidly than anti-Muslim attacks. What community might possibly be responsible for that? I’m sure that question is unanswerable to Peter. Any suggestion that large numbers of people immigrating from parts of the world where anti-Jewish rhetoric and propaganda are at breath-taking levels would probably be Islamophobia.

Massive increases in sexual assault from a community that tends (see basically any poll on attitudes in the Muslim world) to view women as less than men. Shocking.

I suppose, for the hard-of-thinking, I need to actually point out that I am not suggesting all Muslims are responsible for this. What I am suggesting is that these problems are not sourcing from the immigrant Christian community, just as they are not sourcing from the immigrant Buddhist community. I am suggesting they are sourcing from the immigrant Muslim community. If that is bigoted then we have arrived at the point where un-PC facts are now bigotry.

33 Damion Reinhardt June 10, 2016 at 3:11 pm

“Has everyone abandoned the original purpose of the telephone?”

Excellent question, Ardent Skeptic.

Michael and Peter – You guys know each other and hold very similar values; you can always get on Skype and hash it out. There is no need and scant benefit to airing this all out in public.

34 Shatterface June 10, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Since Pster Peter Ferguson is too modest to reference the no-doubt sterling work he’s done in combating ‘Islamophobia’ it’s difficult to determine whether he or AI have done more.

35 Shatterface June 10, 2016 at 6:10 pm

There is no need and scant benefit to airing this all out in public.

I think I’d one party has already smeared another in public a private apology is worth fuck all.

But congratulations to Ferguson for finally getting his blog noticed.

36 Shatterface June 10, 2016 at 6:20 pm

Also, if you care so much about tackling anti-Muslim bigotry why didn’t you or any other members of Atheist Ireland attend the protest against Pegida.

Dear Muslima…

37 An Ardent Skeptic June 10, 2016 at 9:09 pm

@Shatterface

You said, “I think I’d one party has already smeared another in public a private apology is worth fuck all.”

It is perfectly reasonable and much more likely to be successful if Peter and Michael speak privately to resolve their differences, and then draft a public statement which both can agree on.

Your assumption is that one person is completely wrong and needs to apologize to another person who is completely right. This debacle may have started publicly, but there is absolutely no reason why a private discussion between warring parties can’t resolve the issue – private negotiations where agreement is reached and announced publicly.

38 latsot June 11, 2016 at 2:01 am

Dear Muslima…

Oh dear, Shatterface, that ain’t no Dear Muslima. It isn’t saying that since some problems exist others are magically unimportant, which is what Dawkins was saying with that unfortunate, blithering comment.

Instead, I think it’s a good question. If this really happened why did AI decide not to attend the protest? You’d think it would be right up their alley. I don’t think attendance or otherwise proves anything but it makes a statement, doesn’t it?

39 Derek Walsh June 11, 2016 at 8:08 am

latsot:

Ate you asking why the members of Atheist Ireland who were staffing their regular information stall didn’t just suddenly abandon it to go and march in a demonstration that happened to be taking place nearby?
Because that’s what you appear to be asking.

40 Steven Carr June 11, 2016 at 8:35 am

Did Peter Ferguson comment on the massive fire in a refugee home for 282 refugees in Dusseldorf this week? Smoke could be seen all over the city.

Surely burning refugee homes are just the sort of thing somebody defending Muslims from Islamophobia would comment on?

41 latsot June 11, 2016 at 9:11 am

@derek walsh:

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m asking.

42 mike kelly June 11, 2016 at 9:26 am

@latsot
When the question is phrased properly (@Derek), it answers itself doesn’t it.

43 latsot June 11, 2016 at 12:41 pm

@stephen carr:

You see, shatterface, that is a Dear Muslima.

44 Dave Allen June 11, 2016 at 1:06 pm

I don’t see it as such.

I see it as highlighting the fact that it’s silly to assume that just because a person has failed to opine on a particular issue that they don’t care about it or similar issues.

So it’s a follow on from post 23, in which Peter suggests Michael prove he isn’t bigoted against muslims by following Peter’s preferred formula for proving he isn’t bigoted against muslims.

45 Shatterface June 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Your assumption is that one person is completely wrong and needs to apologize to another person who is completely right.

My assumption is that someone who has wronged someone should apologise whether that person is completely right or not.

Don’t make assumptions about my assumptions. You are not good at it.

46 Shatterface June 11, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Blockquote fail.

47 Shatterface June 11, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Instead, I think it’s a good question. If this really happened why did AI decide not to attend the protest?

If you are asking why AI didn’t take part in the violent protests against Pedida you should read here more often.

There’s more to ‘activism’ than street thuggery or making blocklists of feminists with your chums.

48 latsot June 11, 2016 at 4:25 pm

There’s more to ‘activism’ than street thuggery or making blocklists of feminists with your chums.

Really? Why I did not know that. I thought that all activism was totally about blocklists….of….feminists, apparently. Good to know you’re here to keep up with my education.

49 mike kelly June 12, 2016 at 11:28 am

@latsot

Education, on the whole, only benefits the ignorant. I’m not sure your condition is so easily corrected.

50 Shatterface June 12, 2016 at 3:26 pm

I thought that all activism was totally about blocklists….of….feminists, apparently.

Apart from helping chase Ophelia Benson off FtB, what are your achievements in life, given the massive privilege of your upbringing?

51 HH June 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm

@lotsot,

You said (I’m too lazy to check right now on how to quote someone):

“Oh dear, Shatterface, that ain’t no Dear Muslima. It isn’t saying that since some problems exist others are magically unimportant, which is what Dawkins was saying with that unfortunate, blithering comment.”

Dawkins made it clear that he wasn’t saying the whole elevator thing was a lesser problem. He saw it as a non-problem (zero harm).
That is what Dawkins was saying in his perfectly good satirical piss-take of a group professional victims.

52 john welch June 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Ah, the old “you aren’t doing enough” schtick. Note that it’s never followed by a list of the actual ACTIONS the person throwing that bullshit line is taking.

You can ask ferguson for what ACTIONS that go above and beyond what AI is doing until the cows wander home, you’ll never get that list.

The important thing is that Peter Ferguson is a good person, and if you disagree with him, you’re a bad person.

53 Henry Fitzgerald June 22, 2016 at 2:51 am

As for this:

“A Stormfront member could visit the [Atheist Ireland] site and see nothing that would suggest that AI is antithetical to their brand of Islamophobia.”

I don’t see this so much as a smear (although the claim is, as it happens, false), so much as a cheat, an unearned free kick.

If a Stormfront member visited the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website they’d see nothing specifically opposed to their beliefs there, either – but so what? No organisation should have to provide a comprehensive list of everything in the universe it doesn’t support.

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