MA Melby has published a post satirising Atheist Ireland’s dissociation from PZ Myers by inventing an Institute of her own and dissociating that from comments on my blog.
The second half of MA’s post is quite reasonable, and I will address it as part of my response to Ashley Miller’s recent post, and to another post by Secular Woman that has just been brought to my attention.
I want to acknowledge here the reasonable discourse in all three of these posts, with the exception of the first half of MA’s post, which I am addressing here to get it out of the way before responding to the rest.
So I am responding here only to the first half of MA’s post. That may make my response here seem more adversarial than if I was responding to all three posts, so please bear that in mind while reading it.
More smears aimed at Atheist Ireland
I have no problem with satire if it is aimed at the right target. This isn’t. If you have problems with the comments on my blog, then please satirise me, not Atheist Ireland.
This post smears Atheist Ireland, not for anything that Atheist Ireland has said, but for what other people have said in comments on my personal blog.
It comes on the heels of outrageous smears linking honourable people like Ashling O’Brien, Derek Walsh and Jane Donnelly to supporting abuse and silencing victims.
It follows the strange meme of implying that Atheist Ireland does not actually exist as an organisation, which is disrespectful to many hardworking activists.
If the implication is that Atheist Ireland is selective in its approach to ethical behaviour, that is mistaken. We try to apply the same standards to ourselves as we do to others, and we apologise for and try to rectify any mistakes that are brought to our attention.
If the implication is that Atheist Ireland does not prioritise women’s rights, that is also mistaken. We actively promote and lobby for women’s rights, and we have hosted an international conference on Empowering Women Through Secularism, the declaration from which is central to our equality policies.
Every time people smear Atheist Ireland, and by extension its committee members and activists, I will respond and correct that smear and ask them to stop doing it.
Not blog comments, but reaction to them
Even if the satire had been targeted at me, I suggest that it would have been misdirected.
With regard to blog comments, I have not criticised PZ for the comments on his blog, but for his reaction to the comments on his blog.
Whereas I actively encourage commenters to be civil, PZ actively encourages his commencers to be hostile, and he has used violent and dehumanising rhetoric in doing so.
Whereas I would instantly remove any comments saying that ‘Dawkins and his rape cheerleaders can fuck a power socket’, PZ leaves them there while banning a dissenting commenter and telling them to fuck off.
I assume that dissociating the Melby Institute from that behaviour will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the Executive Committee.
I agree with some of MA Melby’s criticism
I agree with some of MA’s criticism of some of the comments on my blog.
Some of the comments she brought to my attention are outside of my comment policy. I apologise for them being there, and I will be removing or amending those comments.
That’s what I do when somebody shows me that I have done something wrong. I apologise and rectify the issue as best I can. It’s not that difficult. More people should try it.
It’s what I and Atheist Ireland did after I wrote a post about the ethics of some comments that had been published on the Slymepit.
Some members of that forum responded by highlighting some unacceptable comments that had been published on the Atheist Ireland forum and our blasphemy campaign website.
We then apologised and removed those comments. I am now responding in the same way to MA Melby as Atheist Ireland did then to members of the Slymepit.
The validity of robust debate
I will not be removing or amending all of the comments that MA highlighted, because many of them represent robust debate that I think is useful, even if I strongly disagree with the ideas that the commenters are proposing.
My comments policy allows robust debate, but there are certain things I do not allow. This includes accusing people of lying, and attributing malign motivations to other people.
You can say that somebody has said something that is not true, but to say that they are lying is to say that they know that it is not true, whereas in reality they may simply be mistaken.
My blog software, despite some glitches, is set to put certain words into moderation, and I generally get around to checking published comments every few days, but sometimes it can take longer.
Generally speaking, if you are reading comments from the past couple of days (such as those quoted by MA), it is likely that you are reading comments that I have not yet checked. On my last check I removed about a dozen comments from one commenter, and emailed the content back to them with an explanation.
If you are reading comments from longer ago than that, and you find something outside my comments policy that I have missed, please let me know and I will deal with it.
An overview of my comments policy
Here’s an oversimplified version of my comments policy. Please robustly criticise ideas and behaviour, by applying reason to the best available evidence.
Please do not insult people as people, or express hatred towards them, or dehumanise them, or threaten them, or attribute malign motivations to them.
Also, please try to follow the spirit of that policy, rather than try to find ways around it. I’m extremely unlikely to ban you, so all you are doing is creating more moderation work for me, typically in the early hours of the morning after a long day’s work.
The second half of MA’s post
The second half of MA’s post is quite reasonable. It helps to clarify some nuances for me that I hadn’t paid enough attention to before.
As I said above, I will address it as part of my response to Ashley Miller’s recent post, and to the other post by Secular Woman that has just been brought to my attention.
I do recognise how some people see one particular issue as being very different to the other issues in our concerns about PZ, and I will address that in my next post.
As a final thought for now, even the second half of MA’s post is based on the mistaken idea that our concerns with PZ Myers are related only to civility.
They are not. They are also related to substance.
For example, PZ’s claim that ‘Richard Dawkins seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children,” is phrased quite civilly, but is outrageous in its content.
But I will deal with that in more detail in my next post.