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Posted by on Feb 3, 2013 in Atheism Plus, Secularism, SlymePit | 15 comments

Ceasefire Terms (Part 2)

 

Adam Lee isn’t the only one laying down terms, we also have this much shorter set of conditions from Stephanie Zvan:

What are my terms? Any participant from that “side” renounces the slime pit.

I inadvertently sprayed out some of my beer upon reading this, because it sounded so reminiscent of the Catholic christening ceremony, in which participants are asked to “renounce Satan and all of his works” in order to validate themselves in the eyes of the Sancta Mater Ecclesia. The longstanding narrative within the Pit is that they are continually vilified as Satanic for propagandistic reasons, as noted here:

Concoct a vile and powerful Satan looking to destroy your group, and the members will not only unite under you, but become even more ready to eat your bullshit, and even more hostile towards any outside influence. It’s the perfect tool for any demagogue to solidify their power and influence.

At this point, I should probably back up and provide a brief history of the Slime Pit, or That Which Must Be Renounced if one hopes to join to the ranks of Svan’s better opponents. The original slime pit thread kicked off on July 1st, 2011, and I first joined in four days later in the second of six threads. The whole collection of ERV threads criticizing PZ et. al. was first christened as the “pit o’slime” by one of the commenters on the original Butterflies and Wheels website a few weeks later, about one week prior to the auspicious launch of Freethought Blogs. This makes for the bizarre situation in which the loyal opposition coalesced somewhat prior to announcement of the new ruling party.

The opinion leaders over at Freethought Blogs did not relish the idea of having any sort of dedicated opposition, so they began a campaign to have the slime pit threads taken down, which consisted primarily of harassing Abbie Smith by contacting her employers and blog hosts. This campaign culminated in the equivalent of a massive digital book-burning, as all six threads (16.6 megabytes from countless diverse contributors) were taken down from the web, and Greg Laden received an ovation from the Skepchick crowd for having lighted the pyre.

It was at this point that I finally realized what we are up against as freethinkers. These are not opponents who hope merely to persuade us to conscientiously avoid threatening language or personal attacks (as we surely should) or who hope merely to tamp down disagreement and dissent. These are people who actively applaud the wholesale elimination of entire threads from shared digital spaces, because those threads contain some objectionable material interlarded within reams upon reams of dissent. They are, in a word, fundamentalists, looking for an excuse to suppress anyone who dares speak out against the received wisdom.

Naturally, high hopes for total suppression are bound to be let down in the digital age. Not only did Scented Nectar create an archive of the old threads, but a level-headed fellow called Lsuoma created a replacement forum which had steadily gained in membership and popularity as those driven out of the Freethought Blogs and Atheism Plus threads have sought out a please to voice their opinions without getting hit with the one-two punch of dog-pile followed by moderation. It is that new forum which has taken on the mantle of a vile and powerful Satan which must be renounced.

Enough history, back to the question at hand. Shall I renounce the SlymePit for the chance to have a sit down with Zvan herself? I have to admit that it’s just a bit tempting. I’m not particularly partisan about where I post, and I’d be completely content to move on to another forum. That said, I require clarification on what exactly a fully qualifying renouncement must entail. Do I have to honestly believe that the SlymePit should be completely shut down, as Greg and Stephanie appear to believe? Must I enthusiastically applaud when the bytes are consigned to the bit-bucket?

If so, it’s a no-go.

I will happily renounce every comment designed to mock individuals for their appearance or sexuality instead of their bad ideas. I’ll renounce personal attacks in general as both needlessly hurtful and generally ineffective. I’ll go beyond renunciation to condemn outright anything that resembles fantasy violence or threats. However, I cannot honestly say that the Pit should cease to be. It plays host to many insightful diatribes, many effective (relatively impersonal) satires, and countless honest conversations in which skepticism is allowed truly free range over subjects such as feminism and gender relations.

So here is my counter-offer to Stephanie: Renounce any and all attempts to hinder free speech and free thought. Publicly apologize for supporting Laden in his digital book-burning campaign against Slime Pit 1.0 and declare that the Slyme Pit should be allowed to exist in its current form, under its current rules. Renounce your efforts to prevent known ‘Pitters and others falsely accused of misogyny from obtaining positions of responsibility and leadership in the movement.

Do all that, Stephanie, and I’ll gladly leave the Pit and come to the table. Having done so, of course, I would not be representative of anyone but myself. Feel free to DM me on Twitter if you have any questions.

  • Chas Stewart

    Oh Jesus Christ! Linking to the Drunkenne Chefffe to show when FTB went live is absolute genius.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I may be mistaken, but I think that really was the very first post.

  • http://www.skepticink.com/humanisticas/ Peter Ferguson

    They (Adam & Stephanie) will reply in one of two ways, either by completely ignoring you or by focusing on one tiny aspect and nitpick. The last thing that will happen would be them to admit that setting pre-conditions to a discussion is just plain silly.

    (And yes I realise that completely ignoring you is technically not a method of reply)

  • http://twitter.com/Eshto Ryan Grant Long

    PZ called my a “Slymepitter” even though I don’t have an account and have never posted there in my entire life. He also called me a bunch of other ridiculous names, like “apologist” for “misogyny”. I don’t know much about the “Slyme Pit” but considering how totally wrong its detractors frequently are about everything else, I suspect it’s probably not nearly as bad as they say it is.

    In any case… no you can’t tell people what Internet forums they can or cannot look at, Stephanie.

    • jjramsey

      While not everything in the Slymepit is bad, when it is bad, it’s pretty execrable, as seen in a couple threads to which Zvan linked. It would be nice if when the badness started, there’d be some members stepping in to say, “Sheesh, that’s ugly … and lame.”

    • http://twitter.com/GerhardPrinslo1 Gerhard Prinsloo

      Actually, there is discussion over what is and not acceptable and any threats would immediately be condemned. The bottom line is that it’s impractical to participate in a forum dedicated to free expression if you are going to deliver a lecture every time someone crosses your personal boundaries. Szvan is out of order using isolated examples of what someone else said to dodge discussion. She and her friends work very hard at creating the impression that the Slymepit is egging on violence and harassment, probably as a justification for sidestepping criticism. I would argue that accusing someone of being a rape apologist is far nastier than anything that has been said about her at the Slymepit. Szvan and her ilk throw around accusations like that with such abandon that they don’t seem aware of the true nature of the accusation.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I’d much rather be called all manner of nasty juvenile words than a “rape apologist” or a “woman hater” but then maybe that’s just me.

    • jjramsey

      Come to think of it, after writing that earlier comment, I lurked on a more recent comment thread and saw Welsh and Notung arguing, with Notung encouraging civility. If Notung had done that on Pharyngula, he’d likely have been dogpiled.

    • http://twitter.com/Eshto Ryan Grant Long

      Well that just makes it sound like Pharyngula’s comments section. And sometimes the blog itself.

    • jjramsey

      True. Come to think of it, it makes it sound like quite a few parts of FtB … and not in a flattering way.

  • Kiwanda

    Considering the terms around which the Slymepit forum is organized (or
    not organized), it’s a kind of nondiscriminating “common carrier” of
    discussion: even less so than in a moderated forum, no one is
    responsible for the poor behavior of others. In this sense, they might
    as well demand renunciation of the internet: after all, people say bad
    things on it.

  • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

    Rodney Nelson here really gets to the point:

    “Shorter Damion: I support misogyny, racism and other forms of hatred. I
    like them so much I’m willing to lie about my opponents. So there,
    bitch!”

    So that’s what you’ve been saying! I guess I must have totally misread your posts so far.

    • Chas Stewart

      Longer version of, “so what you’re saying is bitchez ain’t shit?!” It’s like they’ve been handed a list of rejoinders that can supposedly be applied to any criticism whatsoever at anytime.

  • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

    So here is my counter-offer to Stephanie: Renounce any and all attempts to hinder free speech and free thought.

    It looks like Zvan is disputing that anybody on “her side” is guilty of this. I want to point out this IRL incident, a public teardown of some MRA posters was carried out by a group that included Atheismplus Forum moderator Setar:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Jz63_lGuSE
    http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=413

    I’m not a fan of A Voice for Men or the MRA movement, but that’s beside the point. Clearly, the above action meets the definition of censorship by mob action, by any reasonable definition. Basically, a variation on newspaper theft.

    And even with this aside, a larger case could be made that within the bounds of the atheist/secular movement, the kind of actions that Zvan has stood by are part of a pattern of shutting down free exchange of ideas within the movement, demanding hegemony of a narrow ideology under cover of promoting “diversity”, and generally acting in intellectual bad faith. I’d point to their constant missives to organized atheist and secular groups demanding intervention on their behalf, or shunning of certain individuals to be part of that pattern. This may not be any kind of government censorship, but it’s certainly nothing close to promoting actual “free thought” by a long shot.

    In other news, an extensive thread on the terrible harassment and intimidation faced by online feminists and how others can’t possibly know what that’s like, with liberal commentary by none other than Greg “Kickass” Laden: http://skepchick.org/2013/02/objectified/. (And don’t even get me started on the Gail Dines-lite video that Watson thinks is “awesome”.)

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      The denials speak so much less loudly than the applause at taking down 16.6 MB. They weren’t all clapping because Greg said those threads were *moved* but rather, “taken down.” It is the very essence of censorship to remove a collection of writings from the only place where they existed at the time, and they don’t get to retcon the history of what they did.