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Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Atheism | 11 comments

Ed Rybicki Speaks Out

[My guest on Lateral Truth is Ed Rybicki, the guy whose very short story resulted in a fair typhoon of shit in certain corners of the blogosphere, about a year ago.  I discussed the background previously, and will now leave Ed to speak for himself.]

 Where to begin, where to begin…I’ve already done the beginning, with having written the offending story in the first place, and I decreed on November 28th 2011 that that was the end of “l’affaire Womanspace”, so where, indeed?

 So let’s avoid a where, and let me write of a process: a process of rather abrupt education about a MOST bewildering world; a world where it does not matter what you actually wrote, but what a bunch of seemingly very angry folk think you meant when you wrote it.

I don’t know how it is that I missed the whole development of laagered blog spaces, given that I was an early and enthusiastic uptaker of the internet – back when it was command-line-driven chat group interactions on mainframes, accessed via 286 PCs via slow modems; when discussion groups would send you a day’s worth of posts to save you having to spend time logged in.  I suppose I was just too damn busy, being an academic and a researcher and being buried in paperwork, to see how vicious little circles of like and nasty-minded folk were getting together and honing their craft to pillory the unwary – with an almost impenetrable lexicon of catchphrases, to truly mark themselves out as an internet tribe.

 D00dliness?  Sockpuppet??  Tone troll???  Still don’t know what the last one means….

 Oh, yes, the process: I was idiot enough to get caught up in attempting to reason with people who were commenting on the Nature site, as well as on blogs such as those mentioned by Rebecca, after I was alerted to the shitstorm around what I still think was quite a good little story.  I said last year, on my own blog:

 “But you know something? All I was trying to do was relate something that friends and I had found amusing. Very well-educated friends, including women. I had hoped that it might transcend stereotypes, and make people smile. It obviously pissed a bunch of people off – and I am sorry for that”.

 And let’s be clear: I am sorry that it pissed people off.  I am not sorry for the story, despite people doing some almost unbelievable things to me as a result of it – or rather, as a result of the lynch-mob environment engendered by the kinds of vituperative commenting that became the norm on the various blogs that saw fit to join the party. One person wrote to my academic head directly to complain that I had:

“…perpetuate[d] the bias that makes it so hard for people like me to do my job. It perpetuates known myths that gender plays a role in our abilities or predispositions.”

 Really??  I had, single-handed, made it hard for her to work?  Oh, but there’s more: people I know well in an organization called “South African Women in Science and Education” were actually called on to get a petition going to censure me.  Fortunately, the two people in charge know me – and laughed it off.

While I received next to no personal communications, other than replies to blog comments, I was vilified at my place of work in what amounted to a systematic campaign – despite never having used a Departmental or institutional affiliation anywhere, and having written and published the thing in my private capacity – to the extent that the principal and a DVC of my university actually asked if we could have a public debate on the issue.  I told the DVC he HAD to be joking; getting abused in print was one thing, but public attacks would be another thing entirely.  I advised our hierarchy that it would blow over – and you know, it did?  Quite quickly, too.

So where am I, now?  Well, pretty much in the same place I was in prior to early November, 2011, because I have stopped reading Hatespace: that’s right; I no longer bother to check in on the circle-jerk that FtB had obviously become.  I also got good news which completely distracted me from the bullshit: my long-shot effort at getting my 30-year dream project funded struck gold, and yes, the wonderful person who walked into my office and asked “Does anyone here know anything about viruses?” and I will be exploring oceanic viromes (thank you, Maya!).

 So – all I can say is that I am wiser (but not sadder); that while as an atheist, humanist and liberal, the FtB blogs would look like they were made for me – they can Fuck.  Right.  Off.

11 Comments

  1. While FtB is often referred to by its detractors as possessing a Hive Mind it is perhaps appropriate that they also seem to display the same sort of swarming and stinging practices of other hive dwellers.

    Fortunately, outside of the hive, the attention span is not great – there are after all a great many wrongs that need to be righted by their special brand of keyboard justice.

    • Oops, I actually wanted to show some support to Ed and congratulate him for coming out of the ‘bubble’ with his sanity still intact.

      Good to hear you got your dream project funded! I wish you success.

  2. Ed,

    Welcome to the land of (mostly) reason. ; )

    I loved your original Nature article the started the whole kerfuffle. I also read your blog followups and must say I’m impressed with your very realistic (this will blow over quickly) handling of the entire affair. You seem to have a very accurate understanding as to the limits of the range of their echo chamber – notwithstanding that some of that vile crowd will attempt real world harm in the form of public vilification at places of employment. You are not the only one to be targeted in that fashion, unfortunately.

    It never ceases to amaze me when I witness the degree that some people process information through very fixed and narrow perceptual filters to fit data to their worldview. I really would have expected much more rational responses from the Nature audience and was quite disappointed to discover otherwise as I waded through the comments in response to your story. If that was the response you received at Nature, one can only imagine what happened within the FtB circus.

    The thing that got me most, I think, is that your original story either openly stated or frequently implied the superiority of your wife (and women in general) at every turn – and the naysayers seemed to utterly miss this, focusing on the horror of the stereotypical gender rolls within, which, in case no one has noticed, continue to exist in the vast majority of the populations within all of the world’s societies, including the good old US of A. Talk about missing the point.

    At the end of the day, the point that sits strongest with me, as being the most important and relevant, is your wife and other accomplished women, the ones that actually get things done away from the keyboard and twitter messages, understood the story for what it was – just a bit of entertainment and fun and laughed along with you. One of the most profound realities within the FtB and related groups and communities is the utter absence of any women of any real world accomplishment. All you get there are angry keyboard warriors. This should really tell us something important.

    The people who just refuse to get what you were actually writing about really need to get out more and get a life.

  3. Thanks for writing about your experiences in “Hatespace”. My husband has done an analysis of the comments made at hatespaces like FtB and found that it’s really just a few people talking to themselves. The impact they have in the real world is next to nil.

    Still, while you went through this attempt at character assassination and destruction of your work it must have been horribly unpleasant. All of this based on your detractors’ subjective interpretation of something you had written as being a negative reflection on your character.

    I’m with you, as to what the Ftbers can do. They portray an ugly image of atheists and humanists, which is not something people of reason should wish to associate with.

  4. Was just catching up on ‘Becca blogs, which led me, of course, to reading “Womanspace”. Loved it. But what a shitstorm! Glad you came out the other side.

  5. Folks: thank you! Shows there are some normal people out there.

  6. This story repeats itself time and again, around the world.

    So how exactly does one make generalizations about women, without them sounding like “stereotypes”?
    I dont think they will have a problem if I say “women are prettier than men”. Feminists themselves have no problems making generalizations.. in mainstream media no less.. that show women in positive light. for e.g
    http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/12-things-women-better-men-211900096.html

    Its only when they are shown in a negative light all hell breaks loose, eh? Its the usual hypocrisy. It all depends on whose ox is being gored.

    • The funny thing is, neither Womanspace nor EP research into gender differences actually cast women in a negative light. What’s misogynistic about the idea that women were better equipped than men for gathering? What’s so special about hunting? For that matter, what’s wrong with shopping? It’s as if the EP critics automatically rank women’s suggested inborn talents lower than men’s. Which is pretty sexist on the part of the critics.

  7. Via PZ’s post on this, you can find a collection of blog posts targeting Ed. wow.
    Womanspace: Responses to Rybicki’s display of male privilege on NPG

    Let me get this straight.
    Feminists have demonized and targeted men for the last 50 years. Doris Lessing herself had this to say in 2001
    Lay off men, Lessing tells feminists
    Novelist condemns female culture that revels in humiliating other sex

    “I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed,” the 81-year-old Persian-born writer said yesterday.
    “It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests.

    In every damn area, men have been demonized. Even boys havent been spared. for e.g Domestic Violence.. it has been established by academics since 1985 that it happens in both directions, in approx. equal amounts.
    In Defense of Abused Men
    Feminists never allow this truth to come out. They put out such ads in mainstream, propagandizing “men are perpetrators (always), women are victims (always)”
    Monsters In the Closet – Domestic Violence From a Child’s View
    Men are rapists, and need to be taught.. catch them young right when they are babies

    Type “awaiting instructions respect women” within quotes in images.google.com to see the billboards in NYC targeting boys.

    This makes men’s blood boil.

    And men cant even say that women have inclinations towards shopping?? This is feminist justice? This is why many men are withdrawing away from women. Fuck this shit.

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