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Posted by on Jan 19, 2013 in Atheism, Drama, Feminism, Freethought Blogs | 103 comments

Pretties vs. Uglies

I’m not going to rehash the most recent episode in the atheist blogosphere drama involving the Bolshoi Ballet, acid, harassment, and Ophelia Benson. But I’d like to make a few comments:

First, I disapprove of Benson’s conduct and treatment of others. But these are her decisions to make, and I’m sure my disapproval means nothing to her. If this is how she wishes to carry on, it’s her right to do so, just as it is the right of her opponents to criticize and even mock her actions.

Second, we still live in a world where women are valued largely by their looks. Sure, intelligence and a great personality are wonderful assets, but almost all studies show that being good-looking is a foot in many a door.

Third, I do not find Ophelia Benson to be ugly or unattractive. However, the fact that she regularly refers to herself as such makes me wonder if it’s something that bothers her. In any case, if I were criticizing Benson, I would never refer to her looks. Her looks have little to do with the conduct that upsets me.

Fourth, it is an oft unspoken truth that attractive and/or affluent women (and even men) have it much easier in life than the rest of us. So it wouldn’t surprise me if attractive women were less likely to be “gnu feminists.”

Finally, it is absolutely unacceptable to tweet the following to any woman:  “@OpheliaBenson: Maybe a vial of acid would do you some good. You already look like you were set on fire and put out with a wet rake.” After reading that, I no longer care about what Benson has said online; I can only think about how hurtful it must be to receive such messages on a regular basis. While I’m in no way defending her actions over the last several years, nothing she’s done merits this sort of abuse.

And that is all.

  • http://twitter.com/thewildlifer wildlifer

    As much as I disagree with that tweet (he has apologized) it is not a threat as PeeZus claims, “I’m going to throw acid on your face” is a threat. That acid, rape, chocolate at 1 a.m. “would do you some good” is not a threat.

    • bluharmony

      No, it’s not a threat. But I’m not the toughest person in the world (in fact, I’m constantly told how overly-sensitive I am), and reading something like that about myself would be devastating. Funny, now that I’ve said that, I expect that something similar will be written about me shortly.

    • Caias Ward

      A statement like that is insulting and can have a chilling effect on speech. It’s a dick move.

      Better to just criticize her lack of reasoning and engaging in logical fallacies than personal attacks. She’ll complain all the same, but at least it will be more obvious that she doesn’t have ground to stand on.

      • bluharmony

        Right. But people are giving her that ground. And I wish they wouldn’t — for our sake and for hers.

        • Caias Ward

          They need to call it out as a dick move. But doing so does not suddenly mean you support everything Benson says. That is my issue with Atheism+, Benson and PZ: they engage in tribalism and have no problem insulting others, all while crying when their ideas are questioned.

          • bluharmony

            Right, I disagree with Ophelia on too many issues to mention. But I have absolutely no desire to hurt her, and that is the only intent I can see for that tweet.

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

            Hurt her emotionally, not physically.

          • bluharmony

            Yes. But emotional pain, under certain circumstances, can be severe and even life-threatening. Not that I’m implying that such is the case here. It’s just something to be wary of when speaking with people you know little about via a medium such as the internet.

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

            Which is why I would never tweet something like that.

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

            Doesn’t matter if you call it out as a dick move. The Bensonites will allege that the usual scapegoats are high-fiving and very few will even bother to check. The lie will enter folklore and be embellished. It is her official policy to associate any ‘harassment’ with the SlymePit blog WHOEVER it i supposedly doing it. Fallacy as official policy.

          • Caias Ward

            Won’t disagree with you there. And they can claim their narrative. But when you have evidence that runs counter to their insane claims, people outside their circle see them for what it is. I did, and others do and will.

      • MosesZD

        But PZ Myers is the champion of “be a dick.” And you’d think a man who wrote this post, might just ‘get it.’ http://tinyurl.com/a67z9xp Especially when he follows up on it for months and months.

        But he doesn’t. He lacks the mirror of empathy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kieran.madden2 Kieran Madden

      It may not be a threat if you’re going to be pedantic about it but it is threatENING. There is also a very clear implication of a threat. I don’t think that being pedantic about the language used in situations like this is constructive in any way; such messages are vile and should be roundly and widely condemned.

      • http://twitter.com/thewildlifer wildlifer

        Nonsense. It’s disrespectful (but no more than a lot of stuff on the internet), but it’s not threatening or implying a threat. Words have meanings for a reason and it’s not being pedantic to refuse to accept people re-defining the language or using words improperly for which they obviously don’t know the meanings because they’re trying to score rhetorical points in an argument they’ve already lost.

        • http://www.facebook.com/kieran.madden2 Kieran Madden

          So what about threatening body language? Is that not threatening because no explicit threats are made? Would the recipient of such body language be wrong to complain that they are being made to feel threatened?

          Words do indeed mean things but so to sentences, and sentences have subtext and implication. While A+ and FTB are clearly guilty of unilaterally redefining words or purposely twisting the meaning of something a person has said in order to justify a diatribe or a witch-hunt, that is entirely different to acknowledging that a message such as the one in question is threatening or implies a threat.

          Even if I were to concede that the tweet wasn’t threatening or an implicit threat – which I absolutely don’t – I would still disagree with your claim that the tweet was just “disrespectful”. That’s far, far, far too mild – it was vile and outrageous

  • http://twitter.com/felch_grogan felch grogan

    Benson is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her only purpose in life seems to be to incite these kinds of comments. I have zero sympathy – these comments would not exist were she not so vile and obnoxious in the first place. Cast your mind back to a year ago when she was equating critics to car bombers –

    http://i.imgur.com/NUdWt.png

  • DavidGaliel

    You folks do realize that 95% of atheist, skeptics & humanists – even those very active online, like me – have no idea what you are talking about. I hate to say it, and know it will offend many here, but this is beginning to resemble a circle-jerk – you feed off the idiocy of the gender feminist/A plus/professional outrage/hatemonger brigade, and they feed off your attacks on their irrational idiocy.

    I used to love reading your rational take on all sorts of things, Maria. Now you’re just becoming like Keith Olbermann, who started out as an outstanding muckraker and ended up just feeding off Fox, always reactive, never initiating anything.

    No one really cares about the idiots except the idiots and the few of you obsessed with them. And no one who reads a blog like yours is the kind of person who would send the kind of hateful crap you mention here, despite the idiots pretending that we would.

    They provoke extreme haters with their own extremist hate, and then point to that as somehow representative of anything but their own sick fan club. You play right into their hands by taking them seriously and analyzing their bullshit as if it were a mediocre linguini, rather than simply a pile of bullshit.

    It’s getting so there are few places left where rational thinkers can go to actually discuss, you know, rational issues. Enough, already!

    • bluharmony

      This is important to me because I see it as a tremendous failure of the secular movement. Religion was never the problem. We were the problem, and we still are, because this is how we treat each other. In this post, I’m merely saying that this sort of behavior toward a woman (or a man) is unacceptable, regardless of who she is. Regardless of whether she’s my “enemy” or not.

      As I’ve said before, dehumanization of the enemy plays into my history, and it’s both horrifying and fascinating to see it play out online.

      I don’t care about religion as long as it’s not hurting anyone, and I don’t care about self-proclaimed skeptics who aren’t skeptical when it comes to their own pet beliefs. But I do care about the droves of people getting hurt by all this nonsense — on both sides. Also, I’m trying to figure out how widespread the problem with feminism has become, and it appears that it has spread through all of academia and throughout our government. And I want to find the truth. If the truth isn’t important, then what is?

      The fact that no sky-daddy exists is a given. How many times does it need to be repeated if we have nothing better to offer? As far as I can tell, the religious are behaving themselves better than we are. And that’s a problem. We are proving them right.

      Also, you say this only affects a tiny portion of the atheist community, yet that tiny portion includes Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, FFRF, CFI, AA, and every other prominent secular organization. They’re all trying to figure out how to deal with this nonsense.

      • DavidGaliel

        I don’t want to derail your discussion, and it is clearly your blog, so I will only say that, in my opinion, you have misidentified the problem(s) and are misdirecting your attention.”

        “I see it as a tremendous failure of the secular movement.”

        I see it as a few attention whores and blowhards whose reputation is fueled by your constant attention and that of others who have a lot more to say.

        ” I do care about the droves of people getting hurt by all this nonsense — on both sides”

        Step away from the whole incestuous blog-circle for a month, and you’ll be surprised how insignificant this stuff is in the scheme of things.

        “Also, you say this only affects a tiny portion of the atheist community, yet that tiny portion includes Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, FFRF, CFI, AA, and every other prominent secular organization. They’re all trying to figure out how to deal with this nonsense.”

        With respect, Dawkins, Dennet, Harris et all spend most of their time addressing the real issues of concern for rational thinkers in an irrational society and world. I read everything those thinkers publish, and I can’t recall the last time I read or heard any of them paying attention to this crap – maybe back when Dawkins wrote that single Dear Muslima letter.

        “his is a bizarre response to a post where I’m actually partially agreeing with the other side. That makes me Keith Olbermann? I think not, and I cant stand the guy.”

        The point I was making was that Olbermann became someone whose entire shtick was reacting to what the latest Fox blowhard had to say, instead of Olbermann having anything to say himself. I wasn’t making a qualitative comparison, I was pointing out that, ever since Elevatorgate, every time I check out what you are writing about, it is always a reaction to something someone in the tiny A+ masturbatory gaggle has said – and this is true on a bunch of other individual blogs that used to represent a positive, proactive voice for atheists and skeptics.

        Is this what you want to be remembered for? Spending every waking hour writing reactions to other people’s shit? You’re better than that. IMO.

        • bluharmony

          Dawkins has tweeted about this mess quite often and has sincerely tried to understand what’s going on. The head of the RDFRS is speaking at Women in Secularism — Melody Hensley’s pet project (CFI). Obviously Dawkins has to lay low to avoid accusations of misogyny and worse. But of the few people he follows, he started following me and others who speak out about this on Twitter. Harris has written about the horrid FTB trolling, and appeared greatly distressed as to what his children might think when all they see that he’s a racist bigot all over the internet. Shermer has now published two articles about Benson. DJ Grothe has been called to resign from his job, caved to all demands the feminists made of him, apologized for telling the truth, and even called the lack of concern about the publication of my home address in Laden’s hate thread about me “reasonable.” I’ll probably never be able to get a job at another firm because of the shameless (and prominent) libel about me on the internet. I don’t know how all of this will affect Abbie’s career, though the sciences may be more forgiving, after all, they’re allowing PZ Myers to remain a member of the faculty at some 4th-tier college. When is it going to be enough for you? How many people do you want to see destroyed before speaking up is appropriate? Is it unimportant just because it doesn’t affect you? What exactly is important to you, anyway? Harris’s pro-gun stance? Would you rather I write about why I think the 2nd Amendment is a travesty?

          If the more rational voices in this mess stay quiet, all you’re going to see is poor harassed women like Benson and Hensley attacked by the likes of the man who wrote the foul tweet that I re-posted. Everyone will feel sorry for them, and they’ll win. The movement will then become about how women feel and women’s ways of knowing rather than what is logical or supported by the evidence. And I don’t want to see that happen.

          • DavidGaliel

            ” When is it going to be enough for you? How many people do you want to see destroyed before speaking up is appropriate? Is it unimportant just because it doesn’t affect you? What exactly is important to you, anyway?”

            That is an unfortunate and unproductive comment, and starts to echo the A+ style. I’ve seen this before, this loss of perspective. I was the target of online harassment myself, my children threatened, their schools and names published, former and current clients contacted, and my every move online stalked by a crazed, infamous Minnesota-based creationist troll, because of my participation in evolution debates on Usenet.

            The difference is that I didn’t let it take over my life, I didn’t make him and his enabler wife symbols of anything except their own sickness, and I kept my eye on the ball.

            My original comment, to put this all back in perspective, was an expression of dismay at the disproportionate number of blog posts by intelligent people like you with a lot to say relevant to atheism, skepticism and critical thinking, that are about nothing but the A+ers and associates.

            Lindsey has written a total of three blog posts on the topic, and they seem to me more critical of the A+ers hate crusades than of their critics – although he notes, correctly, that some critics have gone overboard and sunk to or even below their level.

            I’m not sure why you and others here lump Lindsey in the same category as PZ Myers – that seems to me a little like lumping Jon Hunstman in with Anne Coulter. It smacks more than a little of the A+er style of calling everyone who does not perfectly toe the line all sorts of horrible names.

            Here is the Dawkins home page:
            richarddawkins.net

            Do you see the same kind of obsession with the issue that I find here in many AtheistInk blogs?

            Here is Sam Harris’ home page:
            http://www.samharris.org/

            Here is Dennet:
            http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/incbios/dennettd/dennettd.htm

            And here is Lindsay:
            http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/ronaldlindsay

            I’m sorry, I just don’t see the reams of posts about Watson and Benson and Myers to the exclusion of all other issues there.

            Frankly, even PZ Myers writes less about this stuff than many of his critics do, and Myers is the chief instigator and supporter of the idiots.

            I get that you were hurt by these folks, I really, really do. But that doesn’t make them a dire threat to the secular movement, in my opinion, that just makes them petty sleaze-balls who will ultimately choke on their own rhetorical vomit.

          • bluharmony

            Lindsay employs Hensley, the organizer of Women in Secularism, who tweets about this stuff daily. He blogs about once a month; it’s not really a blog, even, and one of the last three entries has been about this mess. It’s one of several. Harris blogs even less frequently; he just finished writing a book, much as I have a job, but one of his more recent entries has also been about this. Dawkins tweets about things like A+ occasionally, but mostly he writes books debunking religion. I enjoyed his books more when they were science-focused, although I love The Magic Of Reality. Given that he’s a strong supporter of evolutionary psychology, and the head of the RDFRS is a female evolutionary psychologist, I’m quite sure that he’s not happy that Myers and all of FTB — who, in total, have more followers than he does, are declaring her work to be pseudoscience. I don’t think you’re seeing the big picture here. Here’s a partial list of prominent figures who have joined the PZchicks: http://skepchick.org/2012/09/speaking-out-against-hate-directed-at-women-jonathon-figdor/, including the CFI, of course.

            At the very least this is fundamental, irreconcilable rift. It’s critical thought versus dogma, and I know which one I want to be a part of. And again, please note, that my post was actually stating that the behavior on “my side” was inappropriate, much as Lindsay stated in his post on the subject.

            As for Myers, he posts several times a day, and I doubt a day goes by when he doesn’t slam someone — typically a woman or minority — Stedman, Drescher, P. Gay, Justicar, Kirby, and all sorts of evo psychologists and neurologists whose findings don’t support his dogma. He’s not only mean-spirited, he’s anti-science. And I’m not OK with that.

          • http://www.facebook.com/kieran.madden2 Kieran Madden

            I have to say, I have a lot of sympathy with David’s point about the big-picture insignificance of all this. It’s degenerated into an almost unfathomably complicated schoolyard mess of he-said-she-said.

            But at the same time, I also think we need clear-headed voices like Maria’s. Otherwise we’ll be taken over by loons on all sides – I honestly think that A+ and its most vitriolic critics are as bad as each other. People like Maria enable us all to make it clear we want nothing to do with either.

            Also this nuttiness is affecting the science as a whole. Laden, whose name I was previously only vaguely aware of and whose role in this I had entirely forgotten because I too have limited interest in all this, has proven this by carrying out an outrageously dishonest attack on a climate change denier. All this will do is give this denier reason to claim persecution. So when I joined others in polite questioning of Laden’s actions, I became “one of the rapeapologists” out to get him. http://storify.com/Kieran_Madden/conversation-with-idebunkforme-gregladen-and-kiera

            This, I fear, is a wider and deeper problem than your average troll or online harrasser. I wish it could be ignored away but I’m not sure it can be.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Well, when you phrase it that way, Kieran, I too have sympathy for the fact that this is largely a drama-fest that seems entirely pointless and a huge waste. It is! But it’s here, it’s real, and it’s only going to get worse if people like us back down from it or try to sweep it under the rug. I think more people are starting to realize this, and right now, we need to keep raising awareness about this issue and bring it to the forefront, to get more critical-thinking people looking at the problem.

            “This, I fear, is a wider and deeper problem than your average troll or
            online harrasser. I wish it could be ignored away but I’m not sure it
            can be.”

            By this time, I’m far past the point that I think it will go away on its own. That time for me was during ElevatorGate over a year ago. Over a *year* ago! And, now in hindsight, looking at the history that preceded EG, it appears to go back even further, perhaps two or three years of minor dust-ups. It is *growing*, not shrinking. Ignoring it makes it *worse*, not better.

            Yes, there are counter-productive responses that can also make it worse. One could respond with more drama; that’s a proven back-fire, as we’ve seen. But there are other ways of responding to this — applying the tried and true methods of skepticism, especially *self*-skepticism — that can actually defeat the drama. I can back that claim up with several examples, if needed.

            It’s not the case that there are only two options: Ignore, or engage with equal hostility. There are other options. I’ve found some that work very well. I’m sure there are others that would work even better.

            This is not a matter of “Stop paying them any attention, you’re only making it worse.” This is more like an infected wound. If it doesn’t get treated, the results can be catastrophic for the movement. Have you not heard of ideological hijacking before? It’s a common threat to movements throughout history. It’s a common *demise* of such movements. Well, this is our first major example. This is real. It’s not going away on its own.

          • bluharmony

            Yep, that’s it. And my goal isn’t to respond with hate. I don’t feel any hate. If anything, it’s to report on major developments and share my views. I’m not even anti-feminist (though I *do not* accept feminist theory; I’d need actual evidence for that). In any case, to me, this incident was as clear example as any of what we should never do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            “In any case, to me, this incident was as clear example as any of what we should never do.”

            I can totally agree with that. This is a perfect example of why I not only advocate non-violence in activism, as well as against the use of violent rhetoric, but why I also go a step further and challenge the usage of rhetoric that has even a *hint* of a possibility of maybe sounding like it *might* support violence in any way. I can only control what I myself say, but I won’t support anyone who is so reckless with their words, especially considering how politically sensitive the whole atheism issue is, globally as well as locally in our own locales.

            Again, we need to become more self-skeptical, collectively speaking. We need to start taking *better care* of the words and ideas we allow ourselves to express willy nilly. Free expression is of prime importance, but smearing other people with false or misleading claims, or making ‘jokes’ that even hint of violence (assuming you’re acting as an activist for atheism/skepticism/secularism, and not like a comedian in a night-club or something) are illegitimate forms of activism, IMO. I *will not* support them. I *will* oppose them. That is, again, one of the major reasons I oppose the actions taken by many of these ideologues, such as OB’s smearing of people with insinuations that they are ‘stochastic terrorists’ and capable of despicable actions such as acid attacks. It really is just totally ridiculous. I hope more people will start to see this.

          • Astrokid NJ

            wow.. thanks for sharing this. I read through the links.. the 2011 libel episode with Tallbloke, and this 2013 meteorite issue. Laden’s a master at constructing a narrative with cherry picking, isn’t he? And anyone who doesnt have the same stance as he does.. is to be chastised.
            He is the enemy of pluralism and tolerance. As Franc et al have been saying.. this has only surface connections to feminism, skepticism. This is some pathology of human nature.

            While following those links, I came across PeeZus’s utter hostility to astrobiologists. The hubba-hubba theory of human evolution, which incidentally reveals one longitudinal stance of his.. on female sexuality:

            This passage is followed immediately by some cheesecake of two nearly naked (one is wearing garter belt and stockings, admittedly) women posing next to a bright red car.

            And there you have it, the totality of Joseph’s theory, which is his and he’s welcome to it: human women are really, really sexy — they are also multi-orgasmic and sexually insatiable — and this has driven the evolution of the big male brain, and also, our penises (“the human female is aroused by the sight of the male penis and the bigger the penis, the more aroused she becomes”). Unfortunately, he fails to present any evidence that intelligence is linked to sexiness, or even that human females are even sexier to human males than female rabbits are to male rabbits, or female cockroaches to male cockroaches. I mean, sure, you can make me drool by showing me pictures of lovely naked women, but so what? The scent of a female cat in heat has an even more dramatic effect on the local tomcats, but you don’t see them using tools and writing sonnets.

            Talking about human female sexuality irritates the hell out him. He ends up hyperboling the actual position, and then ridiculing that. I have heard people use the term neo-puritan to describe him.. I am beginning to buy into that a lot more now.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            “That is an unfortunate and unproductive comment, and starts to echo
            the A+ style. I’ve seen this before, this loss of perspective. I was the
            target of online harassment myself, my children threatened, their
            schools and names published, former and current clients contacted, and
            my every move online stalked by a crazed, infamous Minnesota-based
            creationist troll, because of my participation in evolution debates on
            Usenet.

            The difference is that I didn’t let it take over my life, I didn’t
            make him and his enabler wife symbols of anything except their own
            sickness, and I kept my eye on the ball.”

            Sorry to hear that. But now, what if that had not been some creationist, but a *prominent* skeptic and atheist in the movement which you’ve worked hard in for years? What if it started to interfere with that movement as a whole? What if a bunch of your friends had *also* been targeted. What if it wasn’t just *one* creationist and his wife, but *several* prominent people? And what if they decided to take it upon themselves to *expunge* you from the movement? Would that perhaps change *your* perspective?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            “My original comment, to put this all back in perspective, was an
            expression of dismay at the disproportionate number of blog posts by
            intelligent people like you with a lot to say relevant to atheism,
            skepticism and critical thinking, that are about nothing but the A+ers
            and associates.”

            David, with all due respect, this *is* “relevant to atheism,
            skepticism and critical thinking”. We’ve got *several* prominent ‘skeptics’ acting *very* unskeptically, and making moves to turn the atheist/skeptical movement into a dogmatically ideological beast. This is the equivalent of the Tea Party phenomenon, where the crazies start to take over the institutions and run the show. Do you really want to sit by and ignore that while it’s happening? Well, perhaps you do, and that’s your prerogative. But *I’m* very concerned about the future of our society, and I feel we need to promote *rationality*, not more political ideology. So *I* choose to fight against this bigoted ignorance infesting the atheist/skeptic movement (or whatever you want to call it), so that I have some sort of influence on bringing about a better future, rather than no influence at all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

          “Is this what you want to be remembered for? Spending every waking hour
          writing reactions to other people’s shit? You’re better than that. IMO.”

          I might ask you a similar question: Is this what *you* want to be remembered for? Ignoring a real problem festering in the skeptic/atheist community and the real damage it has been causing; ignoring the real harm (threats, attempts to interfere with employment, attempts to silence, shame and bully into submission, smear campaigns, petitions to force resignation, etc.) to real people?

          Let me ask you, if *you* had been the target of a smear campaign such as these, would you brush it off so lightly?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

      “No one really cares about the idiots except the idiots and the few of
      you obsessed with them. And no one who reads a blog like yours is the
      kind of person who would send the kind of hateful crap you mention here,
      despite the idiots pretending that we would.”

      The ‘idiots’ you are referring to include regional Executive Directors of CFI, one of the most popular and influential atheist bloggers around, etc. These are not just random people, they are people with power, and who use that power against *real* people like you and me.

      If ‘no one really cares’, then perhaps they should. Perhaps some people should be waking up to the reality of the dogma that has been festering in the atheist/skeptic community for well over a year.

      The issue of whether or not skeptical organizations can resist the siren call of secular dogmas is perhaps *the* most important ‘rational issue’ you could dream up. This is not about drama, this is about real harm to real people, based on dogma. It can’t get much more relevant than that, IMO.

      • bluharmony

        I agree, and that’s not to mention the personal and life-changing harm they’ve done to people like me. This is THE BIGGEST TEST. Can we be rational? Can we be moral? Can we recognize our own biases? If not, then what’s the point of the moment — it’s up for grabs to the first charismatic leader and his dogma, just as most similar movements have been in the past. That’s why I can’t see past this issue. (Oh, and I left out Michael Shermer, who’s also been maligned. Every figure with any power has, while those of us with none have been tossed aside worthless junk, whose lives and livelihoods are of no consequence.)

        There are plenty of blogs critiquing the Bible, but I have no interest in that, because I think the entire ideal of a “holy book” is absurd. And if atheism and skepticism bring no benefit to humanity, then what’s it all for?
        I am, however, interested in news, science, and philosophy, and I will be writing on those topics as time allows. But, as should be obvious, posts like that take a lot more research, time, and effort. It’s much easier to write a few sentences about something you feel passionate about right this very second!

        • DavidGaliel

          “Can we be rational? Can we be moral? Can we recognize our own biases?”

          And you determine the answer to that by overemphasizing the extremist views of an insignificant, over-vocal minority? You’re making it a self-fulfilling prophesy.

          The overwhelming majority of secularists don’t know PZ Myers from a whole in the head (which is not an inapt comparison); however, many more know about Pharangula through the constant obsessing by some bloggers who have allowed themselves to be as completely deflected and coopted as Alan Colmes was on Fox News. And that goes twenty times for Rebecca Watson, a mediocre figure who gets more publicity and attention from those outraged at her antics than from her fans. In fact, she is well on her way to becoming an Anne Coulter – someone who deliberately provokes to stay in the spotlight.

          Does anyone here think that paying more attention to Anne Coulter and constantly expressing outrage and endlessly writing about her bullshit would be a productive use of our time, or in any way weaken her influence?

          • bluharmony

            Was I expressing rage in my post? I was telling people not to. And BTW, the person who sent that Tweet is known by name, and later apologized.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            David, you keep making claims like this:

            “And you determine the answer to that by overemphasizing the extremist
            views of an insignificant, over-vocal minority? You’re making it a
            self-fulfilling prophesy.”

            But you are ignoring when we bring up the *fact* that these are influential people who *use their power* to harm *real* people, like you and me. How can you call that ‘insignificant’? Are you just saying this because you’re lucky enough that it wasn’t *you* that they targeted?

          • http://dpreviewsucks.blogspot.com/ The whole truth

            Thaumas, I just have to ask; how many people do these allegedly influential people influence and harm? And what “power” do they actually have?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Sorry, missed this comment earlier.

            I don’t have solid numbers on that, but I do think it would be fair to quantify it somewhat as: Probably more than you think.

            There are concrete examples, though. They are not all compiled in one place, though, and I’m not the best person to ask. However, I can give you some solid examples:

            * This petition was used to sabotage Justin Vacula’s recent appointment to a regional position (unpaid volunteer, I believe) with the SCA. Bogus accusations: http://www.change.org/petitions/secular-coalition-for-america-remove-justin-vacula-from-a-leadership-position-in-the-pa-chapter-of-sca (nearly 1000 signatures)

            * A fairly well-known science blogger, part of the cadre at FreethoughtBlogs, Greg Laden, issued threats of violence against Justin Griffith over a petty dispute:http://freethoughtblogs.com/rockbeyondbelief/2012/07/04/greg-ladens-sometimes-the-bad-guys-win/

            * Owner and founder of the FTB network, Ed Brayton, posts his desire to drum out from the movement well-known YouTuber Thunderf00t: http://thunderf00tdotorg.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/ftb-want-thunderf00t-drummed-out-of-the-community-and-forever-a-pariah/

            There are dozens of other examples. There’s always going to be two sides to these stories, so some of them are more ambiguous than others. The links I’ve given so far are generally from one particular side, so take that with a grain of salt. However, if you dig deeper into this issue, you’ll find that the pattern is largely one-sided, with the FTB/A+/etc. folks generally being the side doing the really unethical stuff, and other random folks basically fighting them off. It’s the larger pattern that I’m concerned with. I don’t always agree with one ‘side’ or the ‘other’. In fact, there are not really ‘two sides’ to this, but many different perspectives. It’s quite messy, honestly.

            However, I can also point to one particular episode which in a way sparked off one of the most notorious episodes, ElevatorGate. If you listen to the Watson/Myers side of things, they will tell the story that it’s all about how Rebecca Watson experienced this mysterious and raging backlash over an innocent sounding comment in a video. However, they will *always* leave out the crucial event that really sparked the outrage, and that was when Rebecca Watson made a very sleazy and underhanded surprise smear on an unsuspecting undergrad student, Stef McGraw. This was the event that got me pissed off and involved. As far as I can tell, the Stef McGraw incident is about as one-sidedly unambiguous as I know of. The best recounting of events I know of is this: http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/elevatorgate/

            That was over a year and a half ago. You’d think it would have died down since then, but no, it has grown, and the number of incidents has spiralled into utter ridiculousness.

            There are about 10 to 15 prominent bloggers, activists, and various people who make up the lion’s share of shit disturbing, plus a fairly large number of secondary and tertiary figures who are generally among the online commentariat at various blogs and websites. They can typically garner enough support to get petitions of up to a couple thousand people to sign for this that or the other statement or whatnot. Still, these numbers are quite ambiguous and it is not entirely clear to me how influential they really are. Outside of certain corners of the internet and certain organizations, they are frequently reported of as unknowns and “Who?”s. However, within their domains, such as the very popular blog Pharyngula, and the largest atheist blog network, FreethoughtBlogs, they are very influential and domineering. So, again, that makes it quite difficult to give a hard judgment as to their overall numbers and influence.

            They do have quite a bit of influence on certain major conventions, though, such as Skepticon, and they tried several things to first dominate, and later undermine the JREF’s skeptic meeting TAM. Rebecca Watson herself has bragged about having some of her critics (she calls them ‘stalkers’ of course) banned from certain conferences. Other incidents along these lines have been the source of major controversies (relatively speaking) since ElevatorGate. One of the controversies I frequently cite is when they were unskeptically spreading an entirely false rumour about ‘upskirt photography’ about a particular conference attendee, known as Mr. X in this context, which resulted in Mr. X withdrawing from the last TAM because of the ridiculous nontroversy that had been caused by unskeptical rumour-mongering. I engaged in a particular thread on this topic, at the peak of the drama, right when people still believed in the rumour, but when incontrovertible evidence had arisen which debunked it completely: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/17/update-clarification-correction-on-holy-fucking-shit/

            Judge for yourself the size of the ‘mob’ involved in that frenzy. That was just one blog. There were several blogs involved, at least half a dozen. If the incontrovertible evidence had not emerged, this guy’s reputation could have been thoroughly and irreversibly damaged over nothing more than fearful imaginations run wild.

            There are countless other incidents, of varying degrees of severity. I have certainly omitted some major ones, as well. It is hard to give concrete figures, but I’d wager I was right: Probably more than you thought.

          • http://dpreviewsucks.blogspot.com/ The whole truth

            Not more than I thought.

            And this makes me chuckle: “major conventions”. I’ve been to flea markets and swap meets that were way bigger than those conventions. Most high school football games would draw a lot bigger crowd than those conventions, as would many other activities, places, or events that no one would call “major”.

            My point is that most of the people on Earth don’t know about and don’t care about this soap opera, and frankly, there are way more important things to deal with, like IDiot-creationists who want to ruin science and dominate the world.

            Watson is an attention-whore drama-queen, PZ Myers is a pompous hypocrite with delusions of godhood, and the whole A+ thing is a farce. And yeah, I’m an atheist. :)

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Obviously, the context is *atheist and skeptic* conventions. Skepticon and TAM are two of the biggest skeptic conventions. What standards are you looking for, a freaking auto show?

            “My point is that most of the people on Earth don’t know about and don’t care about this soap opera,”

            Umm, hello, we’re not talking about ‘most people on Earth’. We’re talking about the atheist/skeptic movement. Have you even read this thread?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            By the way:

            “Not more than I thought.”

            You thought they had more influence? I’m surprised. You seemed not to know of them at all. How much influence did you think they had?

            And another by the way: This ideology that they are pushing is closely tied to certain brands of ideological feminism, which is taught outside of the typical disciplines associated with atheism/skepticism, such as the sciences.

            It is tapping into an ideology that *already* exists widespread in America. Feminism is *bigger* than atheism as a political movement. There are no shortage of people who’ve already bought into various feminist concepts like the patriarchy, privilege, rape culture, etc.

            This is not a fringe idea that popped up in one tiny group. This is a merging of two existing spheres, one largely political (ideological feminism and certain brands of radical leftism), and one more intellectual (skepticism; often not thoroughly developed, seen more as a banner than a way of thinking).

            This is something that can grow rapidly and make bold moves, setting unsuspecting people on their heels (see Dawkins’ recoil from the scene after the reaction to his Dear Muslima letter). Do not think that just because you are unimpressed with the leaders now, that it can’t morph into something quite different on relatively short order. I am not making any specific claims or predictions here. They would almost certainly be wrong, regardless of what I tried to predict. That’s just the thing. I don’t think you can risk being so certain that they are going to shrivel up and disappear on their own.

            I would strongly urge caution. This is not something that can be safely swept under a rug.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            “there are way more important things to deal with, like IDiot-creationists who want to ruin science and dominate the world.”

            And who exactly are you going to get to help you to accomplish these goals, if major skeptic and atheist organizations are hijacked by these ideologies, and dealing with petty dramas wasting time and resources?

            You seem to think that we can do one without the other. You would be mistaken. Organizations such as these are crucial to getting skepticism and critical thought into the mainstream, by representing skeptics in their local regions, providing resources for new skeptic start-up groups (such as CFI’s involvement with the SSA), and providing political representation for secular Americans (the SCA has been one of the targets here), among many other functions.

            “Watson is an attention-whore drama-queen, PZ Myers is a pompous
            hypocrite with delusions of godhood, and the whole A+ thing is a farce.
            And yeah, I’m an atheist. :)”

            And your point is? Yes, they are attention whores and hypocrites. And George W. Bush was a goof and a disaster. Didn’t stop him from getting into power (twice!) and fucking things up royally when *anybody* could have done a better job, simply by not fucking up and just basically sitting there.

            Your point is?

            My point is: This is real. You want it to go away? It won’t. Not without people like us fighting back against it. These people are on the move. They are motivated, and if left unchecked, they’ll pull a Tea Party on our movement and fuck shit up for the rest of us.

          • http://www.facebook.com/theo.fensivatheist Theo Fensivatheist

            Just wanted to let you know that IMO you’ve just summed up my concerns exactly. I would add this, as an Atheist who knows no others IRL, the community online was such a relief for me to find & i’ve made some good friends, then all of a sudden we started talking about “Feminism” almost every day & although some may have an interest in it, i felt there was just too much talk about something i personally have little interest in but when i 1st said that i was accused of being Misogynistic & a rape enabler etc’. I’d been around long enough to know this wasn’t usual & knew who was responsible but if i’d just come across the community on-line i may well have decided to just move on & forget all about it. I can’t help but wonder how many potential allies we’ve already lost due to A+/FtB & their obsession with attacking anyone who doesn’t see things as they do?

          • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

            out of ALL of those, the only actual “damage” that pack of loons was able to cause was vacula, who didn’t even fight, he just resigned. Brayton’s done what to Tf00t? Nothing. The end result of laden’s threat was…he was booted from FTB, and finally noted as the ineffectual nincompoop he is.

            Wow, that’s some power.

          • http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com Cephus

            Unfortunately, I agree with you. The whole Atheism+ thing is a big attention whoring circle-jerk, they crave attention, PZ Myers wants tons of hits for ad revenue and this is how they do it. They say stupid things and wait for the outrage to roll in. The unfortunate part is that a lot of bloggers fall for it every time. In fact, there are plenty of bloggers and tweeters and podcasters who search through every post, every tweet, every comment made by any of the A+ crowd, just looking for that next nugget they can get pissed off about. The problem, of course, is that plays straight into the hands of the A+ idiots. That’s exactly what they want people to do! The more attention, the more hits on blogs, the happier they are. This is never going to end so long as people are keeping the A+ losers in the news.

            That’s why, effective the first of the year, I called it quits on all things Atheism+. I don’t read blogs that focus on it (although one or two posts here and there are fine), I dropped podcasts that talked about it inordinately, I stopped following the morons on Twitter who constantly whined about Atheism+, I was done. And you know something? It’s vastly improved my attitude.

            Everyone ought to give it a shot.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            I applaud the sentiment. And for those who haven’t got the memo to ignore them? How are you going to convince all of them to ignore A+ without necessarily talking about A+? What reasons will you give for ignoring A+, without linking to evidence of A+ers’ bad behaviour? At some level, *some* attention must be paid to them, or they will be left alone to brood undisturbed. The best cure for the darkness of dogma is to open the windows and let the light in. We do *not* need to feed them to do this. We can circumvent ad revenue systems, we’ve already been doing so many of us. There are lots of alternative ways to keep tabs on something on the internet, without ignoring it, but without feeding it either.

          • http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com Cephus

            There’s a difference between talking about the facts regarding A+ and smearing yourself in their stupidity and yammering about it from one end of the Internet to the other. In fact, I don’t have to point out anything in particular that they’ve done, I don’t have to link to anything they’ve said, in order to explain to people that all the constant attention they pay to A+ is entirely counterproductive.

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

            PZ Myers and some of his colleagues may well be trolling for attention, but it is a mistake to dismiss his conviction. He has a core of very committed gender warriors behind him. He has always shown a tendency to go hardcore on gender issues with a reflexive dislike of evolutionary psychology which casts doubt on the whole ‘gender as a social construct’ thing. His wife, I believe, is a diversity officer.

            Ignore them, and don’t be surprised if you find that the Goddists are eventually vindicated in their claims that atheism is a religion with loony-leftism as it’s creed. Many atheist SJW (social justice warriors) are convinced that skepticism should adopt their gender politics. They seem to believe that the application of skepticism leads to their conclusions and that the skeptic movement should adopt their politics. They have confused the practise of skepticism, which is what the movement is about, with the conclusions they draw. Except in the hard sciences (and not always then) the skeptical approach can not lead to definitive conclusions. They will sully the word ‘skepticism’ if they prevail.

            I regard Warson with extreme suspicion. She writes for Slate, I think, and has appeared on Al Jazeera. She is cranking out the atheist misogyny meme to the world when she gets the chance. The moment my alarm bells went off was when she accused McGraw of ‘parroting misogynistic thought’. I didn’t know anything about her until then, but my immediate reaction was of disbelief that am apparently mainstream skeptic could say something that belonged in a nuttier uni social studies setting. That phrase was in response to a respectful query about the appropriateness of the word ‘objectification’ to the elevator incident. According to an article I read, women scientists cite what happened to Watson as reason for not getting into blogging. She is not a scientist, she (deliberately, I think) invites trolls, and she won’t provide much evidence of any serious victimisation. Her bleating has already done damage.

          • bluharmony

            The initial word was actually “sexualization.” She sprang “objectification” on Stef McGraw at the leadership conference keynote, and she skipped over the elements, since the incident doesn’t fit the definition, anyway.

        • Ronlawhouston

          “Can we be rational? Can we be moral? Can we recognize our own biases?”

          I’m not sure even the most self aware among us can do this 100% of the time. However, many of the people you flag are very dense in the ego department and have extremely low self awareness.

          That’s why these things become vicious circles. In order to truly accept criticism you must be self-aware enough to question yourself about your blind spots.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Good points. I agree. The term I use is ‘self-skepticism’, summed up by this very handy quote from Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Another way I try to use constantly is the questions: “How do I really know that?” and “What if I could be wrong?”

      • DavidGaliel

        So, you basically abdicate control of the conversation to a lunatic fringe, embrace their rhetorical framing, and become merely reactive. IMO, that’s not a recipe for progress. Have we learned nothing from the way the Far Right pushed itself into the limelight?

        “When did you stop beating your wife, Senator” became, “When did you stop attending church”, became “when did you stop attending the right kind of church?”

        It’s no different than “when did you stop harassing women, rapist?” It’s counter-productive to play their game.

        And who exactly is that “one of the most popular and influential atheist bloggers around” you are referring to?

        • bluharmony

          He was referring to Myers and Lindsay.

          • DavidGaliel

            By precisely what criteria is PZ Myers “one of the most popular and influential atheist bloggers around”?

          • bluharmony

            He has the most followers and makes the most money. He’s also the partial owner of the best-known atheist blogging network. Lindsay is the director of the CFI, the organization that Melody Hensley works for.

            Have you seen the list of people who’ve spoken out against “misogyny” in the community? It’s quite impressive.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Can you name a more popular one? I’d be surprised if you could, though he may be waning recently and the first few top positions might have shifted around a bit, I don’t know.

          • bluharmony

            He is well known as the most popular science blogger, although the reaction to his ideology might have pushed him down a few notches. I still can’t think of anyone more popular, though. Coyne is a much more intelligent and accomplished man, but he can’t pull in the crowds and persuade the way Myers does.

          • http://dpreviewsucks.blogspot.com/ The whole truth

            Why was one of my comments deleted?

          • bluharmony

            I haven’t deleted any comments in this thread or on this blog. Ever.

          • http://dpreviewsucks.blogspot.com/ The whole truth

            A comment that I submitted and that did appear here disappeared a little while later.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            @The whole truth: It wasn’t deleted. It is nestled in there upthread, and I’ve responded to it, albeit somewhat belatedly.

          • MosesZD

            He was the ‘most popular’ science blogger in 2006. But that’s not actually right, it was Science Blogs (Seed Blogs and as an aggregate) with his non-science Atheist Movement posts that got him top blog in that aggregator.

            Now there are plenty of science blogs aggregators that crush all of FtB. And Science Blogs has, as an entity, dropped to 10th in the aggregator rankings.

            As far as Alexa is concerned, all of FtB comes in at around the 20K mark. And that’s the aggregate of all 40ish blogs. WhyEvolutionIsTrue, by itself, comes in at the 60k mark. SkepticInk, far newer and smaller, comes in at the 115K mark. (All values are approximate and rounded.)

            It’s best to think of Myers as an early-market leader who couldn’t hold onto his position and was passed and has been kicked to the side. Sure, he has his devout following, but Osborne Computers had that in the 1980s and where are they now?

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

          “So, you basically abdicate control of the conversation to a lunatic
          fringe, embrace their rhetorical framing, and become merely reactive.
          IMO, that’s not a recipe for progress. Have we learned nothing from the
          way the Far Right pushed itself into the limelight?”

          I agree with you, that’s a terrible strategy. Now, where have I actually advocated for that? No where. Not ever. Not once in my life.

          David, from *my* perspective, the ideologues have *already* seized control of the conversation in some corners of the movement. I’m advocating *regaining* the level playing field we once had but a few years ago, where one couldn’t be shoved aside at a mere word or two from someone who had a petty beef with you.

          My strategy is *very* much like the strategy I advocate for handling any other dogma, such as theism: Stand up to them, but intelligently, and don’t back down from threats or other unreasonable tactics, but keep pressing the issues of importance, such as the unethical behaviours that we’ve been seeing, and the unjustified beliefs that they are based on. It works. I’ve been using it since EG, and refining it for this particular circumstance. I’m able to bring a reasonable argument to the table *without* contributing any heat or flame to the drama-mongering. My ‘debates’ tend to be ‘boring’ and kill the drama by suffocating flame wars and starving them of fuel. But at the end of the day, my questions stand, either answered (with fallacious attacks) or unanswered (because they have no answer). The audience decides, and I have not contributed to the drama mongering myself.

          Basically, I politely call them out on their bullshit. It works.

          • bluharmony

            And that is my goal as well. I may slip up occasionally when the attacks get personal, but I’ve still been able to maintain cordial relations with quite a few players on the other side. That said, I maintain cordial relations with some people at the Discovery Institute, as well, though they know exactly where I stand on those issues. And, in general, they’re much nicer about it.

            There’s one more reason for me to speak out against this, and that reason has to do with my gender. There are two movements involved here, after all.

      • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

        Power? What “power”?

        the power to say mean things about you? o noes. Okay, they’re now as powerful as any four-year-old.

        The power to not let you into a conference? Big upgrade, they now have the power of the planning committee for a jr. high prom.

        They. Have. No. Power. They do not even FORCE. The only “power” they have is the vague power you insist they posses because they have a BLOOOOOOOOG.

        big deal. I’ve told the lot of them, at different times what I think of them in so many words.

        Sum total response beyond whining? none. Because that’s all they have. The sooner you stop giving them power they neither have, nor have ever had, the better off you’ll be.

    • MosesZD

      Let me summarize. Myers, Brayton, Laden, Benson and a number of others have been, for years, attacking other atheists for not kow-towing to their vision of atheism which is presented as a dogma. It’s sort of a grand trolling, if you will.

      Assert an opinion as fact. Fail to provide any facts when challegened. Engage in ad hominem attacks, strawmanning and harassment instead of civil rebuttle.
      We have seen over the years Thunderfoot, Phil Plait, Richard Dawkins and many other atheist bloggers and leaders attacked and brow-beaten, often for weeks and months at a time, for daring to express some fact pattern or call for behaviors that do not fit with their religious dogma. And I do the word ‘religious dogma’ in this manner: Dogma is the official system of belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization.

      People have lost jobs and/or positions in the atheist movement over this. We have these people try to get their critics fired, black-balled and otherwise marginalized.

      • bluharmony

        Phil Plait got it for his “Don’t Be A Dick” speech. But it had nothing to do with gendered insults, and everything to do with maintaining some semblance of civility and integrity in our discussions.

        • MosesZD

          I also remember how Myers made one of the dumbest appologetics of all time when he equated his going to the hospital for his heart problems with being a dick. Somehow that if he’d not been a dick, he wouldn’t have gotten his heart checked and, therefore, died of a heart attack. Therefore, being a dick was a good thing.

          The reality is he came from a family with heart problems on one side and having early-warning signs during the low-grade exercise he was taking (gentle walking) was just common sense. Just like when I had early symptoms of an inguinal hernia and went to the doctor. Or when I go to the doctor next month because I’ve developed a hydrocele.

          Having a health problem then taking care of it doesn’t make your argument for “being a dick” any stronger. Rather, it makes you (at least to those of us who think) look silly buggers when you make a tortured connection to taking an early-warning heart-attack symptom into supporting your being the “Shepard of the Trolls.”
          I’ve also noticed that when Dawkins was a ‘dick’ and mocked PZ’s little flower, Myers didn’t like that sauce…

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

        Agree, except that I think the def’n of dogma you’re using is too strict to apply to the A+/FTB/whatever thing. There is not really an “official” dogma. There are proposed official dogmas, but they are not really held up as actually official. For me, a more useful focus is on the idea of the dogma being defined by its being unquestioned and unquestionable. It’s the opposite of skepticism. It can change and morph over time, and it does, but it’s the use of social pressure to discourage critical thinking that concerns me most.

        • bluharmony

          There’s also the issue of constant double standards. One set of rules applies to their in-group, another to everyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/AtheistExile Jim Ashby

    What gripes my ass about these kinds of ‘controversies’ is that they start off overblown then get even more inflated by unwarranted attention. I think most of these non-issues are generated by bloggers desperate for material to opine about.

    If bloggers like P.Z. Myers and many of his cronies at FtB are to be believed, atheists are a bunch of misogynistic, self-indulgent, privileged white folk. I don’t believe that for a second! Just because SOME atheists exhibit such idiocy, doesn’t mean it’s a serious problem among atheists. Sure, these problems exist (not just with some atheists) but that doesn’t mean they’re prevalent.

    Public education campaigns are the best remedy for most social ills. Bloggers should be HELPING public education instead of blowing these problems out of proportion. Racism exists, to varying degrees, within all of us. That doesn’t mean most of us are bigots or that one race (whites) is more bigoted than others. Rape is a serious problem that degrades quality of life for women and doesn’t help men much either. That doesn’t mean most men are lecherous rapists in waiting.

    Mainstream feminism is supported by most men but radical feminism is a bit much for many men and women. I think it’s a human character flaw that we tend to excess when we champion our cherished causes. And the blogosphere puts this excess on public display.

    • bluharmony

      I think that’s about right, although after all this I’m really starting to hate the word “feminism.”

  • Karmakin

    Ophelia was trolling for this, either knowingly or unknowingly. And she got a bite. Personally I think the whole thing is despicable all around.

    When you compare critics of your bigotry and entitlement to acid-throwers, that may very well result in some random moron taking said bait and making a direct comment on it. Not that I’m saying it justifies it, of course. It doesn’t. But what I’m saying is that, at least in this case, Action A may very well result in Action B. She brought up the subject.

    Again, I’m not defending that tweet, as I think such things are terrible and awful. But I’m not defending her initial statement either as I think that was terrible and awful as well. So basically it’s an asshole fight. I think both are vile all around.

    • Clare45

      I didn’t realise that Ms. Benson had actually provoked this cat fight by comparing her critics to acid throwers. Thanks for clarifying that.
      While the response about her looks and acid throwing was juvenile and inappropriate, I am sure that both the original statements and the response were supposed to be metaphors-not to be taken literally on either side. It just shows you that you have to be very careful how you word comments on the internet, and think through the possible repercussions before you post.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

        “The” response is “the” response that OB has promoted as “the” response. It was actually *one guy* making one terrible ‘joke’ (he now claims), who everybody (including the guy himself, apologizing for it) has said was completely inappropriate and a really stupid thing to say, not to mention legitimately offensive to OB.

        It’s this latter fact that *everybody* condemned it that OB and her fans don’t bother to actually report. No, instead they report that ‘they’ all think it’s hunky dory, which is utter bullshit. She’ll never be able to produce a quote of *anyone* saying that.

        Her critics are boogeymen to her, she has no idea what we really think or why. She just makes shit up about us. Unfortunately, it’s become her standard modus operandi. PZ Myers as well.

  • DrewHardies

    Very well put, and I agree with your clear stand on the tweet.

    I actually have no idea about the back-story leading up to it. And, I’m not sure it would matter. Because, at best, the justification would be, “It’s ok that Person X wrote abusive things. Some C-level internet celebrity, in a debate no one follows, did it first.”

  • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

    Ohh, my! I think, I’m gonna have to disagree with you on this one: “Her looks have little to do with the conduct that upsets me.”

    I think it has a lot more to do than she cares to admit, and I thought you were going to address that when you clearly stated: “the fact that she regularly refers to herself as such makes me wonder if it’s something that bothers her.” (Is this some unconcious admition?)

    I think that bothers her in such a great deal, *that’s* exactly what shapes her femtheist views and irrational behaviour.

    I’d suggest (I might be wrong, but this explanation works for me), Ophelia Benson has been all her life at the receiving end of this: “we still live in a world where women are valued largely by their looks. Sure, intelligence and a great personality are wonderful assets, but almost all studies show that being good-looking is a foot in many a door.”

    Unfair? Sure! It’s unfair as hell and social awkwardness can be a bitch, but now here we have a vengeful woman who basically hates everyone who doesn’t feel like her and all those people who grant more value to looks than they should -which can be unfair but to call almost every guy in the world a potential rapist is going waaay too far-!

    • bluharmony

      It’s funny, at first I put “nothing” and then changed it to “little.” I don’t think she’s unattractive, but you’re right, the way she feels about herself could certainly play a part. But all of this is just speculation. In the end, it’s the conduct that matters. Many women who don’t feel attractive still don’t act the way she does, and whatever her behavior has been in the past (she’s been horrid to me, for example), she still did not deserve to be hurt and insulted in that way.

      I understand why she feels under siege right now. She can’t tell the critics from the trolls, and there’s plenty of both. But her hyperbolic statements and comparisons are only making things worse. That’s not to excuse the behavior of the trolls, however.

      • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

        Now we agree! You’re right!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

      “I think that bothers her in such a great deal, *that’s* exactly what shapes her femtheist views and irrational behaviour.”

      I understand you’re expressing your opinion, and I don’t want to fault you for that (or anything actually), but I would like to say that in my own opinion, this kind of ‘mind reading’ of other people’s intentions, motivations, flaws, and character, etc., is one of the major things that tends to trigger emotional, drama-laden responses, which tend to trigger yet further drama, escalating and escalating until it becomes a huge multi-blog drama war. I’m not saying your comment specifically will do this. I’m saying that making such comments carries with it a risk of incidentally contributing to the *escalation* of drama. I would suggest, based on my own experiences of dealing with these drama flare-ups, that: Though we might have suspicions about this or that motivation or character flaw, it’s not worth the risk of adding to the drama to state these suspicions in public without plenty of provisos (and I do notice you made some in the next paragraph). Less risky, IMO, is to simply ask questions for clarification (if possible) or state hunches as mere hunches.

      The point is: If you read much from the blogs/comments of the ideologues, they engage in just as much, if not more, mind-reading types of leaping to conclusions about people with no evidence to base it upon. It is, indeed, the main thing that pisses me off about this whole multi-year affair. It’s rumour-mongering, pure and simple. It helps little, if any, to the resolution of this overall conflict. Indeed, I suspect that it is one of the primary sources of the overall conflict. IMHO.

      • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

        Hi Thaumas. I could have been more prudent and state more clearly it is a suspicion I hold but that I have no evidence whatsoever, just her blog, which isn’t much when it comes to evidence.

        It’s a hunch that makes sense for me and I’ll gladly accept any suggestion otherwise as long as it can be proven. In the lack of evidence, I’ll keep using my hunch to explain Benson’s behaviour for myself, but I wouldn’t use it as an argument or anything.

        Thanks for your words and tone. One don’t usually see this kind of civility and cool-headedness when it comes to this topic!

        Cheers!

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

          “Thanks for your words and tone. One don’t usually see this kind of civility and cool-headedness when it comes to this topic!”

          I know, eh?! ;-) Thank you as well for taking the critique so graciously. :-)

          “Cheers!”

          Cheers!

      • bluharmony

        Good point.

      • Clare45

        I agree that rumour mongering does little to help this conflict, but you are assuming that the people in question actually want to resolve it. The name of the game is divide and rule. May I politely suggest that you post the above comments on Pharygula or B utterflies and Wheels and see what the response is? My guess is that you would be labelled a “tone troll” . Commenters who have asked questions for clarification are accused of “JAQing off” JAQ stands for Just Asking Questions. There is no disagreement allowed.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

          “I agree that rumour mongering does little to help this conflict, but you
          are assuming that the people in question actually want to resolve it.”

          No, I’m not. *I* want to resolve it. If there are others who also want to resolve it, then my comment is partially addressed to them. If they share my goals, then they may find some usefulness in my suggestions.

          “May I politely suggest that you post the above comments on Pharygula or B utterflies and Wheels and see what the response is?”

          lol Trust me, Clare45, posting these comments on B&W over a year and a half ago, in the heat of ElevatorGate, and having them deleted and tampered with by OB without *any* justification (I directly asked her in email; she could not provide any), is one of the big things that tipped me off to the depth of this problem in the first place. :-)

          My advice is not to OB or PZ — *unless* they themselves want to hear it, but I have no control over that since they won’t let me voice these ideas over there — but to *everyone else* who is reasonable and wants a good way to handle these situations.

          You won’t get far on their blogs. They are censor-crazy and won’t brook even the most tepid of disagreement on their dogmatic tenets (that is, after all, the definition of dogma I’m working with).

          The only real option left is to have discussions on other fora, such as this blog network, or Facebook, or other private fora/blogs. But then we’re not really talking to the ideologues. Oh well. Too bad for them. They’ve removed themselves from the conversation, plugged their ears to dissenting voices. That’s their problem.

          *We*, the ones left over on the outside of the echo chambers, need to move on and build up our own networks and communities and try to learn from the mistakes of the ideologues. We ultimately have no control over them. We only have control over what we ourselves do, and through our actions and communications, we can reach other reasonable minds in this discourse. Such as me and you talking right here. We will eventually defeat them (or fail to) the way we’re defeating theists right now: by making the better-reasoned arguments, by providing the better evidence, and by slow but steady attrition of ‘believers’ because their ideology holds no water. We need do nothing else but to present our valid critiques of their actions and beliefs, to marginalize them into irrelevance by letting the evidences of *reality* be our guides, rather than the convictions of dogma.

          I’m relaying to you what has worked for me. You can try it or not, that’s up to you. You may have your own methods that you find work better; if so, awesome!, that’s great. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear about them so I can learn better ways to proceed, too. Maybe together we can come up with some creative solutions that neither of us alone would have thought of. That’s social cooperation, that’s what I want to foster.

          • bluharmony

            Right. I want no part of *that* movement, so we need to offer something better. All the real intellectuals actually fall on this side of things, but the institutions? Not so much.

        • bluharmony

          This is why I rarely, if ever, go there anymore, and don’t engage directly. If there’s a story to be told, it needs to be told elsewhere, and it needs to be told well.

          • Vic

            It needs to be told offline.

            Could anyone imagine the things that are being said online being yelled at each other face-to-face?

            Blog posts, audio-logs, video-logs… it doesn’t matter. The time delay, the disconnection etc. is too strong.

            When we see each other face to face, the other person automatically gets more real for us, gains inherent value. Our brains just work that way. All people we are not strongly emotionally attached to and which don’t stand right before us are not much more than “talking robots”.

            Input via our higher cognitive abbilities can make us angry, but it seldom makes us feel empathy.

            Even goddamned laggy skype would be better. Hell, skype with webcams would be a 1000% improvement.

          • bluharmony

            All true, but dehumanization can occur face-to-face as well, and that’s probably why we’ve had so much “godwinning” recently. Dehumanization, us vs. them mentality, those are the first steps to very serious trouble. Even the all-knowing Wiki says it’s not godwinning when the discussion pertains to “other totalitarian regimes or ideologies.”

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            “Blog posts, audio-logs, video-logs… it doesn’t matter. The time delay, the disconnection etc. is too strong.”

            I disagree. Yes, it needs to be told offline, but it can be told online as well. Why hold back? Why limit ourselves?

            I disagree also with the time delay point. Online communication is *different*, but it’s not therefore useless. An advantage of blogs, podcasts, FB, etc. is that it is long-lasting. Yes, there’s a time delay. But I can write something that will be read by 50 or 100 or maybe up to a few thousand people on certain platforms, over the course of days and weeks. And it is also linkable, so I can provide links to evidence that is *really* hard to do effectively in face-to-face communication, unless you have a laptop with a google connection or something.

            That’s not to say don’t talk about it offline. Do! Just realize that different media of communication have different constraints, different audiences, and other different characteristics. I say, the more the merrier. The Civil Rights movement didn’t restrict itself to radio or TV, it used all modes of communication, *including* face to face, public talks, etc. Organic diversity is a strength, IMO.

            As to the emotional factor. I agree, text certainly has some drawbacks there, in terms of having a narrow contextual stream. But even so, it can be done. I’m doing it right now in this thread, if you’d like an example: http://www.skepticink.com/justinvacula/2013/01/19/help-send-me-to-women-in-secularism-2/

          • Vic

            Oh boy! I’m afraid there’s a case of slight misunderstanding.

            I am very much in agreement with your post. Internet communication is not useless, on the contrary! It is a very important tool of our age and I’m glad it’s used as extensively as we can observe.

            However, my main point was the emotional part, which I maybe didn’t express very well. It is much easier to write hurtful messages and for others to endlessly look for a reason to be offended between someone’s lines and distort it.

            Can I hurt somebody in a face-to-face dialogue? Of course! But both parties get immediate feedback and extra information via tone, gesture and facial expression. It’s inherently deesacalating, at least that’s my proposed hypothesis.

            A offline discussion can get out of hand, that’s how it has been since language was invented. But the desire to sting, to write a hurtful, emotionally negative comment is much stronger online because we are screened by our screen and don’t fear IRL repercussion.

            Especially if the trenches are as deep as in the thread you linked. I did not participate anymore after my initial blunder (I was quite tired), but I read the comments. For example, I’d consider myself very much on your “side”, if I may say so: I agree with the way you argue and the positions you defend.

            But for the other “side” you are not even talking. You could as well write lyrics of children’s songs. In a face-to-face situation, your personhood forces the other not to dismiss you from the start.

            So, yes, all the advantages for online communication exist just as you listed. But if we narrow communication down to the goals of “diplomacy” and the desire to “heal”, I say that it would be easier to reach a solution offline. In all other cases, you are right.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Oh I see. Yes, I also agree with what you’re saying about written comm. and emotional conflict.

            “But for the other “side” you are not even talking. You could as well
            write lyrics of children’s songs. In a face-to-face situation, your
            personhood forces the other not to dismiss you from the start.”

            I used to worry that would be a problem, years back, but I’ve come to realize that there are *faaar* more people who *read* the posts than the single person (or perhaps two or a few) that I’m directly engaged with. I am *always* primarily writing for the reasonable readers out there, people like yourself, or people who are ‘on the fence’ so to speak. I also write for the direct person I’m debating, but I’m writing to them with the conscious understanding that what really matters at the end of the day is not how I sound to *them*, but how I sound to *everybody else*.

            Of course, I’m also trying to actually convince the person I’m speaking with. I suck at ‘fake'; it has to be what I really believe, or I can’t debate it for shit. And, in any case, there is always the chance that some of what I say might actually get across to the person. If we look at deconversions, it is almost always a long process of repeatedly chipping away at stubborn beliefs; and no single interaction is going to flip anybody from one ‘side’ to the other. So, my goals in any online, public discussion are *always* long-long-term, and broad-audience. For example, I never debate theists by email or private message anymore, I always re-direct the debate to a public forum where dozens or hundreds of others could potentially read it and maybe get something useful out of it.

            “But if we narrow communication down to the goals of “diplomacy” and the desire to “heal”, I say that it would be easier to reach a solution
            offline.”

            I can largely agree with that. On the other hand, I’ve also had some success at ‘healing’ disagreements of opinion (which may include massive misunderstandings and ‘bad blood’) online, via private messaging. But I’d agree it is much more difficult, and a face-to-face would be a huge time saver for getting people to see each other as people. You have my general agreement on that point.

  • Astrokid NJ

    I think people worry too much about the ongoing fights. Chill out guys. Just for some perspective, listen to this recording of a Real World fight

  • http://twitter.com/reneehendricks Renee Hendricks

    I found the tweet very much in bad taste as well. While I found her latest bit regarding the Bolshoi Ballet and her comparison to in-fighting to be asinine at best, the acid tweet was uncalled for.

  • http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com Cephus

    Unfortunately, while I agree that said tweet was wholly uncalled for, you have to remember that Ophelia, like most of the other FtB and Skepchick bloggers, are doing so specifically for the attention. They are trying to generate controversy. After all, the whole atheist blogosphere isn’t talking about them anymore, they’ve largely become irrelevant, it was time for one of them to stick their foot in their mouth, or more aptly, their whole leg down their throat, and say something outrageous so everyone would pay attention to them again.

    Unfortunately, it worked and they’re once again getting the attention they desperately crave.

  • http://twitter.com/Mykeru Mykeru

    I know some people may be sick of seeing this, but it shows the extent to which Ophelia, with her enabler minions, work to construct “threat narratives”. In this instance they predict violence based on nothing more than the “rage-y” tone of my voice in one of my videos. I believe this one: http://goo.gl/lhr6Y

    It’s a series of accusations invented out of whole cloth, including the idiotic implication by Benson that I intended to shoot Rebecca Watson.

    http://goo.gl/65JiT

    This isn’t a mistake, or Ophelia being just a little too sensitive for her own good. This is a strategy, a narrative tactic that Ophelia adopts in lieu of engaging critics on their own merits. If you will notice, Ophelia doesn’t, nor has she ever, addressed the actual content of the videos. Rather, she relies on things so subjective that they could only come from the voices in her head. Which I would think if she were crazy.

    She’s not, she’s just very, very cynical and manipulative.

    And to be honest, as someone who lost people I know to violence, including one shot five times in the back of the head almost escaping from an alcoholic gambling husband, I don’t appreciate the casual and very trivializing claims she routinely makes painting her critics as violent.

    Stop giving this person benefit of the doubt. Stop coddling her. Stop treating every instance of her pulling this as isolated. Look at the obsessive pattern of her behavior.

    Don’t give in when she plays this stupid manipulative game.

  • Copyleft

    Karmakin, Felch, and David are all making a valid point using different terms: Ophelia Benson has embraced professional victimhood, and paying her attention is giving her what she wants.

    Much like the professional ‘martyrs for Christ’ (“Get down off the cross, we need the wood”), she has chosen to complain about every slight to her faith, real or imagined, and thus invites more attacks to shore up her sense of self-righteous virtue. Real skeptics have better ways to spend their time than on her and her self-serving drama machine.

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

    To be frank (that’s frank, not Franc) I am a SlimePitter, or MildewPit as Benson now calls it. There is certainly a lot of rather tasteless humour and cartoonery, and occasionally some hurtful stuff, like comparing Jen McCreight (sp?) to a horse. The thing is though, there is very little intentional slander, nothing by way of threats of rape or violence and no gloating about such threats that I’ve seen, There is no move to drive bloggers off the net or silence anyone’s voice (the people who encouraged an overwrought Benson fan to quit were facetiously responding to the posters apparent desire to leave). The hate and threats are overhyped. A lot of what FTBers claim is going on is not happening. They have to actually go looking for a lot of the stuff that offends them. That’s stalking and monitoring, in their parlance. The only real threats, if there really are any, probably come from the troll community because they’ve identified the FTB lot as offence seeking missiles. Watson enjoys an incestuous relationship with them. They feed off each other. Benson just cannot ignore the taunts. There is a lot of narcissism in play which leads some bloggers to feel entitled to go unchallenged.

    There is a very overwrought nature to a lot of the comments coming from the SJW types now. They seem to regard Reap Paden, Justin Vacula, Mykeru etc as ranting nutters on the edge of going postal. Benson said a while back that Mykeru would shoot Watson if she was in front of him. Vacula is probably going to the CFI conf on women. There are tweets going back and forth about getting him excluded for the safety of women,Myers claims he’s going there to make a scene. If you read and listened to these ‘dangerous’ people, you can only laugh at the absurdity of it. It’s getting ridiculously out of hand. The person I hold most responsible is Ophelia Benson. She takes every opportunity to overplay the ‘threat’. She took the offended, ‘speak to the hand’ hand approach early on and what is happening now is a consequence of what happens when you refuse to speak at all to your opponents. The escalating demonisation goes unchecked because there’s nothing to counterbalance it.

    Give Ron Lindsay a chance. He may be disingenuous in his claim that CFI doesn’t play favourites but let him prove himself by giving Hensley a kick up the arse if she tries anything. She is tweeting away with Vacula’s accusers, but being careful to only give people options for action. I think Lindsay has already warned her.

    • bluharmony

      She strikes me as catty and immature.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

        I don’t think posting this kind of characterization helps, personally.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

      I hope you’re right about Lindsay. Frankly, I’m surprised the CFI has allowed itself to get bungled up in this drama.

  • imokyrok

    Why on earth haven’t the majority of atheist organisations just dropped the fTb crowd entirely. If they control one or two conferences then jettison those conferences and focus on others. (There are too many atheist conferences anyway) Let them rant and rave to their hearts content in their own little universe and go on without them. People like DJ Grothe and Richard Dawkins shouldn’t have to even take the time to wipe them of their shoe. It became clear to me long before the ridiculous elevatorgate that these are not moral people but just selfobsessed. Actually PZ Myers attacks on Francis Collins was probably the last straw for breaking any interest I had in what he had to say. Just dump the lot of them and let them whine about it to their hearts content.

  • DavidGaliel

    “Does political correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful. The trouble is that, as with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe; the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to look carefully at our assumptions, there are twenty rabble-rousers whose real motive is a desire for power over others. The fact that they seem themselves as antiracists, or feminists, or whatever does not make them any less rabble-rousers.” – Doris Lessing, way back in 1994!