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Posted on Apr 28, 2013 in blogosphere, gender, Women in Secularism 2 | 203 comments

Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers threaten me with expulsion from Women in Secularism 2

PZ Myers and I at American Atheists' 2012 conference

PZ Myers and I at American Atheists’ 2012 conference

Women in Secularism 2 approaches! Thanks to gracious donors who contributed to a fundraiser aiming to send me to the conference, I raised $1500 ($300 of which was donated to Operation Smile). Many feminists were (and are), oddly enough, upset with my intentions to attend the conference and — as was expected — cultivated a threat narrative postulating that I am a dangerous individual who should not be permitted to attend.

Commenters on Ophelia Benson’s blog — in a post mentioning my fundraiser — encouraged people to contact organizers of the conference so that I would be banned from attending. Furthering this sentiment, the threat narrative was bolstered. Ophelia accused me of “stochastic terrorism” (inspiring people to commit acts of violence). PZ Myers hypothesized that my intentions were to “goad people into a rage.” Others postulated I have a “history of threatening behavior” and likened my appearance to a “homophobe who routinely calls conference speakers crazy faggots” attending an LGBT conference. It goes on and on…

More recently, Ophelia Benson sent me a Facebook message in response to a tweet I had authored in which I lamented the fact that Ophelia refuses to call in my radio show (although she is quite happy to mention Karla and I on her blog). I had wondered if she would be willing to talk at Women in Secularism 2. Ophelia wrote,

ScreenHunter_254 Apr. 28 13.03
I wonder…what are feminists like Ophelia Benson so afraid of? Why does Ophelia Benson feel the need to send me a message like this? Melody Hensley, the organizer of the conference, accepted my registration and thanked me for my support of the conference/the Center for Inquiry with warm regards. Ronald Lindsay, the CEO of the Center for Inquiry, responded in a fair fashion to an open letter I had written which voiced some of my concerns.

I have an impeccable track record as a result of acceptable behavior at various secular conferences and events – many of which I have been invited to speak at. I have no criminal history. I am committed to non-aggression and do my best to promote open inquiry, exchange of ideas, and a welcoming environment in which reasonable discussion and debate can be had.

What is this message from Ophelia but an attempt to intimidate me, create a reason for me to be ejected from the conference, and cast herself as a persecuted victim? Ophelia believes her feelings trump where I may happen to walk, who I may happen to speak with, and my level of enjoyment at the conference. Ophelia acts as the arbiter, dispensing what she sees as justice by removing me from the event if I happen to “approach” or chat with her – and she believes the conference policy is on her side. As a speaker at the event — who apparently believes she has authority to interpret the event’s conference policy — she creates a hostile environment for attendees with her publicly voiced intentions to file “official complaints” against people whom she happens to dislike.

Ophelia Benson apparently has no interest in critical engagement with me at the conference although she is more than happy to author at least 27 blog posts mentioning my name. I, of course, have no problem with Ophelia discussing my work. I have no problem when Ophelia retweets me. I would have no problem if Ophelia were to approach me at the conference. Ophelia can talk about me all she wants…and I welcome it. Like Ophelia, I am a public figure. Criticism or mere discussion — as reasonable people should see — ought not constitute harassment or warrant dismissal from a conference.

On what grounds can Ophelia Benson legitimately make an “official complaint” if I happen to “approach” her? What threat do I pose? What harassment is inherent within myself being in earshot of Ophelia Benson? I should not have to ‘walk on eggshells’ concerned with where I am standing and who may happen to stand near me while a conference policy threatening to eject me is held over my head.

Ophelia Benson, rather than creating a positive environment at the conference and welcoming discussion, creates a hostile environment with her heavy-handed threats to eject me from the conference. She doesn’t simply ask to be left alone or express desire not to talk with me; she goes much further than that – wielding a proverbial ‘gun in the room’ and holding a conference policy she abuses to fit her petty personal desires over my head. Ophelia Benson apparently is not capable enough to simply ignore me or say ‘no thanks’ to discussion or — to be even more radical and intellectually honest — defend the ideas she publicly makes available. She must instead abuse the conference policy and threaten to expel me from the conference.

PZ Myers, an attendee at Women in Seculairsm 2, has also weighed in:

I’m going to be at Women in Secularism in a few weeks, which I expect to be great. However, certain nuisances are talking about approaching the people they’ve been harassing online for years, and trying to harass them in real life, getting them to be grist for their podcast mill. Ophelia has made a clear declaration:

Ok this is specifically for Vacula: do not approach me at WiS2. Stay away from me.

That goes for me, too. If you’ve been nattering away on twitter & podcasts & blogs about how evil I am, how useless feminism is, and how much you hate freethoughtblogs in general, we have no grounds for any conversation, so stay the hell away from me. I won’t bother you, you won’t bother me.

I won’t be exchanging a single word with Vacula, or any of his fellow travelers.

I think there’ll be more than enough intelligent, interesting people to have conversations with at this meeting, the dross can just stay away.

There will be no confrontation. They will stay away from me, and if they don’t, I’ll just turn to the conference organizers and report them, as Ophelia promises to do.

I also intend to give them no grounds for complaint that I’m confronting them. I have zero interest in those assholes.

Apparently, PZ Myers believes I have been “harassing” people online for years and that I am trying to harass people in real life – again with no evidence provided. The threat narrative is bolstered as PZ Myers slips further into dogmatism and announces his unwillingness to defend his ideas in a conversation with me. What is he so afraid of? What justification might PZ Myers have to report me to conference organizers and dictate where I may stand and who I may talk with at the conference?

If PZ and Ophelia don’t want to talk with me they can refrain from doing so, but it is not permissible to threaten me with expulsion as if they have the authority to remove me from the conference. Both PZ and Ophelia are blatantly abusing conference policies to suit their own agenda – to censor me, intimidate me, to have me removed from places where they attend, and to paint me as a bad person.

I am looking forward to attend Women in Secularism 2 and I have no intentions whatsoever to harass, threaten, or engage in any behavior which would permit my expulsion from the conference. I come — as I stated — with intentions to report on the events of the conference, seek interviews with attendees/speakers, and offer critical commentary in accord with the Center for Inquiry’s mission statement. There is no reason for anyone to feel threatened or to believe I will be harassing anyone. The smear campaign continues as the atheist world turns…

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  • PZ is right about one thing:

    “I think there’ll be more than enough intelligent, interesting people to have conversations with at this meeting, the dross can just stay away.”

    Yep, there should be plenty of great people there worth talking to. You really don’t have anything to gain by talking to two cowardly drama bloggers, who are content with slamming people on the internet but can’t handle a civil face-to-face conversation with another human being. Have fun, open your mind, and ignore these fools.

    And in particular, I do think you go sometimes too far in the other direction, and it sounds like you dismiss all feminist thought based on what a few ideologically driven goofballs blog about. There is a lot more to it than that. As I keep saying, it’s NOT monolithic. I am hoping that if you encounter feminist ideas that are reasonable you will give them a fair shake, and not be too cynical about the entire subject while you’re there.

    Have fun, be safe.

    • Ryan is right. The FtB/Skepchick/A+ crowd should not be viewed as being representative of feminism just as I would hope they would not be viewed as representing atheism. Most of the committed feminists I have known over the years would want nothing to do with their dogma, litmus tests, refusal to engage in the critical examination of their own ideas, or piling on tactics. Much of what they are doing cannot fairly be considered feminism.

      • blondein_tokyo

        That’s not really fair. They engage in critical examination of their beliefs. They simply come to a different conclusion than you or I do.

        I disagree with a lot of what they say but I acknowledge the thought process by which they come to their conclusions.

        • SubMan USN

          Is that why opposing views are deleted, left in moderation, or piled on?

          • blondein_tokyo

            How would I know?

            And I honestly just don’t give a shit, because when infind that someone has an opinion that is diametrically opposed to mine, I tend to leave them alone and let them stew in their own sauce. Once I’ve come to realize that, I don’t seek out opportunities to argue further. It’s futile and it’s drama-seeking.

        • Erik Johansson

          “They engage in critical examination of their beliefs. They simply come to a different conclusion than you or I do.”

          I’m sorry, but no, they don’t. Go and take a look on how EllenBeth Wachs was treated for disagreeing slightly with the Phyrangula commentariat and come back and tell us with a straight face that opposed viewpoints are critically examined instead of immediately being dismissed and dogpiled.
          They have time and time against shown that they are incapable of having a discussion with someone who have opposing viewpoints, instead they simply label everyone with a different opinion as evil (ie. misogynist, chill-girl, rapists, and so on). That is not how rational skeptics act, that’s how dogmatic cultists do things.

          Again, before you respond, go actually look at how they treated EWB, one of their own friends who were firmly on their side, for simply having _one_ single different opinion.

          • blondein_tokyo

            You do realize that FTB people say the exact same thing about the people on this blog? I can also say that whenever I have posted here I have been “dogpiled” by the commentors “just for having a different opinion”. I was even called “dumb” by virtue of my hair color, and then “cunt” by some guy for absolutely no reason at all. I hadn’t even spoken to him before that, it was incredibly random and obviously meant only to anger me. (If you want to find the comment, it’s halfway down in the comment section on the post about Adriana Richards…some guy called “frillartist”.)

            But that cheap name calling isn’t Justin’s fault anymore than what
            Opehlia’s or PZ’s commentors say is Ophelia’s or PZ’s fault. I don’t blame Justin for what happens in his comment section, and I don’t think the fact that all commentors here having roughly the same opinion is some sort of conspiracy. That’s just what happens when people disagree with a blogger on his own blog that is frequented by the supporters of the blogger. Is it any surprise that the people who frequent a blog tend to generally agree with the blogger, and generally agree with each other?

            There’s virtually no difference between what happens to Justin supporters over on FTB, and what happens to supporters of FTB over here. It’s pretty rough on all blogs for those who disagree with the blogger.

            • eccles11

              Whether this is true or not, and I think there are orders of magnitude difference between these places, what you have said here is in no way relevant our in no way refutes the claim that those at ftb do not critically examine their own views. you were provided evidence contrary to your claim in the positive, I do hope you checked it out.

              And I do hope that most people here would condemn such nonsense as attacking someone for the colour of their hair. And random insults. Assuming that is what happened (on phone so it’s impractical to check)

              • blondein_tokyo

                Actually, no one provided me any evidence that the FTB people don’t critically examine their own views, just like no one provided me with evidence that Justin does. :) I came to my own conclusions regarding that from what I have personally read on their separate blogs over the past few months. And from what I have seen, I formed the opinion that they have both settled into their views as a result of thinking about and blogging about the subject extensively, and then came to their own, separate conclusions that just happen to be different. They both have their reasons and are both utterly convinced their reasons are logical and sound.

                I don’t see much point in arguing about who is right or wrong, or who is more logical or reasonable, because which side you agree with is going to depend on your personal view of feminism, and within feminism there are many different schools of thought, the proponents of whom all believe theirs is The One True Way. This way of thinking is common; I rarely meet people who are completely balanced in their worldview. People tend to be biased, often without even realizing it, particularly on issues that are close to their heart.

                As for the nasty comments I received, go on and check that out if you wish to have confirmation. I’d lead you there with a link if I knew how to do that. :) Sorry about that, you’ll just have to go wade through and find them. Suffice it to say, I do not consider those two people to be representative of the majority. Most of the people I have interacted with here (including yourself!) have been nothing but polite, and I want to say I do appreciate the chance for this dialog. :)

          • CommanderTuvok

            EBW is back to calling people chill girls on Ophelia’s thread.

            She hasn’t learnt her lesson.

          • blondein_tokyo

            I have seen it. I read FTB, along with other blogs. My personal conclusion is the same – there comes to a point where you have to agree to disagree, and further dialog serves no purpose. That is what they mean when they declare the topic off-limits. They just don’t want to discuss it as they see nothing constructive coming out of the dialog. A bit like me actively deciding not to talk with my uncle about atheism. I’d rather keep family peace than continuously argue with him.

            It’s rather over-dramatic to say “they called me a misogynist just because I disagreed with them.” No, they called you a misogynist because they think you are one. Whether they are right or not is another issue.

            For the record, though, I do not support the way that word has been so liberally applied. :)

      • I’m not willing to say it’s not feminism, just as I’m not willing to say the Westboro Baptist Church is not Christianity. My progressive Christian friends think the WBC is abhorrent and they don’t feel they represent Christianity as they know it in any conceivable way. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians. It just means that Christianity is a huge landscape, and like any broad category of human thought it encompasses a wide range of ideologies, from liberal to radically conservative and everything in between.

        The loony tunes on-line do not in any way resemble the many feminists I have personally known over the years, and most of my friends and colleagues who are passionate about feminist activism would think the petty blog and twitter drama is the dumbest thing ever; but the A+ goofballs are still self-identified feminists. They are just of a different (more dumb) variety than you and I are probably used to. Although of course, they are far from the worst – if you’ve been following the Radfem2013 drama you know that some feminists are ridiculously bigoted toward trans people, and write offensive shit about them that’s on par with any conservative anti-LGBT bigot tirade.

        And when a group like Secular Woman flatly declares that feminism is not up for discussion, and insists that feminism is simply gender equality because that’s how they define it, I feel the same way about that as I would if a Christian stood up and said “Christianity is simply ‘love your neighbor’, it’s not up for debate, and don’t you dare go about discussing other forms of Christianity like WBC or the Catholic hierarchy that might be very detrimental to society”.

        • Caias Ward

          It’s the problem with people being able to assign their own labels. Agency is good, but certain elements co-opting stuff for their own ends? No so much.

        • The hall of cowards grows deeper by the minute:

  • MosesZD

    I was wondering if you saw that bullshit. Every day, and in every way, A+ becomes more and more cult-like and irrational in its behavior. It’s also, fortunately, suffering the consequences of this irrational and hateful stance as about one-third of the A+ traffic has, despite their adding more blogs, gone the way of the dodo.

    And I’m one of the ones that left. I’d already left Phyrangula a good six-months-to-a-year before FTB was launched as the dogmatic shit-stream just got to be over-whelming. But I did read a number of the auxiliary blogs that went there. But as the site became a toxic pit of dogmatism, hyperbole, professional-victim-hood, stupidity and arrogance I left.

    And that was before elevator gate, which I heard about six months to a year after the fact…

  • blondein_tokyo

    Well then, just don’t approach them and you won’t have any problems. That seems to me to be a very smart and reasonable way of dealing with people you don’t like.

    And don’t make yourself out to be some sort of martyr, either. You have contributed plenty to this feud and it’s just as much your fault as it is theirs.

    From my point of view you’re all behaving like you’re still in elementary school.

    • MosesZD

      Ah yes, the ‘blame both sides’ gambit. Where the victim who defends him, or her, self is equally culpable with the victimizer.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Exactly what I meant! Thank you. :)

    • After these announcements, I don’t have intentions to approach them…but they shouldn’t be able to dictate what other conference attendees do and wield conference polcies fitting their personal agendas with aims to expel people they don’t like.

      As I said, they may ask me not to speak with them or avoid me. Whatever. …but they’re doing much more than that. The intimidation is quite apparent.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Now who’s playing the victim? When someone says, “Leave me alone or I’m going to complain about you.” all you have to do is leave them alone.

        If you find that intimidating then methinks you’re being more than just a little dramatic.

        You’re doing exactly what you’re always accusing them of: dramatisizing, exaggerating, and playing victim.

        • As I said, they could have simply asked to be left alone but they did not do that. They coupled that with threats to expel me from the conference – wielding the conference policies in a heavy-handed manner, abusing them to fit their personal desires.

          • blondein_tokyo

            “Register a complaint” is not equal to “expell you from the conference”.

            And you know quite well how to prevent even that: by leaving them alone. Since you know you won’t do anything to give them cause to complain, nothing is going to happen- so what’s the problem?

            • Do you really honestly not see a problem with people being able to pre-emptively declare that so much as approaching them constitute an act of harassment?

              • blondein_tokyo

                If someone knew I didn’t want to speak to them, if I had told that person to leave me strictly alone, then yes- I would consider that person approaching me to be a form of harassment.

                Why in the world would anyone want to approach someone whom they know good and well intensely dislikes them and doesn’t want to talk to them? What possible purpose could it serve?

                • “Because why in the world would anyone want to approach someone whom they know good and well intensely dislikes them and doesn’t want to talk to them, other than to create more drama?”
                  All sorts of reasons – ranging from “I’d like to apologise” to “hey I wasn’t planning to approach you but seeing as you made it a matter of public record that I cannot approach you I feel I need to do so in order to protect my rights” to “I know we don’t always get along but I’m just saying hello” or whatever.

                  • blondein_tokyo

                    I think we both know that Justin isn’t going to approach Ophelia to apologize. In fact, he wrote an April Fool’s Day post satirizing her approaching him to apologize. :)

                    “Seeing as you made it a matter of public record that I cannot approach you i feel i need to do so in order to protect my rights” would be the equivalent of two kids arguing in the backseat of the car:

                    “Don’t touch me, or else I’ll tell mom.”

                    “I can touch you if I want- see? hahaha! I did it!”

                    “MOOOOM, he’s touching me!”

                    I’d hope we can avoid acting like children. :)

                    • It is reasonable (if childish in some circumstances) not to want to be touched. Touching – particularly unwanted touching – can constitute assault. A friendly “hello” is not assault. It isn’t even assault if the person you say “hello” to has said “I will take it as an affront if you say hello to me”.
                      The initial act of childishness lies with the person who claims that any sort of contact be deemed an affront prior to the event.
                      In order to counter such childishness something can be done. Justin can cravenly accept their demands and spoil his own day by pre-emptively avoiding them (any approach being deemed a trespass according to Ophelia). He could sink to their level by causing a big stink.
                      I suggest he compromise by making sure he gives them a quick friendly greeting before moving on. What terrible damage to Ophelia will be wrought by him saying “hi – have a good day”?

                      That might be a bit childish as far as you see things – I see it as the only responsible way to deal with such unreasonableness.

          • Trying to argue rationally with a FfTB/A+ advocate. Hmm, that’s noble, but I’m afraid, futile.

            • blondein_tokyo

              Daosorios, if you care to point out exactly what is unreasonable about my posts, I’ll be happy to engage with you and perhaps we can come to some sort of understanding. :)

              But vaguely insinuating that I am unreasonable AND some sort of “advocate” of a movement I have not said I identify with, without any evidence and without pointing to anything specific, is just plain passive aggressive and rather indicates you HAVE no reasoning, and are likely just being purposefully obtuse for the fun of it.

              Which is it? :)

        • If someone publically announced that they are pre-emptively judging the possibility of my approaching them as “harassment” which would likely see me having to talk to conference organisers about my behaviour I too would find it intimidating. I do think this is a bit of a new low – and the sense of victimisation on Justin’s part is therefore understandable.

          • Plus it’s just a bit of an additional downer as far as wanting to attend any sort of event featuring these people – seeing as the precedent for yelling harassment can now be set just by declaring on a blog that someone you don’t want to speak to may not do so without running afoul of harassment policies.
            Can declare here, on record, that (even though they don’t have a clue who I am) PZ and Ophelia will be harassing me should they ever follow, touch or talk to me at one of these conferences? Should they do so at any conference that promises to expel those who harass I hope the organisers will take any such infraction of my clearly stated wishes seriously.

            • blondein_tokyo

              It’s called “setting boundaries”, Dave Allen. Setting clear boundaries helps people to avoid unpleasant situations. If you wish to declare to Opehlia or PZ or anyone else that you don’t ever want to engage them, then go right on and do that. I’m sure they’ll respect your wishes.

              • Caias Ward

                You know AA uses ‘setting boundaries’ as well.

                And it means the same thing here as it does there: I get to set the rules because I can’t or won’t handle interaction on a civilized level.

                • Clare45

                  “Setting boundaries” is amateur psychology psychobabble.

              • mikmik

                It’s called defamation of character. You obviously don’t know what assertive behavior is.

                • blondein_tokyo

                  I think that is an exaggeration. Defamation of character is far more than publicly and dramatically declaring that you don’t want someone to talk to you.

            • Cosmic Snark

              Silly, the rules only apply to the little people, not the Big Important VIPs like Myers, Benson, Watson et. al.

      • Clare45

        The devil in me suggests that you could spend a lot of time talking to people who have not told you to stay away, but that you know PZ et al want to talk to as well.

        • blondein_tokyo

          That’s extremely infantile, and is exactly the sort of thing that caused this problem in the first place. This need to one-up each other, to be as irritating to the person you dislike as much as you possibly can, to keep NEEDLING them. What Justin should do is conduct himself with dignity, and leave them strictly alone. He can talk to whomever he wishes, but not with the idea in mind to talk to them in order to piss someone else off.

          • lonesagi

            It seems to me that a breach of speaker etiquette caused this problem in the first place. “Parroting misogynist thought.” Everything else has been in-group / out-group dynamics and/or pushback since then.

            • blondein_tokyo

              Do you think it’s about in-group/out-group dynamics? I don’t see it that way because personally don’t affiliate myself with either group. It is the ISSUES I am interested in, and I don’t really care who says what- If someone says something I think is wrongheaded, I don’t care who they are- I’ll tell them what I think.

          • Chill Chick

            I’ve been following this clusterf*** with mounting astonishment, trying hard not to let myself get dragged in, but the above is the last straw. If A and B are having a voluntary conversation and C gets pissed off because he/she sees A and B talking, which one of the 3 is being infantile? Jeez, this is so high school. “I won’t talk to X if they talk to Y.” FFS!

            I support Justin’s right to attend WIS, and there is no reason to believe he is going there with evil intentions. He should be given the benefit of the doubt and treated like any other attendee. If there is a disturbance it will almost certainly be the FTBullies drama queens who instigate it.

            • blondein_tokyo

              If A asks B not to talk to him, and B respectfully complies, then there’s no problem, is there? I agree with you for the most part, particularly in regardsto this being a clusterfuck. :)

    • Blonde, I got involved in the ‘drama’ when DJ Grothe and JREF/TAM were being unfairly attacked. I called for civility and got attacked for it, Nonsense continued and I responded to it. Ignoring the drama won’t make it go away. I think it’s important to address what’s going on and expose bs.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I have no opinion on whether or not that attack was fair or unfair. That isn’t the issue. The issue is, has addressing this feud with Ophelia worked for you so far? Doesn’t look like it to me. There comes a point where reconciliation just isn’t possible. The problem is that it’s become PERSONAL now. There’s no point in pushing it. Declare the war over. Don’t talk to Ophelia, don’t talk about her, don’t mention her in any blog posts or podcasts. That isn’t to say you have to totally avoid the issues. You can disparage the sort of feminism they espouse all you want without directly referring to any of them. Keep to the actual issues themselves instead of what these people personally say about the issues. Why not just keep to your corner of the internet, and let them keep to theirs?

        I’m a big believer in constructive confrontation. But this has gone past the point where confrontation is useful.

        • Caias Ward

          Except Justin hasn’t made it personal, while PZ and Benson have done so.

          You seem to forget that both PZ and Benson are public persons and therefore have to be accepting of a certain amount of scrutiny of their actions. Justin at this point does as well, but Justin so far (and I believe will continue to do so) treat this in a professional manner.

          I don’t agree with all of Justin’s ideas regarding feminism but at least he acts like an adult.

    • Really? Are you suggesting that the correct approach to people who respond to criticism by trying to drum you out of a position with the SCA with smear campaigns and petitions is to ignore them and not criticise their behaviour and ideas? People who indulge in consistent strategies to smear critics and associate them with rape threats, harassment and violence should not go unchallenged. Some of us would at least like to make a token effort to push back against the threat narrative snake oil peddlers.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I’m saying that at this point in time, right now, the best way to deal with each other at this conference is to leave each other strictly alone. I have no comment to make on past events as that is not the issue here.

    • Is that an opinion you have shared with PZ and Ophelia?

    • mikmik

      “Well then, just don’t approach them and you won’t have any problems.That seems to me to be a very smart and reasonable way of dealing with people you don’t like.”

      Then why didn’t OB and PZ do that? You cannot conclude that they are smart and reasonable, now that you made that distinction, can you? You are so full of it, bit. Same old double standards. You sound like a 10 year old trying to sound mature.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Why don’t OB and PZ ignore Justin? I think they should. You may not be following my posts so could be unaware that I have said this several times, but I think everyone involved needs to step back and clam down. I am an advocate of leaving well enough alone once it’s realized that further dialog won’t be constructive. I don’t have double standards on this. To confirm that, I invite you to read my other posts and come to your own conclusion. :)

  • If you attempt to speak with either of them, they will report you to the conference organizers. Report you for what exactly? “He tried to talk to me!” Seems awfully childish.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Why? When you don’t like someone, when every interaction turns into an argument, it becomes absolutely futile to even try to reconcile. The sensible thing, then, is to stay away from that person entirely. That’s always been how I handle people I don’t get along with.

      And from this, I gather that Justin did have the plan to approach Ophelia and PZ. It seems smart then that they asked him straight out not to.

      Hopefully this will be the end of it.

      • I don’t see what the problem is and why they would have to publicly announce their intentions – heavy-handed and complementing with conference policies.

        If I don’t want to talk with someone I will just ask someone to leave me alone and leave it at that. What’s the big deal? Anyway, perhaps I should check my ‘open-minded’ and ‘open to discussion’ privilege and understand people like Ophelia and PZ just don’t want to engage with criticism face-to-face – away from their echochambers and their banning activities.

        • blondein_tokyo

          You act as if they were both shrinking violets! I somehow doubt very much that either of them is afraid that you will stun them with your arguments, stab them with your sharp reasoning, and leave them quivering helplessly under a downpour of undeniable logic. :)

          What’s far more likely is that they want to enjoy the conference without getting into yet another brouhaha where everyone pulls out the same tired old arguments that everyone involved has heard a million times and are sick of, and just get angry all over again. This is one ideological clash that really has no compromise point. If you haven’t yet been able to find one, in the past two years of online blog posts, comments, and offline discussions and speeches with the various players involved, what makes you think a face to face discussion is going to help? People’s minds are made up, and I doubt there’s much of a chance you’ll find one now.

          I’m quite sure what everyone, including you, most wants is a fun, peaceful, enjoyable conference free from stress. If that means staying away from each other, then why not give them that, and gracefully?

          • Theo Ffensivatheist

            Yeah, that’s how i think about religious types. I mean what’s the point in trying to change their minds, they’re made-up already, everyone’s just wasting their time. We may as well give up & all go home!

            • blondein_tokyo

              In a way, yes. There comes a point where dialog isn’t going to go forward, and it comes time to hang up your hat and go home. Even Matt Dillahunty, who is quite a reasonable guy and very good at debate, gives up and hangs up on people on his Atheist Experience TV show. Sometimes I think too quickly; but who are we to say how much nonsense another person should have to put up with? We can only speak for ourselves. :)

              • Theo Ffensivatheist

                So what do you think is the purpose of the show & do you have any thoughts on why it was started in the 1st place? I come across many “Debate” videos & podcasts between Theists & Atheists & while it maybe incredibly rare that any participant is likely to change their opinion, i always assumed that those taking part would hope to have an influence on at least a minority of the audience. Is everyone just wasting their time in your opinion?

                • blondein_tokyo

                  No, debate isn’t a waste of time. Quite the contrary! Even if you give up and accept you’ve failed to change the person’s mind, you’ve still given them something to think about. It’s quite possible they will change their mind on their own, sometime down the road, maybe after debating with some other people. My point is, you shouldn’t beat a dead horse. There comes a time when you realize further debate will only cause more animosity and from there it’s no longer constructive. It’s better to back off while you can still be on friendly terms, and perhaps revisit the issue in the future after both of you have had time to mull over the other person’s arguments. I do that in discussions about god with my sister-in-law. She’s a really good person and I respect her, so I’m not going to hammer her over the head with atheism and wind up offending her the point where we can’t be friends anymore. Just casually chatting about this or that point gets me much further.

        • Theo Ffensivatheist

          If only you had a book they could burn in front of you…you know to really make sure you “get it”? Any ideas/thoughts you may have that don’t match theirs is verbotten & WILL NOT be discussed. (apparently, it’s in the rules).

    • It’s really a non-reportable activity. It would be different if he did something to someone or violated a policy. However, merely reporting (or even threatening to) someone for approaching who doesn’t have a restraining order against them is nothing but terribly infantile.

      • blondein_tokyo

        What’s infantile is planning to approach someone that you know intensely dislikes you, with whom you’ve argued in the past.

        What’s smart is strictly avoiding that person, avoiding mentioning that person, and entirely dropping the subject that you disagree on.

        • Of course, this presumes Justin would only wish to discuss matters of disagreement with PZ and Ophelia at the conference. He may have, I suppose, but he may have not wanted to broach bones of contention, or even talk with them at all. He may even have wished to reach some sort of consolidation – who knows?
          What we do know, now, is that if he doesn’t keep clear of them they will have set precedent for naming him a harasser.

          • It’s ridiculous for anyone to believe that I will harass, threaten, or violate the conference policy in any way. I’ve attended numerous events and conferences — many of which I was invited to speak at — and even met PZ in 2012 (see the above photo).

          • Chas Stewart

            Very interesting. Whenever I interviewed speakers at Skepticon for a podcast, I didn’t at all broach Atheism+ or much of anything at all to do with the schism and there was yet plenty to discuss.

        • What’s clear is that we all have different opinions.

        • No one says that when I (or PZ, for that matter) debate Creationists/go to Creationist talks/etc. Why did PZ go to the Creation Museum? Why did PZ encourage me to confront Creationists visiting Oklahoma? Indeed the first time I was mentioned on Pharyngula, it was PZ applauding me for debating an HIV Denier.

          They encourage confrontation of everyone… but BAAAAAAAAAAAAAW at the mere theoretical, maybe, possibility, they themselves *might* be in a position where they have to justify themselves… worse, to the people whos names they have dragged through the mud.

          Not infantile, Karla– Just good old fashioned blow-hards and cowards.

          • blondein_tokyo

            That really isn’t a valid comparison. It really, really isn’t. It’s not a matter of simply having a difference of opinion and confronting each other on that point of contention in an impersonal way. This is a matter of two people who intensely dislike each other- it’s become PERSONAL. In that case, what possible value would it have in confronting the person, particularly when you have already tried and failed many times at having a dialog with them?

            That is, if a debate with someone turned ugly and wound up creating a situation where the two of you actively hate each other, constantly snipe at each other, call each other names, and form gangs that regularly butt heads with each other, what could you possibly get out of attempting a conversation with them?

            Not wanting to talk with someone who irritates you is not cowardly. It’s smart. Only drama-seeking missiles would purposely confront someone they know doesn’t like them and doesn’t want to talk to them.

            • “That really isn’t a valid comparison. It really, really isn’t.”
              It’s not a bad comparison – these people have said they don’t want to hear certain criticisms – so by the same standard they should be free from such criticisms lest the critic be deemed a harasser.
              What about Ben Stein? He saw fit to pre-emptively ban PZ from his film. Presumably this was to avoid a scene in which he might feel embarrassed. Is this an act you now respect because allowing PZ in to the film may have led to an argument?

              • blondein_tokyo

                This is just another huge exaggeration of the situation. When you have discussed a subject with someone until you are both blue in the face and on the edge of war, it’s WISE to want to drop the subject. When people know they just cannot agree, it’s not wrong to stop talking about it. When someone’s opinion pisses you off, you come to a point where you simply don’t want to talk about it anymore. I have made certain subjects taboo even with good friends once we realize there’s no room for compromise on either of our parts.

                As for Ben Stein, I have no idea who that is or what film you’re remarking on, so I can’t comment.

                • Ben Stein was behind “Expelled” – a film that sought to besmirch Darwin and justify the teaching of creationism as science. PZ featured in the film and went to attend a premiere but was barred at the door for being a likely troublemaker (or some such excuse). Now, seeing as PZ had been rude about Ben and/or those who thought like him on his blog – was Ben justified in barring PZ from the film? If so would it make any difference that PZ and Ben had apparently been able to be civil to one another when they met during the making of the movie?
                  Personally I thought it was a stupid thing to do – and it was one of the many incidents that I feel helped to make the film and Ben so open to ridicule – but now PZ is effectively pulling the same trick by saying that anyone who is associated with rude stuff about him not only not talk to him IRL, but be deemed guilty of harassment should they even try.

        • Caias Ward

          In a circumstance like a private social group, I might agree.

          But in a public movement such as this? No, you don’t get a free pass on your attempt to hijack the narrative just because the people calling you out are ones you don’t like. They can defend their points or GTFO. In their case, they have the bravery of being out of range.

          • blondein_tokyo

            Why must they engage or GTFO? Who says that people MUST engage with those with whom they publicly disagree? Who made this rule, and why should anyone who didn’t have a hand in making it have to follow it? You do know that there are plenty of people who even think the idea of an “atheist community” is bunk, right? Or who deny that any of these people should even be considered leaders? I’m slowly falling into that camp, myself, as it seems all our supposed leaders are acting like dimwits at one time or another, one after another. :)

            I’d be quite happy if they’d all just shut up about the whole thing and perhaps re visit the issue once all the tension has died down. Take a year off, hell, take TWO years off, from talking to each other and about each other. Let each take up the issues in their own way, separately, and ignore each other. Then maybe after a while come back and see if they have each learned anything new on their own that might help them understand each other better.

            • Caias Ward


              Because you don’t get to put out ideas and then not defend them from scrutiny. No one seems to have a problem being skeptical about ideas when they come from Christian apologists but suddenly an atheist isn’t subject to the same measure of due diligence?


    • Mike

      Yes, but Melody Hensley is the conference organizer. She is as childish as the rest.

      Of course, it won’t matter. What you are seeing is the creation of a narrative that will feed into a kangaroo court.. Mark my word, Justin will never get in the front door.

    • Chas Stewart

      Seems like a shitty way to treat the organizers of the event too by making them work overtime trying to keep the peace.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Agreed there! :)

  • I have to wonder exactly what they think would happen should you approach either one of them. And then alarmist comments like this one just stir the drama

    • blondein_tokyo

      What would happen if he approached them? I think it’s clear what would happen: a huge argument!

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like talking with people I dislike. I especially avoid talking to people with whom I’ve argued in the past, and who I clearly will never get along with.

      I don’t like to be angry, so I find it’s better to simply avoid situations that I know will upset me.

  • SubMan USN

    Let’s see how it plays out. If you don’t initiate contact with them and don’t follow them around like a stalker, I don’t see what they can say. I think it’s odd to announce publicly, ahead of time, that they are just waiting for you to be too close to them so they can try to get you expelled. This is why people objected to these policies in the first place. There’s no evidence that they actually prevent harassment or any other unwanted activity. They have already been ignored as written, in favor of some nebulous intended meaning. Now they are being used as a sword of Damocles to prevent….what, civil interaction??

    Be careful you’re not in the restroom when PZ has to pee, you might be accused of sexual harassment.

    • blondein_tokyo

      The interaction wouldn’t be civil though, would it? Maybe it’s just me, but I know I can’t be civil to people I dislike that intensely. I can’t be around them at all. Being in their very presence irritates me. And since I don’t like to be irritated, I stay away completely and simply do not engage them.

      Actually it rather mystifies me why Justin would even consider trying to talk to either of them. Why bother? This dispute isn’t going to be resolved. When people are so opposed to each other’s points of view it’s probably best to just leave each other alone. It’s rather drama seeking to do otherwise.

      • “Maybe it’s just me, but I know I can’t be civil to people I dislike that intensely.”

        It’s not just you – it’s you and a few other deeply antisocial individuals.

        • blondein_tokyo

          It’s not anti-social to dislike someone. It’s normal that there are people with whom you simply do not get along and want to avoid entirely for the very reason that you cannot have a civil conversation with them.

          If you personally can talk to people you intensely dislike, then good on you. I can’t, and make no pretenses that I can.

          And no, I’m not anti-social.

          • “It’s not anti-social to dislike someone.”

            But that’s not what you said – you claimed that you could not be civil to someone you dislike, and that is antisocial. That is your problem rather than theirs.
            It might be normal to not want to have a conversation with someone you hate – but it is not normal to be unable to do so.
            Besides, you could just declare at the time such conversation were initiated that you didn’t want to have it, rather than pre-emptively decide that any attempt to initiate conversation constitute harassment.

            • blondein_tokyo

              Then let me rephrase it. It’s not anti-social to dislike someone to the point where you can’t speak with them without getting pissed off. When I’m pissed off, I find it very difficult to be civil, which is exactly why I walk away or don’t engage them in the first place so that things don’t become ugly. I don’t LIKE to get mad. I don’t LIKE drama. I therefore steadfastly avoid those people.

              Again, if you personally can talk with people you hate without getting mad or saying something rude, then good for you- you obviously can control your feelings better than the average person.

              It’s not anti-social to get angry at people, and it’s not anti-social to stay away from people who make you angry.

              And yes- some people enjoy initiating conversations with people they hate, and whom they know also hate them. Some people seek out confrontations and relish the drama it creates. To pre-emptively declare “I do not want to talk to you, so do not approach me” is then a good way to set clear boundaries and avoid the argument they know will likely take place.

              e place.

              • “Again, if you personally can talk with people you hate without getting mad or saying something rude, then good for you- you obviously can control your feelings better than the average person. ”

                Average person? Or average adult? I don’t think my degree of control is anything to boast of – but I am not childishly impulsive about dealing with people with whom I disagree, even if I hate them. The last time I went to a wedding the host decided to sit me next to someone I hated because he thought we could reach an eirenicon. It was a bummer but I managed to get through without feeling “harassed”. I have twice had to work sat next to colleagues I really came to hate. It was a bummer but it wasn’t “harassment”.
                Also note that Ophelia did not just say “Justin – don’t talk to me”, she said that if he so much as approached her she would act as if he were harassing her, and did so with the expectation that the conference organisers will act on her pre-emptive judgement.

                This isn’t done in order to avoid drama – the one thing they can be sure of now is more drama.

                • blondein_tokyo

                  “harassment” is your word, not mine. I haven’t called it that, but okay, let’s address it.

                  Harassment would only ensue if someone purposefully approached another person with the foreknowledge that the person didn’t want to talk to them, and then tried to engage them regardless, over that person’s clear, vocal, repeated protestations. Once someone is clearly told, “Leave me alone” the right and proper thing to do would be to back off. If they did not do the right thing and back off and instead continued to harangue the person to talk to them, then yes- I think it could be deemed harassment.
                  The way I see it, Ophelia made a request that has set clear boundaries. Now that she has done that, I sincerely doubt Justin will approach her. He doesn’t seem to be a bad guy, and I think he is socialized enough to understand that how incredibly pushy and rude it would be, not to mention how petty and immature it would make him look. Now that the boundaries are clearly drawn and acknowledged, I sincerely doubt that there are going to be any problems at the conference. They are all mature enough to simply avoid each other and leave it be.

                  Getting put next to someone you dislike at a wedding or being forced to sit near colleagues you hate is unfortunate, but no, is not “harassment”. In such circumstances, the best thing you can do out of respect to the hostess/host, or for maintaining a professional atmosphere, would be to avoid interaction with that person as much as possible, avoid the subject of contention between you, and remain as civil as possible until you can make your escape.

                  That’s actually something I’m dealing with right now in my office. There’s a section manager I can’t stand who sits a couple of seats down from me, and I have to interact with her at meetings and such. It’s not so difficult to be pleasant and keep from openly displaying my dislike and contempt. Maintaining an atmosphere of professional detachment in a work environment comes with the territory and is something everyone has to learn, no matter where they work.

                  But when it comes to social situations where you are not forced to interact, places you both just happen to be (conference, party, bar, dinner party, etc) the best thing you can do is simply avoid each other. If one person purposely approaches the other precisely in order to bring up whatever the subject of contention is, despite clearly drawn boundaries that the topic is off-limits, then that person is behaving in a hostile and clearly confrontational way and I don’t think anyone is obligated to be civil under those circumstances.

                  Yes, there are one or two people I know who, if they approached me and brought up certain subjects, I would just tell them to fuck off and leave me alone. :) I can give you actual examples, if you think it will help make my reasoning more clear.

                  • “”harassment” is your word, not mine. I haven’t called it that, but okay, let’s address it.”
                    In the context of our discussion it is pertinent because the only way PZ or Ophelia could action their stated response to Justin approaching them would be to make use of the conference’s harassment policy. Do you dispute that?

                    The rest is blethers – because whether or not you like the word harassment – as opposed to “harangue” or whatever – that is a matter of social construction. Ophelia’s only recourse to complain officially about Justin so much as saying “hi” to her is to construe it as something breaching the codes in place regarding harassment.

                • Sounds like “most people” should be banned from conferences since they can’t get along with others they may feel intense dislike for n

              • Biohazard

                @blondein_tokyo:disqus FFS! It’s not like Vacula killed their dog or threatened the lives of their children, he has some philosophical/political disagreements with them.

                Spare us the “How could anyone control their righteous rage when coming face to face with such a monstrous enemy” BS.

                • blondein_tokyo

                  i said nothing even remotely resembling “rage” or “monstrous enemy” I believe the words I have been using all along are things like, “dislike” “upset” “argue” and so on. This kind of over-dramatic hyperbole is *exactly* what the problem is. If you want to have a real dialog with someone, you don’t put words in their mouth and make it look like what they said was much worse than what they actually said. That’s getting awfully close to strawmanning. Can we talk about what I *actually*said? If I really am being unreasonable, then show me where, in an honest way, and I’ll be quite happy to talk to you about it.

                  Can we have a civil discussion without all the accusations? Please?

                  • Biohazard

                    There is nothing inherently wrong with using hyperbolic language when trying to make a point. You may have had a case to make if I had made some exaggerated fact claim about one or both of the conflicting parties (which I agree has been a problem in this ongoing drama), but I did no such thing.

                    Your criticism of my minor sarcastic exaggerated caricature of your, “When you have discussed a subject with someone until you are both blue in the face and on the edge of war…” / “…I can’t be civil to people I dislike that intensely”, sort of statements seems to me to be little more than tone trolling .

                    After all no one is actually arming for massed physical combat (“war”) in this quarrel, are they? Are they even picking out fabrics for the uniforms?

                    You were (are) clearly attempting to excuse PZ and Ophelia’s past (and possible future) childish behavior by arguing that it might be justified by their intense dislike or hatred for Justin. My point, that Justin has done nothing so horrendous (and you have not contradicted this with any evidence) that would make it impossible for a rational adult to remain civil in his presence, stands.

                    I respectfully suggest that you are not advancing your position (or doing your reputation any favors) by arguing otherwise (i.e. spare us).
                    And I made no accusations in my previous
                    comment. Thank you. You’re welcome!

                    • “There is nothing inherently wrong with using hyperbolic language when trying to make a point.”
                      I disagree, I think hyperbole stands in the way of clear communication and I really wish people would knock it off.
                      Now the downshot of that is that conversation can suffer from being dull I suppose, but it would be nice – as a sort of social experiment – to see how things went if it were resisted.

      • You can’t be civil? Sounds like you are projecting your own limited social skills onto Justin. I know for a fact Justin can be civil and I can’t recall him ever referring to another person as someone he “dislikes intensely” I see you describing the behaviors of other as childish while defining the word yourself by your attitude here. I would suggest you attempt to learn how to accept people who have different opinions, that doesn’t make them bad people. You may also want to get over yourself I get the impression you have an opinion of yourself that places you above others. Most people can at least tolerate other people they dislike otherwise how could you ever function in a public setting at all? Do you simply quit your job because of that intolerance? Do you leave the line at the store because you can’t stand the person standing behind you? What do you do if there is no way to get away from that person? Seems a strange way to deal with social interaction when all your problems could simply be solved by growing up.

        • blondein_tokyo

          I think it’s pretty safe to say that these two intensely dislike each other. I don’t know why either of them would be reluctant to admit they have personal grudges against each other when it is obvious in every word they write about each other that they do.

          Speaking strictly for myself, I can be civil to people whom I
          intensely dislike to a POINT.

          There aren’t many people that I actively dislike that much. I
          generally get along with people and am good at avoiding subjects that I disagree with them on. But once in a while, I come across someone that simply cannot tolerate. In my present job, that person is my manager. :) And no, I’m not going to quit just because I cannot stand her. I handle it by interacting with her on a professional level and keeping things strictly businesslike and impersonal. I avoid any social situations where we might have to interact on a personal level. Avoidance solves the problem nicely.

          Like I said in my reply to Dave Allen, it’s not childish to get angry at someone, and it’s not childish to dislike them. What IS childish is continuing to engage with them, particularly engaging them on an issue that caused the problem in the first place.

          • Well, you are now contradicting yourself. Being “professional”, “businesslike” and “impersonal” is the healthy way to deal with people you don’t much like. Presumably you agree that it would not be professional were you to deal with your manager by saying “don’t even approach me unless you want to be charged with harassment”?

          • baal

            What is childish is making a huge splash calling out for ostracism. The better way to do avoidance is for them to not post shit ahead of time, not approach Vacula and say to Vacula (should he approach), “I decline to speak with you.” I would suspect Vacula would then move on.

      • Why wouldn’t the discussion be civil? What is the threat I pose?

        • blondein_tokyo

          You don’t pose a threat to them any more than the people I don’t like pose a threat to me, or I to them. :) Personally speaking of course, I simply avoid talking to people when we have such opposing viewpoints that our “discussion”, as you put it, has escalated to the point where we’re calling each other names and spewing nothing but vitriol at each other. I think I said it in an earlier comment, but it bears repeating: there comes a point where discussion is no longer constructive, and you simply have to agree to disagree and move on with your lives.

          In my personal experience with the various people I have had such feuds with, both the person and the feud quickly fade away and we all move on to better things that are more worth our time.

          Who knows? Maybe if you both ignore each other for a year or so, you’ll both be in better places mentally, will feel less animosity, and can try again. :)

          • josh

            Maybe if they sit down and have a face to face conversation there will be less animosity? The problem is, a lot of this stuff isn’t some set in stone difference of policy and opinion, it’s personal ‘teams’ where Justin is a bad guy if he goes after one of the FtBs in crowd, and then someone who says anything positive about Justin is also a bad guy since they must be on his team, etc., etc. If people can sit down and have a civil dialogue, even if they are diametrically opposed on ideas, I think it is good. I don’t know if Justin is the right person to do that, since amazingly, I just read his blog occasionally and don’t agree with everything he says. But PZ and Benson seem to be going out of their way to make anything like that an impossibility.

            It would be one thing if Benson, at the conference, just chose to avoid Vacula and refused any request for an interview or whatever. But this pre-emptive, ‘I will have you expelled if I can’ announcement isn’t about limiting drama. It is explicitly raising it.

            • blondein_tokyo

              I agree, Josh, that it is raising drama. She didn’t have to publicly and loudly announce it, she could have sent him a private email (assuming they have some way of contacting each other). However, I don’t think that they would be able to talk to each other without making things worse. Usually, face to face dialog can be constructive. But in this case, I think they are past the point where they would be able to sit down and be civil. They are both convinced that the other is totally without reason, utterly illogical, and most importantly, they both think the other is out to get them, and that they each have hoards of blind, salivating supporters at their beck and call. Some of the comments here are positively paranoid. I have a feeling that once this particular bouhaha has died down, people will move onto the next “scandal” and when the conference comes around, it will go off without a hitch.

              Hopefully, anyway…you gotta admit, Justin has a flair for drama just as much as Ophelia does. He blogs/podcasts as often about her as she does about him. Let’s all hope the two of them act maturely at the conference and just leave each other alone.

      • “Actually it rather mystifies me why Justin would even consider trying to talk to either of them.”

        I find discussion valuable.

      • Caias Ward

        “Maybe it’s just me”

        That seems to be your particular circumstance, not Justin’s

        Remember as well, while you may not ‘resolve’ the point with a particular person, there is an audience that can be swayed by what you say. PZ and Benson know this and attempt to do so in a ham-handed fashion. She tried it on me when I called her out for avoiding talking to Justin (for someone who is ‘nobody’, as I think she put it, she mentions me a hell of a lot in her blog) and failed because I actually know what happened in certain circumstances. I feel she’s a modern-day Pharisee in the faith of Atheism+…

        • blondein_tokyo

          Can I just clarify? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems you’re saying that the audience watching the dialog between Justin and PZ/Benson might get something out of listening to them even if they themselves don’t come to resolve anything? Assuming that is what you mean, I might agree if the dialog were so young that some valuable new points could still be made, but there isn’t really that much more to be said that hasn’t already been said in the past couple of years this has been brewing. It’s just the same tired old arguments rehashed again and again.

          I’d also say that people shouldn’t have to sacrifice their own peace of mind and happiness to please others. If they don’t want to engage Justin, they shouldn’t be pressured to do so just because other people think they should.

          And maybe you think they are capitalizing on this announcement by getting more attention and thus garnering more support for their respective sides? That may be true, but if that is the case Justin equally benefits, doesn’t he? There are now over a hundred comments on this post, and a usual post here only gets 20-30.

          • Caias Ward

            You assume that everyone was here watching this from the beginning. Also, there is a new topic: Justin is going to a conference and PZ and Benson are making threats at the mere idea they might have to interact with him at some point.

            As for peace of mind… well, they should have thought of that when they made outrageous claims, attacks against people and passive-aggressive posturing. Also, as public people, they don’t get a pass on things just because their own comments result in them being inconvenienced…

            It’s not a matter of more attention. It’s a matter of Justin presents his points calmly and with reason (mind you, not all of which I agree) while PZ and Benson use invective and threats without presenting anything of actual merit. It’s one thing to be passionate, even strident about something. Quite enough to surround what little signal you have with noise.

            You keep on wanting to make this ‘both sides’ when it is clearly not. Justin attacks ideas and actions, PZ and Benson attack people.

            • blondein_tokyo

              I guess then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I see both Ophelia and Justin as being unreasonable and dramatic. I have seen them attack each other personally, and I have seen them bait each other. It’s all rather silly from my point of view. But as this is how you feel, I won’t try anymore to change your mind. Cheers, and thanks for the civil discussion. :)

              • Caias Ward

                “Agree to disagree’ is fine when you are talking about what your favorite flavor of ice cream happens to be, not when one party is consistently lying about their actions and seeking to rile up irrational and hostile behavior against the other.

                Two guesses which one is which. Hint: it’s not Justin.

    • Cosmic Snark

      ” I think it’s odd to announce publicly, ahead of time, that they are
      just waiting for you to be too close to them so they can try to get you

      Poisoning the well and internet intimidation are what FtB do. It’s what they are. Splashing these over-the-top threats all over their blogs is a way to get everyone at the conference nervous about even being in the same room as Justin. By the time Justin gets to the village, PZ, Ophelia et. al. will have done their sleazy best to arm the villagers with pitchforks and torches. Whatever happens when he gets there, Justin needs to get it all recorded.

  • Ana

    If I were you and if it’s allowed at the conference, I would video the entire experience. put a camera around your neck. These people act like scientologists and you don’t want it to be their word against yours, have video proof of anything that occurs.

  • Justin – I am wondering if the best thing to do is to go up to Ophelia and PZ and give them a very brisk-but-friendly “Hi, nice to see you” and move on. They then have to decide whether to pursue you over the “harassment” (which would make them look extremely petty) or let it go (which proves their threats are empty).

    • blondein_tokyo

      That would be infantile and obnoxious, and show that their concerns about Justin were well founded. But I doubt he’ll do that. He has more sense than to purposefully needle someone in order to provoke a confrontation.

      At least, I hope he has that much sense.

      • I hope he has the sense to see the game they are playing and find a harmless way to prevent them from benefitting from it. You may well find it infantile and obnoxious – but to be honest I find you to have ludicrous standards as to what amounts to such things. It is infantilising Justin on the behalf of PZ and Ophelia to assume before the act that anything he says or does be deemed harassment. In order to prevent them winning this rather ugly little game the best thing to do would be to plan a very brisk but clearly harmless greeting. “Hi – have a nice convention”. As sincere an example of “best wishes” as he can manage given their ugly provocations. The worst that can happen is that they really do try and get him charged with harassment for saying “hi” – which I hope even someone as partisan as you seem to be would nevertheless deem ridiculous. The best is that he prove them toothless by demonstrating that they aren’t willing to follow through on these utterly moronic threats of pre-emptive judgement regarding someone else’s ability to behave decently in the conference setting.

        • blondein_tokyo

          I don’t see it as a “game”. I have personally told certain people who are on websites I frequent to simply not engage with me. That’s why there is often an “ignore” button or a function that allows you to block yourself from seeing particular people’s posts and them from seeing yours. I use it so that I don’t have to engage with them, because engaging someone with whom you disagree with on fundamental issues is futile and creates a hostile atmosphere. Who needs the stress? I have a good friend who passed away recently, and her sister friended me on Facebook. Too late, I found out she’s a left-wing insane batshit Fox news watching, Bible thumping, Planned Parenthood hating, Jesus-loving, Obama-bashing, young earth creationist Christian. I engaged her a couple of times and found out that it is impossible to have a civil discussion with her on any matters not relating directly to our personal relationship with her sister. So I took her off my newsfeed. End of problem.

          The very same principal is just as useful in real life. Even when I am in the city this woman lives in, which happens once a year or so, I don’t let her know I’m there because I am NOT going to ever speak to her face to face again. Not because I’m a coward, not because I can’t defend my beliefs (you can see that I can, LOL) but because I simply don’t need that kind of stress in my life. Likewise, if you see someone you dislike, then just keep walking. You don’t have to pretend you care about them having a nice conference, a nice day, a nice dinner, or a nice life. And even if you sincerely mean it, and aren’t simply trying to bait them in to responding in some way and validating your presence, you don’t need to tell them so. Particularly when they have told you in no uncertain terms that they do not want your well-wishes.

          Avoidance, to my point of view, really IS the best way to handle certain people.

          • She was a left-wing Fox news fan?
            I digress … presumably this decision to ignore was made by you more or less in private – you didn’t call her out on a public space or let the news reach her through channels of internet gossip likely to produce additional drama as a consequence? You didn’t – in a roundabout manner – shame her into some sort of acknowledgement that in order to meet your desires she keep an eye on where she does or doesn’t go at a convention?
            Presumably if you met her in the street and she said “hi blondeintokyo, have a nice day” – it wouldn’t be a major source of stress?
            Now if PZ or Ophelia had written a private e-mail to Justin saying “look, dealing with you would really spoil my day – can we just leave each other be at the con?” I might have *some* respect for it. I still think it would be a bit pathetic but it would be borderline reasonable – I grudgingly suppose.
            It is they who have made it a matter of needless drama, then.

          • Caias Ward

            Friend’s sister is not a pair of people who have a certain celebrity/notoriety in Athiesm circles and can shape public discourse.

            That is like saying my religious aunt has as much influence as the Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan. They can say the same stuff but one has a far wider reach.

            • blondein_tokyo

              Yes, I agree, but I did not ever compare the two in the way you are suggesting I did. But since you brought up the idea of shaping public discourse, I will comment on that. I think it would be a wonderful influence on public discourse if the two of them stopped bickering and ignored each other. No more blog posts about each other, no more podcasts, etc. Each can retire to their own little corner of the internet and maybe revisit the issue down the road once the flames have died down. Do you think that is reasonable?

              • Caias Ward

                Not when one party (hint: not Justin, again) continues to perpetrate falsehoods and create a narrative based on lies. Perhaps atheists and theists should retire to their own little corner of the internet and maybe revisit the issue down the road once the flames have died down?

                Of course not; one party acts in a supremacist manner and uses their belief-informed actions to impose their views on others. Same thing is happening here, where one party (hint: not Justin, again) attacks people and not ideas.

  • For PZ Myers to comment about someone harassing other online for years and neglect to realize he is guilty of exactly that is hilarious. I guess the difference is the ‘real life’ part of it. PZ must think it’s okay to say whatever you like about a person as long as in real life you pretend it didn’t happen. He can trash talk all day long but if anyone tries to make him own up to his words and explain himself in a real person to person exchange he is going to run off and tell someone he is being harassed. Give me a break. PZ Myers can be assured the next time I have an opportunity to speak to him I am going to do just that I don’t care if it results in my being removed or not he is going to be asked to explain his comments about me and asked why he acts like he has psychic powers. I don not intend on doing him any physical harm he has harmed himself enough already. He needs to learn that it is not okay to irresponsibly cackle like moronic loon about people and act like he is some fearless warrior and then hide like a child when he is expected to own those words. Ophelia? Hardly even worth the time addressing her she is so detached from reality she is never going to get it. I would stay away from her because you never know what kind of crazy shit she may make up. She is a danger because of her delusional behavior. Who can/wants to defend themselves from another persons fantasies?

    • Does anyone follow boxing? Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was poised to be the biggest fight in 20 years, but it didn’t happen because the two guys were represented by different promoters who hated each other over mostly bogus reasons. Mayweather had Golden Boy, while Pacquiao had Top Rank. Instead of coming together to make millions of dollars, they spit and hissed at each other over nothing because they wanted to best each other. It’s hard to find any distinction in the atheist community. A handful of people think that insulting others is the key to getting ahead, so they do it relentlessly. That’s why Pharyngula has become a cesspool of hate instead of any sort of meaningful skeptic site.

  • I think I’d recognize PZ. I’m not sure I’d recognize Benson if she walked in my house. What if you mistake her for a hostess or something? Maybe you can email her for photos so you know who to avoid.

  • I’ve been wondering what form the smear campaign against Justin would take to limit his conference experience or oust him completely from attendance, and here we are. Official, public statements from both OB and PZM. Neither could manage to send Justin a PM / email of some kind to privately ask that he not approach them of course, it had to be public intimidation. Unprofessional, immature drama of this sort is good for the pocket books of these people, so grandstanding of this sort from both of them is to be expected. It’s just a shame neither of these people has the courage / class to be able to look another human being in the eye and offer a greeting, despite disagreeing with them on a given topic.
    I have to be honest Justin, my expectation of this whole thing since you first announced that you were going to go is that you would get to the conference and end up being turned away at the door on some BS pretext or superfluous accusation / complaint. I hope I’m wrong about that, and would urge anyone on the other side of this debacle who might be thinking about causing that to happen, to remember that the money used to enable Justin to attend was raised via the donations of others, with a portion of it going to charity.
    If you do get in however, I hope it’s a great experience for you, although you’re definitely going to be under the microscope for the duration of your attendance…

    • Cosmic Snark

      If PZ and Ophelia manage to get Justin turned away at the door, that will create a shitstorm of negative publicity that will hound them for a long time. Their bubble is already shrinking steadily; the question is, are PZ et. al. dumb enough to do something that will only serve to prove what their critics have been saying all along? In a way, either way this turns out, it can be viewed as a win for critics of the FreethoughtBlogs cult.

      I also agree with the commenter who said Justin would be wise to record everything while he is in attendance. He may need evidence if he is maligned and bullied by those thugs.

      • Personally I think they are both dumb enough to think that making their statements means they can either cause disruption by pulling out of the conference altogether, citing some BS “safety concern”, or else will be hyper sensitive to Justins presence, looking for the slightest excuse to make a complaint about him to organizers.
        I also found this part above to be curious:

        “Melody Hensley, the organizer of the conference, accepted my
        registration and thanked me for my support of the conference/the Center
        for Inquiry with warm regards.”

        I have to be honest, I’d expected more pushback from her given her past history and behavior online. If she’s being genuine about this, then kudos to her for that, but in the back of my mind I can’t help thinking ‘don’t turn your back on her for a second’.

        Hopefully my cynicism will prove to be unfounded.

    • Private, sincere e-mails don’t make for good drama blog material, now do they.

      • Exactly. It’s all about the blog hits for them – gotta reinvigorate the cash cow somehow…

  • You’ve called on a public figure (Ophelia) to address the things she’s said about you, but doing so is “harassment.” It’s silly.

  • Scenario: PZ and Ophelia are behind you as you enter a room. You a) hold the door for them and get reported for harassment or b) let the door swing shut in front of them and get reported for shutting the door in their face. Lol.

    I’m being rather silly, but seriously, I’ve had to go to parties where mutual friends of asshole people I don’t talk to will be and there’s always a cordial head nod or something. It’s a “we’re not here for ourselves but for our mutual friend so I won’t be mean or tell you what I think of you” thing and it’s what adults do.

    • David Brunton

      Well that was easy. He clearly needs to check his male privilege. Acting like he needs to open a door for a helpless woman like ophelia.

  • SubMan USN

    58 comments over a third of which are by the FTB apologist who has yet to make a good point.

  • Guest

    The answer seems simple – book a room or announce a talk in which you’ll be laying out the problems with their positions – cogent arguments against whatever you disagree with – but state that they are not welcome. And if they turn up, get them expelled.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Yeah, that would be real mature. The perfect way to handle a person you don’t like is to bait them on purpose and then wait for them to respond so that you can attack them in kind. Uh-huh. Good thinking there.

      • SubMan USN

        Isn’t that exactly what his Peezusness and OB are doing??

        Double standard much?

        • blondein_tokyo

          Is asking someone to leave you alone and not try to engage you in dialog now considered “baiting”? And does that mean that this blog post by Justin is then an answer to and an a return challenge to that “baiting”?

          If that is what everything thinks, then I think both sides are really getting quite paranoid. They really, really should just disengage.

          Not to mention making up silly, cheesy nicknames the way a fourth grader would. Seriously, do you really need to do that?

          • “Is asking someone to leave you alone and not try to engage you in dialog now considered “baiting”? And does that mean that this blog post by Justin is then an answer to and an a return challenge to that “baiting”?”
            I would say that to make a clearly unreasonable demand of someone is baiting – yes. I would also say it would be baiting to pretend that someone constitutes a harassment merely by his presence – especially when that someone has met you before with no apparent drama (see photo at top of page).
            And Justin’s response could be construed as rising to the challenge. But seeing as only a particularly cowed individual wouldn’t respond to this sort of unreasonableness without some degree of bemusement, bewilderment or irritation what else is to be expected?

            • blondein_tokyo

              I don’t agree that asking someone not to talk to you because you don’t wish to get into an argument with them is unreasonable. Can you clarify as to why you think it is? I thought we were in agreement earlier, when we were talking about how to handle people we don’t like? Am I mistaken?

              To recap, (since our comments are all over this board) (1) I said that when you are thrown into a social situation with someone where you cannot avoid them (your example was sitting next to them at a wedding) you have to be civil and polite, and avoid the subject of contention. Do you agree that is a reasonable strategy? Why, why not? (2) I also said that if you are at the same party, bar, convention or other event where you *can* avoid them, it is wise then to simply stay away and not engage them at all. Do you think this strategy is reasonable? Why, why not?

              It may be, let’s say, rather *dramatic* to pre emptively declare that someone speaking to you is going to be construed as harassment, I grant you that! :) But I do not think it is unreasonable to ask someone to leave you alone when you have no desire to engage them. I think she was being purposefully dramatic, yes; but also smart in drawing a clear boundary so that she and he both can enjoy the conference without having to deal with each other and the likely ensuing conflict.

              • Thanks for your posts here. Unlike other spaces, you don’t get banned for disagreement.

              • “I don’t agree that asking someone not to talk to you because you don’t wish to get into an argument with them is unreasonable. Can you clarify as to why you think it is?”

                It is presumptive to assume that an ugly scene is the only possible result of contact between the named parties. It is a shame that PZ and Ophelia are apparently unable to put their philosophies across to those who don’t share them (or even those who don’t share them but might if they were better illustrated).

                Furthermore, as I have said a few times now, their refusal to talk is one thing – but what I really object to is the notion that Justin be deemed guilty of harassment should he initiate any sort of approach. I find the refusal to talk petty, it’s the other stuff I find unreasonable. On this much we apparently agree. The fact remains that they are the ones who took it to this new low, and Justin’s consternation at this seems valid to me.

                Is there much more to say at this point?

                And yes – my posts are all over the place. So are yours – why is that even a matter of note?

    • I will be hosting episodes of Brave Hero Radio live from the conference. Anyone is welcome to call in using Skype or mobile phone – and they don’t have to be in the same room or anything.

  • Jack.Rayner

    Meh. I wouldn’t bother with these cowards. You’ve already shown everyone the type of intellectual *lightweights* that they are. Their refusal to have any sort of dialogue, on or offline, about their ideology, just about answers what anyone should need to know about them. No use doing much beyond that. [It’s almost certain that they’ll never take back any of the bullshit they’ve aired. These people will die full of ideological hate and discontent, and I say let them. People will also continue buying into their chosen brand of bullshit, just like people still buy into nonsense like homeopathy. Not much to be done about that…]

    Go and enjoy yourself as much as possible, and be sure to wear a smile if you catch them eyeballing you.

  • I guess if Peezee and Oafey feel compelled to warn you to not approach them, then I feel obligated to warn you to resist the temptation to hug racoons with rabies. Just in case you didn’t know better.

    Seriously, the arrogance and the narcissism – the assumption that you would actually want to speak with them in the first place. It’s sickening enough reading FfTB – who the hell would want the same kind of hate nonsense in the flesh, face to face? The stench of the pompous self-importance. It’s similar to their endless accusations against myself and others of sock puppetry. As if anyone would bother…

    Listen up Myers and Benson – the time where most in the community ever thought they could have a rational discussion with either of you either in person or on your blog comment sections ARE LONG GONE. You censor and tamper with comments, you quote mine, you misrepresent, you slander, you just plain lie; and you seek to destroy those that do not prostate themselves at your altar… There is no hope of anything positive coming out of any interaction with either of you. Get over yourselves, you self absorbed nitwits. You no longer matter to the bulk of our various communities.

    • To be fair, I would like to talk with PZ and Ophelia. I would really look forward to having a candid recorded discussion with them whether it be one on one, during an episode of Brave Hero Radio, or whatever else. I’ll even join something on their terms. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s too bad they’re unwilling to have face-to-face discussions.

      • Theo Ffensivatheist

        They have far too much to lose by having a face-to-face w/you Justin, They are totally aware that outside of their self moderated spaces their ideas & the positions they take are mostly indefensible.

    • Myers and Benson are excellent reminders for us all that ‘secular’ is not the same as ‘rational.’

  • That’s what cowards do! They’re afraid you’ll see through their bullshit -.and they should! We, skeptics, are good at spotting and calling out bullshit!!

  • Brive1987

    Justin, could I suggest you announce that the purpose of attending is purely to get an insight into a controversial area of which you want to genuinely learn more. And that you look forward to talking to anyone interested in sharing their views. And that you will respect the wishes of anyone who is not interested in meeting with you. And that you are disappointed that there is a perception your motives go beyond this and at some of the implications made in recent posts on FTB.

    Really. This is what’s meant by rising above the afray and being mature. But if this isn’t something you want to do then pls reconsider why you are going.

    • There isn’t even a need for me to announce I will refrain from unacceptable behavior. This should be assumed of all conference attendees. Anyway, I wrote above and made this very clear in my fundraiser:

      “I am looking forward to attend Women in Secularism 2 and I have no
      intentions whatsoever to harass, threaten, or engage in any behavior
      which would permit my expulsion from the conference. I come — as I stated
      — with intentions to report on the events of the conference, seek
      interviews with attendees/speakers, and offer critical commentary in
      accord with the Center for Inquiry’s mission statement. There is no
      reason for anyone to feel threatened or to believe I will be harassing
      anyone. The smear campaign continues as the atheist world turns…”

      I don’t want to be kicked out and I have no intentions of doing anything which would warrant my dismissal. I want to stay at the conference, report as promised (including three days of reporting on Brave Hero Radio), and fulfill my obligation to my funders.

      • Brive1987

        Well that’s good enough for me. I hope you have a good conference.

        • Brive1987

          On FtB I posted that without an unambiguous statement of intent and given the controversy and sensitive subject matter then a pragmatic approach would be to exclude JV. Much like a bouncer governs ambience at a nightclub. I still don’t really understand why exactly you want to go, but given above it would be uncharitable to maintain my earlier view.

          • “The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

            To oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past, and the dogmas of the present, the world needs an institution devoted to
            promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. The
            Center for Inquiry is that institution.

            At the Center for Inquiry, we believe that evidence-based reasoning, in
            which humans work together to address common concerns, is critical for modern world civilization. Moreover, unlike many other institutions, we maintain that scientific methods and reasoning should be utilized in examining the claims of both pseudoscience and religion. We reject mysticism and blind faith. No topic should be placed off limits to
            scrutiny—certainly not fringe science and religion, which have an
            enormous influence on beliefs and conduct.

            We also maintain that values are properly the subject of study and
            discussion as much as empirical claims. The Center for Inquiry studies
            and promotes human values based on a naturalistic outlook. Ideological
            doctrine and religious dogma have no more right to dictate our moral norms than they do to influence scientific research.”
            norms than they do to influence scientific research.”

            • Brive1987

              It’s not the theory I’m confused about but rather the fact that from a personal relationship perspective the weekend is unlikely to be positive. Especially given the recent comments above and on the FtB boards and the tone and counter tone fom the parties so lose to the event. From an IP perspective I assume you probably have heard enough of the A+ rhetoric to have an informed (negative) opinion. Do you really want more exposure?

              But anyway as I said above your own good will is on record so i hope the experience is worthwhile.

    • If I had a conference and Ophelia or PZ wanted to attend, I’d welcome them and encourage their participation. I relish discussion with people regardless of their viewpoints. Each week, on Brave Hero Radio, I invite callers to join the discussion irrespective of their perspectives. PZ and Ophelia, too, have my phone number if they really want to call it. They could have done this in the past, but they chose not to. I intentionally go out of my way to be an exemplar of openness.

  • Jeff Hansen

    Do not respond to this post. Any attempt to interact with me within this shared space will be in direct conflict to my previously expressed wishes & thus be taken as an overt act of harassment.

  • Aynsley Sinclair

    PZ has no interest in assholes? Such lack of ego is truly rare. This may explain his hair though.

  • First off, I’d like to state for the record that “Blonde In Tokyo” is not to reply to me or contact me in any way, as I will construe any counterarguments or words from her as attempted harassment and report her to the site mods.

    Secondly, I’d like to point out that the previous paragraph is an example of a preemptive silencing tactic, designed to prevent the free flow of ideas upon which all genuine freethought is ultimately founded. Tails I win, heads, you SHUT UP AND CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!!!

    Finally, I’d like to point out for the record that Hensley and Zvan solicited harassment complaints on Twitter in hopes of a preemptive ban. This has been their game plan all along.

    • Clare45

      To expand on that theme a little more, how do you think Myers and Benson would react if Justin had put a message in his blog or elsewhere to tell people under no circumstances must they talk to these people at any conferences they attended? I doubt if either of them would sit quietly back and accept this. Please be clear that I am in no way advocating this. Just making a point by putting the shoe on the other foot.

    • blondein_tokyo

      I think that’s pretty funny considering that I don’t even know who you are, and haven’t spoken with you directly before this very comment. :)

      LOL…who loves drama? I think Mr. Reinhardt does! :)

      • Mods! I asked this woman not to talk to me and she went and did it anyway. It seems that she values a free exchange of ideas over my personal whims. Please make her stop.

        • blondein_tokyo

          I think you’re being facetious. It’s not helping smooth things over. I can only deduce then, that you’re not interested in smoothing things over. All I can say is, you’re just as bad as those you’re condemning, and I’m sorry you feel that way.

          • It’s ridicule – likely to make positions seem more ridiculous.

          • If you’re going to argue that it’s ok for people to declare that merely talking to them is harassment, you must be willing to accept the consequences of that argument when it is applied to you. Now stop harassing me.

          • “I think you’re being facetious.”
            It’s called “parody” I think.

          • mikmik

            Yeah, Damion, you’re as bad as PZ and OB, so …. oh, I mean… it’s bad only when you do it.

            • blondein_tokyo

              It’s bad when anyone does it, guys. This sort of thing isn’t at all helpful. I’m being totally sincere, yet I get the feeling no one believes that. Can I get the benefit of the doubt? Can we talk a bit before you decide I’m going to be utterly unreasonable? Or, if you feel I’ve already been unreasonable, let me know.

              • mikmik

                I don’t think you are unreasonable, blondein_tokyo. TTYTT, I’m not impressed with anyone. I don’t know about how this got started, so I think Justin is being more civil, and I don’t think his initial criticisms were out of line.
                I see you as having a less severe viewpoint than I initially thought, but Damion Reinhardt was playing the part of the women adversaries, and you thought he was wrong. You reacted like Justin Vacula has. Damion was just making a point.
                However, I find you sincere. I do think the A+ers are prone to not accepting any responsibility for many controversies, and all along, I have been critical of that. I thought Justin made some of the same criticisms, when this started, as I did, and I am naive as to histories. I just went on my understanding of valid arguments, and I think that, although both sides of this divide do it, there have been some very blatant epithets tossed by Ophelia and company. I also agree with things she has said, BTW.
                But I think less faith has been shown by unwillingness to consider some valid criticisms and viewpoints, and that they weren’t addressed rationally. How do you see things over all? I don’t want to argue, I just want to see how you see things, if you’ve seen ‘oversights’ by both parties, as well as valid contentions.
                Not a test, just want to know. It seems so hard to get discussions going like this, and I am not going to criticize where you stand. I am curious! Thanks

  • CommanderTuvok

    PZ and Ophelia (esp. the former) are whipping up the hate campaign in the hope some of their followers who are attending will spread (via word of mouth, etc.) intimidation Justin’s way. They are acting like the Mormon heirachy, they announce that a particular person is to be shunned, and that, in turn, is a pressure on EVERYBODY to shun that particular person.

    PZ and Ophelia have made wiscfi an unsafe space. I hope the organisers are proud.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Isn’t it said that organizing atheists is like herding cats? Do you really think that we are the kind of people who don’t make up our own minds on how we see issues, and are just blindly lead around? Think about that.

      If I have learned anything from reading the various blog comments on this subject, there are actually three or four or five camps, not just two. One, Justin’s camp; two, Ophelia’s camp, three, people who think both of them are a little in the wrong; four, people who just don’t give a shit and think the whole idea of an “atheist community” is stupid; and five, people who have NO idea what is going on because they don’t read the blogs, and if they do don’t even CARE. The vast majority of the people attending probably won’t even know this is going on or who these people are, much less find the time or have the inclination to organize EVERYBODY into some sort of “intimidation posse”.

      I wonder if you aren’t getting just a bit too caught up in things. You really sound seriously paranoid. :)

    • I refuse to be bullied or intimidated. They can try it, but it’s not going to work. Like I said months ago, there is a culture of fear in the atheist/skeptic online community in which people are afraid to speak out against PZ, Ophelia, and company because if they do the character attacks will roll in. Outright lies about me — claims that I have a history of unacceptable behavior at conferences on PZ’s blog comments — are just the tip of the iceberg.

  • SubMan USN

    Is there any incident in Vacula’s past that would lead one to believe he is anything other than polite (if slightly nerdy) in meat space interaction??

    I haven’t found any through my web searches.

    • CommanderTuvok

      No, but there is evidence that PZ Myers is someone to avoid. Ask a pizza parlour owner!

      • SubMan USN

        Or Gelato Guy.

        • CommanderTuvok

          That’s right. I often eat pizza and gelato at the same time, hence my confusion!

    • It’s total nonsense.

  • Kenneth Hennig

    Fucking hell, when will you pseudo skeptics and atheists shut the fuck up about all this fucking in-fighting?

    • The not shutting up is the in-fighting, so when one stops so will the other. Obviously.

      • It’s been quiet for the last two weeks or so, I think, but now PZ and Ophelia are fanning the flames once again. Along with their commenters, a threat narrative and an attempt to ban me from Women in Secularism 2/kick me out of the conference is being mounted. I’m not going to stand by and ignore what’s going on.

  • mikmik

    PZ got accepted at the Discovery Institute much better than he extends it to a fellow atheist.

  • Theo Ffensivatheist

    They really are intellectually bankrupt individuals & now they attempt to add morally bankrupt to their resume with bullying tactics that ONLY those in a (perceived) position of authority would even contemplate making. Let there own words condemn them, they seem quite good at that at least.

  • Justin “harassing” people online for “years”? I think PZ, Ophelia, and company really need to check their timelines, because their interaction with Justin only goes back one year, if that. (Google the term “vacuous shitbag troll” for Jason Thibeault’s charming response to your initial posts.)

    Oh, and Justin, when you pack for WIS, be sure to bring plenty of changes of shirt – maybe even more than one per day. You know how touchy some people are about insufficiently frequent shirt-changes – you don’t want to create an “incident”, after all.

  • BrainFromArous


    Your “just walk away” solution won’t work because even if Justin leaves them alone, THEY won’t leave HIM alone – or any other prominent skeptic/atheist who defies or criticizes them.

    The A+ hivemind has been perfectly described as “a neo-Jacobin cult” whose agitprop methods of choice are victimhood-mongering, relentless hyperbolic slander and one manufactured Moral Panic after another about how harassed, persecuted and endangered they are.

    You and I face more peril driving to work each morning than Myers and Benson have in all their time of skeptical activism – yet to hear them and other Plussers talk, you’d think they were cowering in that attic next to Anne Frank.

    You need to understand that to such as these, the facts don’t matter. Justin Vacula’s actual character and conduct over the years, his civility or lack thereof, the length or brevity of his temper… none of this matters. For the Plussers, Justin’s ideas and words make him a Designated Hate Object, what old-time Marxists would call a Class Enemy, who must be treated accordingly. He must be demonized, ostracized, marginalized and ultimately silenced. This both disposes of him personally, neutralizing present-day and any future trouble he could make for them, and provides an object lesson/warning to anyone else thinking of public rebuking or confronting the Plussers.

    This is how totalitarian politics work, Blonde. This is what the people going after Justin are doing. It has nothing do with Feminism, diversity in the Freethought ranks or any of that.

    You cannot win a fight, any fight, unless you first realize you are IN a fight. Justin understands that he is in a fight, whereas you are telling him to drop his hands and turn his back to the incoming punches.

    • mikmik

      I think that we we have a new meme here! When they pull their melodramatic crap, I am going to say, “Don’t be such a plussee.”

    • blondein_tokyo

      You realize they say the same thing about Justin, right? You can’t see that his podcasts and posts on the subjects are just as dogmatic as theirs are? I came to this blog precisely because I wanted to find out for myself what Justin’s views on feminism are, and what exactly he has been saying that is making them so mad. And after a few exchanges with both him and the other commenters, I have come to the conclusion that this side is just as dramatic and hyperbolic as the other is.

      I know none of this will stop because people now have their backs up, and people tend to stick even more strongly to their views when they are challenged. But I can still advocate for it because I think it would be the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do because I still think the main issue – diversity and making women feel more welcome – are important, and all this flame-throwing is taking the focus off that.

      There isn’t any blog anywhere now that I can find where people can talk about this problem without the comment section blowing up with people taking sides. It seems the “war” is not going to end, and that’s really too bad.

      • Whoa, whoa, whoa. My blog, radio show, Twitter, Facebook, G+ and other mediums are open for discussion. Anyone can comment. Anyone can send me an e-mail. Anyone can call in and be on Brave Hero Radio. I don’t, like PZ, broadcast and maintain a ‘dungeon’ and ban en masse. I welcome discussion and disagreement. You would never, ever, ever be able to voice disagreement on PZ’s page like you do here. You aren’t getting censored by me or attacked by other commenters (point something out if I miss it). I’m not telling you to refrain from posting or threatening you with moderation. You never even go into moderation.

        • blondein_tokyo

          I’m not accusing you of any of those things. Everyone has been really nice for the most part.

          What I’m saying is, I’m interested in talking about the actual issues, like the use of the word “cunt”, the necessity of harassment policies and what they should contain, how to make women feel more welcome, etc. but when those subjects come up, everyone jumps to action and begins quoting Stephanie, or PZ, or Justin, or someone else, and accusing people of being unreasonable, etc. it’s difficult to get someone to listen to what *I* think, because they are all assuming that since I’m a self-proclaimed feminist I must therefore think the same as all other feminists. I’d like the chance to talk about the issues without anyone mentioning anyone else’s opinion or what someone else said that someone else said, etc. Does that make sense?

          • Well, what forum would you suggest for having such discussions? I am not sure either here or FTB is a good place – because the people who run blogs get to choose the subjects they wish to discuss. However, I wouldn’t mind talking about some of the issues you mention if you wanted to suggest a venue. The only area I cannot discuss such things on is the A+ forum, but I haven’t been prevented from posting anywhere else.

            • blondein_tokyo

              That’s very cool of you. :) Unfortunately I don’t have my own blog, so don’t know how it could be done. There aren’t many, if any, neutral spaces where sides haven’t been taken and lines drawn. You’re probably more net savvy than me, so if you have other ideas I’m all ears.

              • Well, I don’t think a truly neutral space is possible – one perspective is always likely to somewhat dominate.

              • How about a page on my blog –
                Which won’t suffer from highjacking Justin’s blog and doesn’t have these nesting posts?

                • blondein_tokyo

                  This is a great idea, but how do I post comments? There’s a drop down menu for signing in but I don’t have accounts at any of those (typepad, google, etc). No, I’m not very tech-savvy, sorry. Advise, please. :)

                  • Sorry about that – I have changed the settings to allow guests to post.

      • BrainFromArous

        “And after a few exchanges with both him and the other commenters, I have come to the conclusion that this side is just as dramatic and hyperbolic as the other is.”

        Right, just look at all the times Justin has reacted to dissent and criticism with cries of “Rape Apologist!,” “Racist!”, “Woman Hater!” and the like – or claimed to feel physically unsafe and threatened by the mere presence of those who challenge his views.

        Except he hasn’t. Because he doesn’t act like that. The firehose of ad hominem venom and slander is firmly in the hands of the Plussers.

        I don’t need to be dramatic or hyperbolic because the best part of making A+ look bad is…. that they do all the work. Like all True Believing, intolerant dogmatists they just can’t help themselves.

        I appreciate you trying to give everyone a fair shake here… but your efforts are wasted on the Plussers. They don’t value such things.

        • …always happy to welcome people who disagree, Discussion is important.

          • BrainFromArous

            As is having a vampire-ish name. :)

  • CommanderTuvok

    The two posts from Ophelia and PZ are designed to encourage their attending supporters to harass and intimidate Justin, by proxy. Part of the tactic will be “shunning”, in which not only do they practice shunning themselves, but they will encourage others to join in the shunning. This will just be the start of their bullying campaign against you.

    Stay strong, record everything, and report them to the organisers.

  • Jason Axley

    Sigh. More devaluation of “harassment”, which has a real definition and real impacts to real people.

    Face-to-face could help avoid and resolve the talking past one another and twisting of words and intentions that seems common with internet interactions. Missed opportunity.

  • MRA cowards prove they hate free speech and debate:

  • qbsmd

    Ironically, Ophelia Benson may have just guaranteed that CFI won’t kick you out. If she had waited until the conference, then reported you for harassment the first time you approached her, they would have escorted you out, both of you would have told your side online, and no one would have been surprised. Now, if they expel you, anyone paying attention will see that CFI will ban someone from a conference just for talking to the wrong person. I can’t imagine many people are willing to attend a conference while taking the risk that their conference fees, travel costs, etc. will be forfeited at a whim. That would be suicide for an organization that survives on conference fees.

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  • Ariel

    Hello, first time commenter here.

    I understand that in such situations it may be difficult to apply charitable interpretations. Charitable interpretation is an endangered species (on both sides of the rift).* Nevertheless, I will try.

    No charity involved in the first point (I treat it as obvious):

    1. I think no one is under any obligation to talk to any particular person. It’s not about confronting ideas: just keep in mind that while confronting ideas, we are talking to real people, with the whole baggage of their behavior. As a matter of fact, there are indeed individuals I don’t want to talk with any more; the same perhaps with you. I don’t think it’s wrong. I still don’t mind confronting ideas, I will just choose different persons for such confrontations. The objection “you don’t want to talk to me, therefore you are not open/rational/skeptical” doesn’t have much force in itself: everything really depends on who you are and what are your relations with me.

    Some charity now:

    2. Karla (in one of the comments here) is right that attempting to speak to someone is “unreportable activity”. Moreover, Karla is so obviously right, that I would expect everyone to understand that, Ophelia and PZ in particular. A charitable interpretation should take this into account. So here is my attempt: Ophelia’s dictum was a particularly strong and emphatic way of saying “I’m fed up with you, don’t approach me”. At the moment I’m not discussing her reasons, I’m saying only: what she wanted was to say it in such a way that her words have effect. Reading her piece, my impression is that of desperation; imo she clearly looks for an effective and strong way to send her message. Her particular choice of words might be ill advised and I’m certainly not going to quarrel about that. But putting a stress on words in such a situation is imo uncharitable and misses the real point.

    * As for “endangered species”, I might be overoptimistic and naive here. An extinct species is perhaps the proper phrase to use.

  • violet

    Doesn’t “approach”, in this context, evidently mean “strike up a conversation with” rather than the literal interpretation of “enter physical proximity”? Honestly, if what they are saying is that they will make a scene if you try talking to them, that might be somewhat hysterical but it’s really not grounds for kicking up the fuss you are kicking up about it. One might argue about whether a person has an inherent right to prevent someone from talking to them or not, but since we can all probably agree that a person has an inherent right not to respond, I see little you stand to gain even if you were to win a noisy public victory over their threats to have you evicted if you try talking to them (earning… the privilege to hurl words in their direction in real life?). If you were to just ignore this and proceed to not talk to them as they evidently wish, you would come out of this altercation as the more mature-looking party.

  • kaydenpat

    So just stay away from them. That’s all they’re telling you to do.

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  • I seriously dont understand why you don’t forward OB’s and PZ’s threats to you to Ron Lindsey. It seems to be they are breaking the policy concerning making the event safe and enjoyable for all attendees. If you have to worry where you tread every moment of the 3 days, how can that be enjoyable for you? the same goes for feeling safe.

  • SleeZee Lyers

    This is basically a call by Benson and Myers to “shun” you.

    Shunning and the silent treatment is a typically feminine method used in domestic violence, and is social circles, and has been recognized as a form of abuse.