Atheism, Plus a Survey »« After You Say, “No”, Part II

Must Be This Tough to Ride

Jen McCreight quit blogging yesterday.*

I don’t want to let them win, but I’m human. The stress is getting to me. I’ve dealt with chronic depression since elementary school, and receiving a daily flood of hatred triggers it. I’ve been miserable. And this toxic behavior is affecting all parts of my life. With this cloud of hate hanging over my head, I can’t focus or enjoy my hobbies or work. It has me constantly on edge with frayed nerves, which causes me to take it out on the ones I love. I spend most of my precious free time angry, on the verge of tears, or sobbing as I have to moderate comments or read what new terrible things people have said about me. And the only solution I see is to unplug.

Jen’s reaction is entirely understandable. She’s not the first woman to decide barriers to public participation are too high, and she won’t be the last.

“But why?” I hear some people asking out there. Let me start the answer to that by saying you should probably know this already if you have any real interest in the topic. She hasn’t been quiet about the fact that this is happening. If you haven’t seen what she’s been putting up with, why not? Did you refuse to look?

If you did, it’s time to stop hiding. The rest of the answer to why Jen is quitting can be found just as easily in the reactions to her announcement as in what came before it. We’ll start with a lie, just for fun:

#AtheismPlus Founder BlagHag Says She's Through With Blogging, Typecasting Her Critics On the Way Out http://t.co/evbqzWyf #atheistPlus
@ATHEISTAGNOSTIC
ATHEISTS & AGNOSTICS

Then there’s the pointless nastiness. Notice that some of them are copying Jen on their hate. The majority of these have several “favorites” and retweets. Sneering at Jen is the social part of this social media.

@ Good riddance, #jennifurret , you simple minded dolt. #atheism is better for your leaving #atheismplus http://t.co/T8JFoGZi
@skepticaljoe
skeptical joe
Good riddance to #jennifurret with funny vid by @ . Go label and libel someplace else, bitch. http://t.co/nWo3Ax9m
@skepticaljoe
skeptical joe
@ is leaving #atheismplus because its a shit idea. The dissenting views toward A+ are not unreasonable. Atheism = Atheism. Simple
@Secular_Steve
Secular Steve
Jen McCreight says bye bye to blogging http://t.co/mw1Qt5Pb Good! One down... #Atheismplus
@WoolyBumblebee
TruthAndOblivion.com

The author of that last tweet even made a video for Jen.

(If you’re visually impaired and really want to know what’s in there, ask. I can transcribe in the comments, but I don’t want to spring it on anyone who doesn’t feel up to it. Otherwise, suffice it to say it’s about half a minute of pictorial name-calling, combined with the same sentiment from the tweet.)

The creator of that video, by the way, is the same person who wrote that “Anatomy of a Bully” post a few months ago. That would be the post where she uses her “expertise” to describe how bullies behave in terms that are supposed to evoke FtB. Apparently she’s irony-deficient.

One rarity in this is the person who has been criticizing Atheism+ who also took this opportunity to criticize the harassers.

Whatever your thoughts on #atheismplus, harassing a blogger into stopping writing is undeniably wrong. http://t.co/AFd8KdaJ
@FictionFaith
Faith in Fiction

A number of the Atheism+ “critics”, however, have all hit on a single theme.

Oh, Blag Hag ragequit. I would say something about taking heat in the kitchen, but she might use that to say I'm sexist. #AtheismPlus
@JimJesus
Rev. Jim Jesus
@ Don't stoke the flame if you can't take the heat! Get well soon. #atheismplus #Atheism
@Josh_co_85
Joshua Cordell

That last one completely missed the clue train, I think, but perhaps not as badly as the person who had to leave this in the comments of the post in which Jen explained that being harassed is aggravating her depression.

As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon…

Well, you know what they say: “If you can’t stand the heat…”

You’ll be back.

About that…this isn’t “heat”. It isn’t scrutiny applied to determine how one deals with pressure. It isn’t the necessary hassle of getting a difficult job done. It isn’t even hazing, meant to provide an artificial barrier so only those who want something badly reach it.

This is harassment. And it’s a very small sample of it, taken from after the harassers claimed a victory. It was far worse before.

It’s not a test. It’s not an incidental effect. It’s not a short-term barrier. It’s been going on for months, and people like WoolyBumblebee up there are very clear on its purpose.

It’s meant to drive us out of the conversation. It’s meant to shut down people without the time and energy, people without enough social support, people without the most resilient mental health and exclude them from the discussions of what sort of political space(s) atheism can occupy or how the movement will conduct itself. It’s meant to keep us from experiencing any peace until we pack up and leave.

Like Jen did. The harassment did exactly what it’s supposed to do in Jen’s case, although the harassers will discover that one person is not Atheism+.

So if you have to ask why Jen quit blogging, it’s time to look around you. It’s time to stop refusing to look at unpleasantness. It’s time to label it for what it is.

Then it’s time to declare, no matter where you stand on people simultaneously working toward social justice and claiming the atheist mantle, that it needs to stop. Now, before it kicks anyone else out.

*For now, that is. Jen has clarified that this is an indefinite vacation, during which we may just get a book out of her.

Update: Lest you think this shows any sign of slowing down, comments:

  • Goodbye. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. (here)
  • I’ll try to say this without hurting your feelings+: Jen, I completely support you in this move, and I for one joyfully welcome your decision. This is wonderful news. Best of luck to you in whatever endeavors+ you pursue in the future. Oh, and as you’re going is there any chance you can talk any of those other apostles you hang with to join you? You go, girl. Really… just go. (here)
  • You know, at the start of this circus some of us warned that those reduced to tears and self-pity by these non-issues would not be worth diddly squat in a real fight.Thank you for proving us right. (here)

And tweets:

@ (BlagHag) just announced she is stopping her blog due to bullying. Too much work censoring all the comments, I expect. #Atheism
@RosaRubicondior
Rosa Rubicondior
Self-awareness bypass? @ on the latest episode of the #atheismplus dramality show as BlagHag flounces off http://t.co/Txk3Cqzd
@Default_Atheist
Default Atheist
#atheismplus is doing a superb Neil Armstrong impersonation. I couldn't be happier. Eat shit you rape-faking scum.
@SUICIDEBOMBS
The Carcinogenie
If I suggested a group of people were in a circle-jerk headed for oblivion, I wouln't expect sympathy when they retaliate. #AtheismPlus
@JimboAndBear
jimboandbear
#atheismplus Y U NO SEE THAT SAYING "THIS IS A SAFE SPACE FREE FROM TROLLS" IS A RED RAG TO A BULL FOR THEM?
@Y_U_NO_SKEPTIC
Y U NO SKEPTIC
Well done haters. You've made Our Leader Jen stop blogging for a bit. On the plus side, by pure coincidence, she's getting lots of sympathy.
@atheismplus
Atheism+
Founder of #atheismplus flounces off: http://t.co/cUZSgfWg Remember to make it stick, Jen!
@SkepDirt
Skepdigger
STICK THE FLOUNCE, JENNY!!!! @ @ : Founder of #atheismplus flounces off: http://t.co/LB0Z18DI
@ikonografer
ikonografer
#freethoughtblogs is the fox channel of the blogosphere #atheismplus was last week, this week is tears and fainting
@ this flounce by Jen is nothing more than a sympathy grab and a way to rally the #atheismplus drones. It wont last long at all
@CosmicSnark
Cosmic Snark
@ @ Drama, self-pity and feeding trolls produces predictable and reproducible results. She was warned. #atheismplus
@MrsVickyCaramel
Vicky Caramel
@ Good riddance, you racist sexist batshit-crazy radfem nut!
@ So, Jen's allegedly finished blogging...and this time it's not her boyfriend who kicked her off the internet. #atheismplus
@justinvacula
Justin Vacula
Stop launching character attacks on your blogs and perhaps you won't receive hate from internet trolls. #atheismplus #ftbullies
@justinvacula
Justin Vacula

Comments

  1. eric says

    Completely agree. ‘Heat’ is when you strongly attack someone’s arguments, their positions. At worst, its responding in kind to what someone does, reversing typical positions to make them the target of what they dish out. Heat is an attempt to make the point: don’t do to others unless you’re willing to be likewise done unto. Heat is response in kind.

    However, Jen didn’t threaten to have anyone fired, and she doesn’t commit the sort of personal attacks being levied on her. This is not heat. It might better be descrbed as the opposite – a cold and calculated decision to do unto her in ways she has never done unto others, to intentionally take it further and not to respond in kind. It is an attempt to bypass and avoid heated debate about her positions by i.e. threatening her job instead.

  2. says

    Don’t stoke the flame if you can’t take the heat!

    Read: don’t fight harassment if you can’t take the constant harassment we’ll give you in return.

    That is sick and deranged, and I’m embarrassed to share any part of my ideology with them.

  3. Bernard Bumner says

    One rarity in this is the person who has been criticizing Atheism+ who also took this opportunity to criticize the harassers.

    I’m looking for that reaction becoming more common.

    The lower they dare to stoop, the fewer moderate-leaning (but ignorant) supporters they are going to be able to drag with them.

    How many sensible people, how many advocates for atheism, for organised skepticism will be able to stand up and say that they haven’t seen bullying after this? (And if they do, how many will want to argue with this example?)

  4. natashayar-routh says

    No I know exactly why Jen quit and admire here for sticking it out as long as she did. It’s also why I want nothing to do with Athiesim as a movement, far too many bottom readers like that. This sort of thing is also why I don’t think Athiesim is particularly relevant to the social justice movement. Even if religion and all the theocrats go away you’ll still have these haters to continue the bigotry and discrimination.

  5. says

    Ahh, WoolyBumbleBee – irony-deficient sounds about right. She had one of those stupid memegen-pics of Rebecca Watson in the sidebar of that “bullying” post the last time I checked…

    Her video was flagged for harassment and taken down it seems.

  6. says

    If you haven’t seen what she’s been putting up with, why not? Did you refuse to look?
    If you did, it’s time to stop hiding. The rest of the answer to why Jen is quitting can be found just as easily in the reactions to her announcement as in what came before it.

    This is not rhetorical, but how can one come out of hiding and stop enabling? Does this mean deciding to go on twitter, finding abusive tweets and call them out? Call out the trolls on FTB even if you are a lurker?

    What I decided to do, and this has caused me anxiety as I don’t want abuse either, is to decide with my leaders of my skeptics group and have a meeting in which we lay out not only a plan to move toward what I am calling, “positive skepticsm”, but also to address this issue and make our feelings clear. I suspect many in our group don’t read much of this or know about it, but for those to do, I don’t want to let it be an elephant in the room anymore. In addition, we have a harassment policy draft under review, hopefully out by the end of the week. What can I tell my members about how to not enable this? Probably most rarely post anything anywhere. Should they start?

    But what else can I do to not enable this? Write to leaders who have not made a statement for Amy? To what degree can we diminish this? (not rhetorical, but actual question). Zero would be ideal, but what is a realistic goal, what are some game plans and how can I help?

  7. says

    Oh, you missed Justicar’s latest where he accuses Jen of doing the same to others and that she obviously just can’t tke the jokes, like he can.

    And the furred insect is a nasty piece of work. She works in anti-bullying? She’ll probably think the problem is solved once the gay kid commits suicide.

  8. Onamission5 says

    This all makes me so sad and angry. I have quit jobs over lesser campaigns of harrassment and sabatoge because of the way it affected my wellbeing. That anyone who’s been a daily target of this level of vitriol for this long has stuck it out is amazing. So, to Jen, and everyone else who is worn down from abuse, take care of you. Know there’s people out here who have your back. Who know what you’ve accomplished and admire you, and wish you all the best.

  9. FelixBC says

    This is not rhetorical, but how can one come out of hiding and stop enabling? Does this mean deciding to go on twitter, finding abusive tweets and call them out? Call out the trolls on FTB even if you are a lurker?

    Yes, exactly. How does one stop online harassment? I’ve gone on twitter and called out disgusting comments, and found myself the recipient of more of those just about immediately. It just encourages the creepy-crawlies. And yet I’m a big fan of calling the trolls on their bullshit, not just shutting up and hiding.

    What I really don’t understand is the “leaders” of the atheism movement egging this on. When Paula Kirby sends out that photoshopped mockery, or Justin Vacula posts a rant about SurlyAmy to an anti-feminist site (A Voice for Men), that seriously encourages harassment on the part of many other people. They get the green light to go for it. And encouraging comments as rewards.

    WoolyBumbleBee just last week tweeted something like “they must be stopped”. And that’s what they did. They stopped Jen.

    Who’s next week’s target?

  10. see_the_galaxy says

    What seriously constructive thing can we do to protect our people from
    conservative activist heat of this sort? Anyone who takes on the
    right is going to get anonymous internet abuse. What can we do to
    stop or reduce it? A flash response team, at minimum?

  11. Bernard Bumner says

    @Jen, for what it is worth, I will again add my own voice to the support you’re receiving.

    Best wishes, and best of luck with all your endeavours. (I hope that can’t be said too often.)

    @Pteryxx,

    No.

    They specifically rule out intervention in user disputes (they cede responsibility to local law enforcement – i.e. they leave it to the user to report criminal harassment).

    They sell their service purely as a communications medium, rather than a forum. They recommend blocking abusive users, but will generally only remove profiles who threaten violence.

    Even that advice is somewhat difficult to find.

    @Jen, for what it is worth, I offer my own support.

  12. says

    While I haven’t read much about Jen’s stuff I do think it is a shame that hate comments have invaded her life to the extent which she is having no fun with her blog and it is invading her personal life. I suppose that when a person has belief’s such as she does and expresses them there is bound to be some kind of backlash from others. Really a shame but that is the why life goes.

    I first came across her when she did the ‘boobquake’ thing which I found hilarious.

    JW

  13. Bernard Bumner says

    (Pfft. Spot the editing mistake in my last post. Now, I really hope it can’t be said too much!)

  14. StevoR says

    Damn. That sucks.

    Jen McCreight – you have my support and my respect and admiration and thanks. And as many internet hugs as you want from me & I know many others here too. Best wishes and please come back soon reinvigorated and happy and well.

  15. ezekiel says

    “One rarity in this is the person who has been criticizing Atheism+ who also took this opportunity to criticize the harassers.”

    That’s been my point all along: It’s entirely possible to disagree with Atheism+, without implicitly supporting the haters.

    Thank you for posting my tweet.

    @FictionFaith (Ezekiel)

  16. jhendrix says

    This does indeed suck. I wish there was a better well defined way to fight against the trolls.

    I want to be able to see women take prominent roles in the atheist and geek communities.

  17. says

    ezekiel says:

    That’s been my point all along: It’s entirely possible to disagree with Atheism+, without implicitly supporting the haters.

    If you’re disgusted by the behavior shown towards Jen, then you’re clearly sympathetic to the prime motivation behind Atheism Plus. You may think it’s a stupid name, but why be so opposed to it? Many of the people on the Atheism Plus forum are there simply because they’re sick of this type of harassment. They don’t want to be divisive; they just want somewhere where they won’t be set upon by packs of haters. Why be opposed to that?

  18. Dexeron says

    Woop. WoolyBumblebee blocked me for daring to question its version of the truth, and got all offended when I implied that it condones harrassment and bullying.

    Sorry, you don’t get to celebrate the results of harrassment, then act all innocent and pretend you’re not condoning it.

  19. says

    hyperdeath, ezekiel, I would really, really rather not have that argument restart here. Not even as, “Oh, I won’t argue, but I just want to get this point in before I stop talking about it.”

  20. says

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t include this one, which was the worst of what I saw before I went to bed. They’ve crafted a narrative where the bad guys deserve whatever treatment they get, and they’ve propped it up with false equivalence, hypocrisy, and victim blaming. I just don’t get it. These are supposed to be skeptics.

  21. latsot says

    Jen feels that she’s failed the community, but the fact is that we’ve failed her. We know that this kind of harassment is going on and we don’t do very much about it. We are complete idiots.

  22. latsot says

    What seriously constructive thing can we do to protect our people from conservative activist heat of this sort?

    One thing we can do is reject and expose sexism whenever we see it. We can educate ourselves and our friends to see it where we previously didn’t. We can expose our own prejudices and admit our own failings. We can rejoice in learning rather than ignorance.

    Most importantly, we can *make a fucking great enormous fuss* whenever we see casual sexism, rather than just rolling our eyes.

    We can’t make the Internet a safe place, but we can do our best to evolve our societies so that people rightly feel shame when they abuse people.

    It’s only one thing to do though.

  23. says

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t include this one, which was the worst of what I saw before I went to bed.

    Hey, I gets a honourable mention!
    Gosh I’m so glad that there’s an ocean or at least the Channel and France between them and me.
    Also, note that Jen just hates men because, well, I guess because she doesn’t just close her mouth and opens her legs whenever they appear.

  24. says

    One of the troll above’s blog has an article about the dangers of mixing feelings and atheism. My thoughts on feelings and their relationship to skepticism/atheism have evolved a lot. Underneath it all, feelings are why we care and what keeps a movement going. If we were all robots, their would be no reason to be passionate about anything.

    Feelings are not bad. It’s ok to cry when harassed, it’s ok to get angry, it’s ok to be riled up and overwhelmed with inspiration and exhuberence at the Reason Rally. Of course we need to balance that with rationality. Can the trolls tell us honestly that their obsession is not ultimate driven by emotions? Why would anyone spend so much time fixated on certain people otherwise?

    In my wedding ceremony we tried to tackle the importance of emotions in a science themed wedding. I included the quotes: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”-David Hume and “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” -Carl Sagan I wish Sagan were here to give the smack down to these assholes.

  25. Gen Fury says

    I suppose that when a person has belief’s such as she does and expresses them there is bound to be some kind of backlash from others. Really a shame but that is the why life goes.

    No. That’s not good enough. What she experienced wasn’t backlash, it wasn’t people arguing or taking down her arguments. It was personal, continued prolonged harassment targeted specifically at her, including threats.

  26. Chrystal Ocean says

    I was very sorry to read Jen’s post today.

    The first post I read on FTB happened to be Jen’s of August 18th “How I unwittingly infiltrated the boy’s club & why it’s time for a new wave of atheism.” From that post, Atheism+ was born.

    Selfishly, I am grateful that Jen didn’t stop writing before that time. As soon as the Atheism Plus website was created, I added it to my bookmarks. Then I signed up to the forum (as Tidewaters).

    To Jen: I’ve lived with depression since the age of five and respect your need to do whatever it takes to take care of yourself. Just know that your blogging helped at least one other woman, who has been a lifelong atheist, see that she might, just possibly, be welcome into the atheism movement.

  27. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I didn’t know, until today, that Jen has depression issues. That knowledge puts a whole new level of sheer evil onto those that are attacking her.

    They really do have absolutely no decency and no empathy at all.

    Sick. I’m glad they stayed behind in Bigot Atheism.

  28. says

    Regarding protecting yourself against haters on Twitter so that you don’t get your inbox flooded with notifications of the hatefest they’re having at your expense: just block the bastards. Seriously.

    If you sometimes want to monitor what they’re writing on a particular subject, all you have to do is log out of your account and you can see any tweetstream whom you have blocked from your own account. That way you control when you see their bile, they don’t get to control when you see it, and it’s the lack of control over their communications which grind one down the most effectively.

    You could create a separate Twitter account just to follow the worst of them, create lists even, for the convenience of monitoring them all on one page. Once you’ve set up that account, you wouldn’t even have to log in again to see those list-streams. You could share that list(s) amongst others, too, so they could monitor the bullies at times of their own choosing as well.

    There are some more advanced options for those who are a bit more ninja with their social media management, but anybody can do the above with extreme ease, and when you do you take away one of the virtual bullhorns they’re using against you.

  29. Martha says

    Is there a way to show support and appreciation for Jen by donating to something about Atheism Plus? Or a worthy established organization? I know this makes it sound even more like a eulogy for Jen, but the best way to make sure the harassers don’t succeed is to make sure Atheism Plus does. It may be too early, but I’m sure there are a lot of us who aren’t in the trenches who would be happy to help with other kinds of real support.

  30. says

    The harassment has been going on for as long as I can remember. It wears all of us down. In this specific case it deprives me of a voice I appreciate and have learned from.

    I think i would be opposed to any counter-trolling or harass-back tactics because it would go against the core reason for #atheism plus. And besides, it would take energy from communicating clearly like adults, which is obviously a big need right now.

    Also, I am happy to re-tweet or re-blog anything that is helpful.

  31. iknklast says

    I wish you luck, Jen. I wish I had half your courage. I would have quit a long time ago. No one should have to take this sort of prolonged abuse, and if it were directed at someone in a different group (not women, in other words), it would have been called out by many of the same people condoning it now.

    I deal with sexism everyday, and also deal with people who deny its sexism. I only get a fraction of what you get, and I feel constantly stressed. I can’t begin to imagine how you go on, and you have my best wishes.

  32. David Booker says

    Illuminata: “I’m glad they stayed behind in Bigot Atheism.”

    So I’m automatically a bigot cos I haven’t joined the girls club (A+)?

  33. says

    David, are you one of the people who has been harassing Jen? If not, why rush to be identified with them? And why on Earth would Atheism+ have a membership limited to girls?

  34. David Booker says

    No.
    I’ve been an Atheist for a long time so am not rushing into anything. A few bloggers are rushing into labelling me as a bigot because I am just a simple Atheist.
    Wasn’t Jen’s original complaint about the boys club (which included women), so decided to set up an alternative, thereby implying a girls club (which could include men)?

  35. says

    A few bloggers are rushing into labelling me as a bigot because I am just a simple Atheist.

    No, they’re not. Have you read their posts?

    Wasn’t Jen’s original complaint about the boys club (which included women), so decided to set up an alternative, thereby implying a girls club (which could include men)?

    No, it wasn’t. Did you not read it? It was about being stuck in a boys’ club in which there were very limited acceptable roles for women and setting up a club that would be more inclusive.

  36. David Booker says

    See Illuminatta’s post above that I responded to in my first post as just one example. Plenty of other commentators have given other examples (eg from PZ, Jen, Richard C).

    I don’t go to conferences, and not USA ones since I don’t live there, so can not fully comment. But nearly every video I’ve watched of Atheist conferences have included women speakers.

  37. says

    Wasn’t Jen’s original complaint about the boys club (which included women), so decided to set up an alternative, thereby implying a girls club (which could include men)?

    Yes, because we’Re in Third grade, apparently.
    The alternative is to have a fucking playground for everybody.
    Really, your inability to understand that not all people seek to dominate says a lot about you but nothing about Jen or A+

  38. cag says

    Hasn’t Islam proven that excluding women from the intellectual wealth of a group is counter-productive? As someone with a “Y” chromosome, I have no issue with learning from any voice that is progressive. A good idea is a good idea. Let’s not get stuck in some NIH (not invented here) or NIM (not invented by men) loop which will end up impoverishing us all.

    I’m sure that Martin Luther was not exactly universally loved for his delusions – Jen is not universally loved for her rationality and humanity. What a great condemnation of humanity when a decent, caring individual is vilified for being a decent, caring individual.

    Thank you, Jen, for making me a more aware member of the human race.

  39. David Booker says

    *looks at Illuminata’s comment*

    Ah, so you just can’t read then. Got it. Go away.

    So there are 3 clubs? Atheism+, Atheism, and Bigot Atheism.

  40. says

    David Booker: So there are 3 clubs? Atheism+, Atheism, and Bigot Atheism.

    No, there is Atheism and then there are various subsets of Atheism. Atheism+ and Bigot Atheism are two of those subsets which are not likely to intersect. Gnu Atheism is a different subset which overlaps with both Atheism+ and Bigot Atheism. There are plenty of other subsets floating around, overlapping at some points but not at other points.

    I’m sure you actually knew all that, and are just throwing rhetorical balls in the propaganda bucket, but I laid it out for the record.

  41. David Booker says

    Girelli:
    The alternative is to have a fucking playground for everybody.

    I thought Atheism was for everybody. Didn’t know that it was owned by some with rules in place.

  42. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    I thought Atheism was for everybody. Didn’t know that it was owned by some with rules in place.

    Atheism should be for everybody. But a lot of the bully pulpits are held by straight cis white men, and they make the rules. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with straight cis white men having power, but the rest of humanity and atheism should be heard too.

    Atheism+ is about asserting that the playground rules should be fair and even for everyone, and not stacked in favor of some.

  43. says

    Right. I should have know that “Go away” wouldn’t work on someone who can’t read. Same for “Do not want this argument on this post.” David, if you’re capable of understanding this, you’ve been electronically helped to stay off of this post.

  44. says

    Girelli:
    The alternative is to have a fucking playground for everybody.

    David Booker:
    I thought Atheism was for everybody. Didn’t know that it was owned by some with rules in place.

    Atheism as a philosophy is absolutely for everybody.

    Atheism as a community has shown itself to be in large measure a boys’ club where women are only welcome if they abide by certain unwritten rules, as laid out in Jen’s boys’ club post.

    Atheism+ is a parallel community initiative which welcomes voices which are currently marginalised by other Atheist communities, and explicitly rejects those unwritten boys’ club rules.

    Again, I don’t believe that you don’t already know this, but I’m laying it out for the record.

    Do you want to play some more?

  45. hacksoncode says

    While I’m extremely sympathetic to her, there’s a degree of truth in the “can’t stand the heat” contingent.

    When you put yourself out into the internet sphere as a leader of a controversial movement, you’re exposing yourself to a mathematical inevitability: The Law of Large Numbers.

    The larger the audience, the more numerous and more extreme the attackers and harassers will be attracted, as the tail of the normal distribution fills out. They can be a tiny fraction of all people, and still be enough to drag you down.

    Look at it this simplified way: 1% of *everyone* is an asshole, just like 1% of everyone is an amazing generous nice, smart person.

    If you talk to 100 people, you’re probably only going to have to deal with an asshole or two.

    If you broadcast your views to even just 1,000,000 people (such as /r/atheism, for example), you’re going to have 10,000 assholes in that crowd. It’s basically a law of nature.

    If you aren’t prepared to deal with 10,000 assholes per million viewers, the broad stage of the internet is not for you. The only saving grace is that probably only a small fraction of them, say 1-2% (i.e. 100-200), will bother to say anything at all…

    Sadly, because more reasonable people tend to be less vocal as a result of being more reasonable, a vastly smaller fraction of the reasonable people will do the same.

  46. Jim says

    “This does indeed suck. I wish there was a better well defined way to fight against the trolls.”

    Are you new to the internet?

    You don’t fight trolls, you don’t feed trolls. That’s it. Trolls are looking for a reaction and by george this community has given them a prize one.

    Less of course you like to feel outraged and important by posting about all the hatemail you get (and no equivocations about how we need to stand up and call out random internet assholes without some empirical evidence it actually does anything besides make you feel righteous).

  47. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @hacksoncode

    I wish, with every fiber of my being, that we could get through a conversation like this without laying the blame for an attack at the feet of the victim. You may not think that’s what you’re doing, but in fact you are. You are saying that if a person, no matter how passionate, talented, and devoted they are, cannot handle sustained, relentless, vicious harassment, they need to keep their mouths shuts. And where does that leave us? Where the only ones who are left speaking are those who are willing to engage in sustained, relentless, vicious harassment. All people have limits, and the amount of bile that has been directed at Jen has been so completely and utterly out of proportion to anything she said or to anything else she’s said (she did not receive this kind of harassment for bashing on creationism) that it defies any level of decency.

    It didn’t have to be this way, and we know it based on the fact that it doesn’t happen in other situations within the atheist community. Something about this is special, allowing people to excuse behavior that would be decried fiercely in any other occasion.

    Jen should be able to speak within the skeptical community, the atheist community, the secular community, and not be piled down with endless attacks against her. We, as a community, should be better than that. There is no excusing that we are not.

  48. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @Jim

    The trolls in question are seeking to silence women by overwhelming them with vile attacks. When you say, “Don’t feed the trolls,” basically you’re saying “Give the trolls free range to abuse whomever they please, and do not defend yourself or others.” You’re saying, “The victim of these attacks is not allowed to feel hurt, express that hurt, or seek support with dealing with that hurt.”

    And that’s a terrible thing to say.

  49. says

    hacksoncode, your entire comment rests on the idea that assholes are somehow evenly spread out across the internet, instead of being attracted to particular groups and topics. That’s a rather extraordinary claim. Do you have any evidence for it?

  50. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    David broker: Are you one of the Whiny Ass Bigot Trolls deliberately trying to hurt Jen McCreight? or any other female atheist? Because THAT IS WHO I’M TALKING ABOUT WHEN I SAY “BIGOT ATHEISM” – the asswipes who do nothing but attack, lie, distort and try to hurt people.

    If that’s not you, then spare the narcissistic whining. Not everything is about you.

    And, I second the recommendation that you learn to read, instead of being so incredibly desperate to feign being offended. I said absolutely fucking NOTHING about A+.

  51. says

    Are you new to the internet?

    You don’t fight trolls, you don’t feed trolls. That’s it. Trolls are looking for a reaction and by george this community has given them a prize one.

    Bullshit. That’s an internet urban legend which does exactly zero to stop actual harassment. It’s exactly as ineffective as the schoolteacher/parent urban folklore about “just ignore the bullies and they’ll go away”.

    You know what’s cut down on schoolyard bullying? Other kids having smartphones and recording incontrovertible evidence of it happening, so that the minimisers can’t pretend it isn’t happening any more. Now that the evidence is there public pressure has grown for genuine counterbullying programs to be put in place. Now that the evidence is there, things are beginning to improve.

    You’re also (as are many others in this conversation) conflating simple vexatious trolls with malicious cyberbullies. Sure vexatious trolls just want a reaction. The malicious cyberbullies, however, sincerely want to silence people. This doesn’t get any better if we pretend that it isn’t happening.

    There is a balance to be struck between refuting the malicious misinformation flung around by the cyberbullies and not letting vexatious trolls just derail discussions for the LULZ. “Just don’t feed the trolls” is simplistic nonsense that just preserves the status quo (and how very convenient that is for some people, eh?).

  52. hacksoncode says

    Stephanie, I’m not making that even *stronger* claim.

    I’m saying that *even if* the assholes are simply randomly distributed, and aren’t attracted to you or your ideas *specifically* (i.e. if there’s no possible way you could in any way be considered to be to “blame” for the harassment), you will encounter a vast (absolute) number of them, even if they are a tiny fraction of the audience.

    The fact that assholes are in fact more attracted to certain topics and types of victims doesn’t make this better, it makes it worse, at least for some people talking about some topics.

    However, if you can’t handle even the number of assholes that one must expect to exist in any uncontrolled sample of people, then it is true that you’re not going to last long being popular on the internet.

    That’s sad, but it’s not a vast conspiracy, and it only gets worse as your ideas become more popular, pretty much no matter what anyone does about it.

    And by the way, the assholes are mostly attention whores…often that’s what makes them assholes. Except in cases of violent threats or other criminal behavior, the most effective response is almost certainly to ignore them.

  53. Mark says

    @Jen I didn’t know about the shit you were going through until I read this post. If it was directed at me, I’d be feeling pretty awful. I think I would’ve quit long before you did.

    As someone else wrote, don’t feel like you have let us down! We’ve let you down by not reacting strongly to it.

    Take as long a break as you need – you deserve it. I hope that you’ll join the fray again, but not if it exacerbates your depression.

    I’ll do what I should have done in the past: to take a stand against these idiots. I wish I knew of something more effective than simply calling them out.

  54. says

    Except in cases of violent threats or other criminal behavior, the most effective response is almost certainly to ignore them.

    Gee, hacksoncode, could you be a little more resistant to evidence? Come on. I’m sure you can if you try.

    Or you could just take your victim blaming, look at what’s been posted here that happened after Jen quit, and fuck off.

  55. says

    And by the way, the assholes are mostly attention whores…often that’s what makes them assholes. Except in cases of violent threats or other criminal behavior, the most effective response is almost certainly to ignore them.

    If their ideas deserve refutation then ignoring them is allowing oneself to be silenced. Why should we allow them that victory?

    Ignoring them just lets them poison the discourse without contest. The best tactic is to respond in a depersonalised way, with detached rigor, so that they don’t get a personal thrill of validation, but their misinformation is nonetheless debunked.

  56. hacksoncode says

    If their ideas deserve refutation then ignoring them is allowing oneself to be silenced. Why should we allow them that victory?

    No one is saying that one should ignore *ideas* that need refuting. But random hateful spewing by obvious attention whores don’t actually *contain* any ideas deserving of refutation.

    And in any case, as you say, respond to the idea, not to the asshole.

  57. hacksoncode says

    LOL, you’re just proving my point for me. Ad hominem attacks amuse me. Keep ‘em coming.

    Because the people I’m actually trying to speak to can see them for the completely hollow non-argument that they are.

  58. says

    Yeah stop responding to us trolls. Don’t you know you’re supposed to not feed the trolls?

    Or were you too busy trying to debug your = / == mistakes that you keep making?

  59. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Ad hominem attacks amuse me.

    It is a common misconception that “making fun of someone” is an Ad hominem. This is not the case. Ad hominiem isn’t saying “So and so is [insert insult],” it is saying “So and so is [insert insult], so their argument is wrong”

  60. hacksoncode says

    It is a common misconception that “making fun of someone” is an Ad hominem. This is not the case. Ad hominiem isn’t saying “So and so is [insert insult],” it is saying “So and so is [insert insult], so their argument is wrong”

    Yes, but their attacks *in this case* are specifically trying to invalidate my *argument* by demonstrating that I can’t take the heat.

    I’ve rarely seen a better example of an ad hominem fallacy. It’s really quite entertaining.

  61. says

    But random hateful spewing by obvious attention whores don’t actually *contain* any ideas deserving of refutation.

    Sez you.

    A non-negligible number of “attention whores” are also perniciously cloaked cyberbullies, camouflaging their toxic ideas underneath the spittle flecks of deliberately crafted “hateful spewing” for the purposes of plausible deniability, supposedly just “doing it for the lulz” etc. Their sheer relentlessness however makes it obvious that there’s a deeper reason why they do this, and even if we don’t know exactly what that reason is, the goal is clear: intimidation.

    Ignoring them is capitulation. No thanks.

  62. Erista (aka Eris) says

    No one is saying that one should ignore *ideas* that need refuting. But random hateful spewing by obvious attention whores don’t actually *contain* any ideas deserving of refutation.

    Give me an example of a random hateful spewing that doesn’t contain an idea.

    And in any case, as you say, respond to the idea, not to the asshole.

    How exactly do you respond to an asshole’s comment without responding to the asshole when the asshole is present? Are we supposed to change our pronouns or something? Instead of saying, “Jim said blah blah,” we should do something like, “Some might say that,” while Jim is there?

  63. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Yes, but their attacks *in this case* are specifically trying to invalidate my *argument* by demonstrating that I can’t take the heat.

    I’ve rarely seen a better example of an ad hominem fallacy. It’s really quite entertaining.

    Attempting to invalidate your statement that we must not “feed the trolls” by pointing out that you “feed the trolls” is not an ad hominem; it’s pointing out hypocrisy.

  64. hacksoncode says

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear, when I said “deserving of refutation”, I meant “deserving of refutation”, not “any idea at all”, and when I said”as you said”, I meant “as you said”:

    The best tactic is to respond in a depersonalised way, with detached rigor, so that they don’t get a personal thrill of validation, but their misinformation is nonetheless debunked.

  65. Erista (aka Eris) says

    And how, exactly, do we decide which ideas are “deserving of refutation”? Because it doesn’t seem to be that you think each person should decide for themselves; you either seem to think that there is some independent standard or that we should go by your standard.

  66. Erista (aka Eris) says

    The best tactic is to respond in a depersonalised way, with detached rigor, so that they don’t get a personal thrill of validation, but their misinformation is nonetheless debunked.

    I have a great deal of scorn for the position that victims do not have the right to their emotions, that they must not be angry/sad/frustrated/whatever, or at least must not SHOW that they are any of these things.

    If someone is wronged and they are angry, let them be angry. Do not scold them and tell them that they ought not to feel that way.

  67. hacksoncode says

    Of course each person should decide that for themselves. The point is that they should only respond if they think there’s an actual idea to usefully refute, and only by refuting the idea non-personally.

    But this is getting a bit far afield from the original observation that mindless attacks from assholes come with the territory of communicating to a large number of people.

    Which is quite ironic, because the main reason to ignore them is that it causes you to digress from *your* ideas, and letting them dictate the discourse by responding on their ground. Caught me there… that was a bit foolish of me, eh?

  68. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Actually, I phrased #92 poorly.

    What I should have said is that is when you assert (do not prove, but simply assert) that people should not feed the trolls and then do so yourself, you are indicating that you lack the authority to simply assert this. If you do it, you must have some other evidence to indicate that we should not do it. To judge others for feeding the trolls while doing so yourself is disingenuous.

  69. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @96 If you think each person should decide for themselves which comments are worthy of response, then why are you telling people to not “feed the trolls?” Jen decided for herself which comments were worthy of response, and she responded accordingly.

  70. 'Tis Himself says

    hacksoncode, I offer you a friendly suggestion and that’s only because I think you’re too stupid to be malicious. SHUT THE FUCK UP!

  71. hacksoncode says

    I don’t believe that I ever used the phrase “don’t feed the trolls”. Indeed, I love feeding the trolls. Can’t you tell?

    What I *said* was that, when confronted by attention whoring assholes, “the most effective response is almost certainly to ignore them”. And I’ll stick by that recommendation. Responding to mindless attacks generally saps your energy, feeds their insecurities, and distracts your message.

    Honestly, though, I don’t think that shoe fits the people that are attempting to refute my argument by

    Feeding the trolls is an entirely different game. Entertaining as it might be for those who enjoy it, it is generally not very effective.

  72. says

    hacksoncode, you keep characterizing these thugs as “mindless”. They, on the other hand, have shown every evidence of having a goal, having gone after it quite single-mindedly, and having declared that they’ve won. Your assertion is contrary to the evidence at hand.

  73. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @hacksoncode

    1) I’m sorry, I mixed you up with Jim. Indeed you did not say “don’t feed the trolls” in those words.

    2) You say that “the most effective response is almost certainly to ignore them.” On what do you base this assertion?

  74. says

    The best tactic is to respond in a depersonalised way, with detached rigor, so that they don’t get a personal thrill of validation, but their misinformation is nonetheless debunked.

    I have a great deal of scorn for the position that victims do not have the right to their emotions…

    Erista, hacksoncode was actually quoting me there, and you are quite correct to challenge my wording, especially since I have expressed myself poorly enough to convey something I absolutely did not intend to convey. Some tactics are more rhetorically effective than others is what I meant to say, not in any way meaning that I approve of why this disparity in effectiveness exists.

    Dispassionate detachment is commonly held out as the ideal tactic, and thus is more highly regarded in discourse. However, this obviously plays into the hands of those for whom certain matters really are just an intellectual exercise.

    This is why allies are so crucial to the discourse of marginalised voices. Allies find it easier to be dispassionate where victims find it so much harder to be so, and thus allies can be rhetorically highly effective in several different ways:
    (i) by expressing support for any strongly emotional responses of victims as valid responses in their own right;
    (ii) by being able to play to the argumentation ideal of the dispassionately logical response with rigorous refutation;
    (iii) by resolutely refusing to use (i) and (ii) to wrest the focus of the discussion away from the relevant marginalised voices.

    It’s like so many social justice issues – what is right and what is effective don’t always match up exactly. This doesn’t mean we have to reject one in favour of the other though – social justice tends to both/and solutions, not falling into the false dichotomy of either/or.

  75. hacksoncode says

    2) You say that “the most effective response is almost certainly to ignore them.” On what do you base this assertion?

    I’m afraid the best I can offer there is nigh on 30 years of watching the internet develop as an active participant in controversial forums…

    It’s my observation of many such controversial people that the ones who let themselves be sidetracked, exhausted, and eventually emotionally crippled and driven out by taking the personal attacks personally, and responding to them directly generally are not nearly as effective in the long run as the ones that are able to see the jungle as what it is — a place with a certain number of really annoying monkeys flinging shit at you from the trees — and for the most part just walk away.

    I don’t *like* that the world is like this, nor do in I any way *excuse* the assholes. And of course every generalization has its exceptions.

  76. silomowbray says

    I support Jen. The conservatives and misogynists must be stopped..dead. Entirely metaphorically of course.

    As an atheist it is my goal to marginalize religious thinking. As a humanist (or whatever, how about just ‘human being’) it is my goal to marginalize misogyny, racism, bigotry and general asscake behaviour. And when I write ‘marginalize’ I mean ‘utterly crush and devalue’.

  77. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Well, hacksoncode, you and I certainly have different backgrounds, but from my personal experience of being female for 27 years, ignoring it rarely helps. It in fact, things often escalate after you ignore it. The man can become more and more angry, and he can recruit many people in his anger. “Why aren’t you answering me?” “Yeah! Why aren’t you answering him? He’s just trying to talk/ask questions/ect.” “What the fuck is wrong with you? Stuck up bitches like you deserved to be raped!” that kind of thing.

    Let me describe to you a personal experience of how things can escalate. A boy (man?) spit on me in high school during gym class. It wasn’t just a little saliva; it was a big wad of mucous. I informed the teacher both because I was mad that he’d spat on me and because I needed to go clean myself off. From there, I did nothing. I did not speak to him, I did not yell at him, I did not speak of it to other people. In essence, after I took care of the immediate problem (a big wad of mucous on my leg), I ignored him. Did this end the situation? No, it did not. And after this, did everyone rally behind me? No, they did not. Instead, I had to endure countless people insisting that he hadn’t meant to spit on me (ha ha), that he was a good guy, that it was no big deal, blah blah blah. Now I was to blame, and the fact that I had ignored the situation had allowed him to garner support among our peers. He ran around telling them his side, and no one heard my side. By the time it occurred to me that maybe I should have been speaking up more assertively, it was too late; everyone had already bought his side of the story, and they weren’t interested in deviating from that.

    That is the danger of ignoring it. Ignoring it allows the abuser to garner more and more support as they lie, misrepresent, and just in general get people to unite against the victim. And the more people who are abusing the victim, the more people who feel free to join in; the sense of personal responsibility is lost as group think takes over. Ignoring it leaves you defenseless when the hoard gathered by your abuser descends upon you.

  78. Snoof says

    Ignoring them just lets them poison the discourse without contest. The best tactic is to respond in a depersonalised way, with detached rigor, so that they don’t get a personal thrill of validation, but their misinformation is nonetheless debunked.

    And what do you suggest those of us who haven’t gone through the rite of Kolinahr do?

  79. hotshoe says

    I wonder what data hacksoncode could provide to contradict the observation that he is just another one of “really annoying monkeys flinging shit at [us] from the trees”

    As far as I know, if he looks like a monkey and smells like a monkey and sounds like a monkey …

  80. Erista (aka Eris) says

    And what do you suggest those of us who haven’t gone through the rite of Kolinahr do?

    Go through the right of Kolinahr, of course.

  81. says

    hotshoe, I have already responded with a clarification to Erista challenging that one.

    I’ve certainly done my share of responding with my emotions openly displayed, and have been glad to see allies who at that moment are more detached jump in to do the dispassionate side of the argument. I’m arguing for both/and, not either/or.

  82. Howard says

    I’m seriously considering dropping the atheist label and just calling myself a (secular) humanist. Fuck these bullies. I have as much respect for them as I have for the Westboro Baptists.

  83. Tâlib Alttaawiil (طالب التاويل) says

    i’m not a twitter user, so maybe i’m just not used to it, but darn if there ain’t some sociopaths out there…

  84. hacksoncode says

    On a more productive note, there are some technical approaches that make this problem of the 1% assholes easier to deal with.

    Forums where they crowdsource the moderation, for example, still have the attacks and vitriol, but the truly nasty and mindless ones quickly vanish under the weight of downvotes. Of course, there’s a danger of groupthink, but there’s probably no way to avoid that. And, obviously, you’re still going to get a fair amount of actual argument and contradiction.

    Other types of forums that strictly enforce non-anonymity also tend to be much more civil, as are ones where networks of like-minded people grow up by personal recommendations. Unfortunately, they also tend not to gather large audiences.

    Twitter is *particularly* bad for this problem, because if you try to run anything that’s not entirely locked down to your friends, anyone anywhere can say anything directly to anyone in complete anonymity, and about the best you can do is whack the moles one at a time by blocking/reporting them. It’s also problematic because it’s very hard (and thus rare) for people to be able to express themselves coherently in a small number of words about anything more complicated than what’s for lunch or, as observed in this article, “you deserve to be raped for that” (ugh). I’m honestly surprised anyone has the intestinal fortitude to use it for anything *except* updating their friends about what they’re doing all the time.

    Usenet was similarly horrible for this, and the only thing that let it survive for as long as it did was the fact that almost everyone was an academic or government contractor, and in the beginning it was relatively non-anonymous in the sense of being difficult to avoid being found if you did something truly egregious. It didn’t survive the Endless September of AOL being connected to it for more than a year or two (of course it still exists, I mean survive as a vibrant place to have useful discussions that a lot of interesting people pay attention to).

    Forums like this aren’t that great for dealing with this problem, either, unless they are strictly moderated. Unfortunately, that both tends to stifle positive contributions, and if you’re the moderator you still have to see all the attacks first. The attention whoring bullies don’t get the satisfaction of attacking you in public, but that’s small consolation. And it’s usually very hard to spread that load out very far, both socially and technically. If you’re not the kind of person that can emotionally deal with constant attacks with equanimity, and you want to use a blog of this nature for something that’s controversial, your best bet is probably to collect a cadre of people that can moderate it for you so you never even have to see it.

    What we really need is a forum that crowdsources moderation like reddit/slashdot/etc., but can be controlled and for lack of a better word, branded, by a single person like a blog. Of course, reddit *can* be used that way (just make your own subreddit, allow posts only by moderators, don’t look at your inbox to avoid seeing the nasty stuff, and make yourself the only moderator), but for some reason people don’t seem to do that, or when they do I haven’t seen them get as much traction or attention.

    Anyway, great business opportunity…

  85. says

    hacksoncode, can you tell me exactly what about being told that you’re dealing with someone with decades of experience in this area caused you to decide anyone here needed a brain dump from you on the topic?

  86. hacksoncode says

    Fine, if you want to solve the problem *you* propose a solution that would actually work, as opposed to a dream world where assholes don’t crop up as soon as you whack the last set.

    Otherwise, you’re just whining.

  87. Pteryxx says

    Why ever would you assume I hadn’t?

    Whyever, indeed.

    hacksoncode, you obviously don’t know a damn thing about maintaining safe-space communities, or you wouldn’t have proposed downvoting and real-name policies as potential solutions.

    Besides, Stephanie’s not the only one to propose and implement solutions. Jen has proposed a major solution, too. Maybe you’ve seen it.

  88. hacksoncode says

    Downvoting is just a mechanism for making it possible to moderate attacks without the blog owner having to deal with them. Of course it has its problems. And obviously, that only works if the reasonable people reading your forum greatly outnumber the assholes. If they don’t, it’s probably a hopeless lost cause anyway if you want to reach any significant audience. And if the blog owner can deal with them on their own, we wouldn’t even be having this particular discussion. I’m trying to propose solutions where you *don’t* “have to be this tough to ride”, but which also don’t posit a utopian world where simply calling out the bullies works for more than a few days.

    There are always more bullies around in this environment, unlike some of the analogous situations people have brought up like schoolyards. The whole point of my original comment was that massive scale is a problem that is unlike anything we’re used to in daily life.

    I’m not sure there is any technical or social solution that meshes with a true “safe space” environment that also allows one to reach an audience of any size. Again, if we were talking about a close-knit, controlled, select community much of this wouldn’t even be an issue, because you almost never get to a scale where it can’t be dealt with, at least on an individual blog level.

    And I don’t *recommend* real-name policies for something like this — it’s just an observation that they tend to be more civil forums. That was more pointing out the source of the problem — anonymity is the biggest single cause of this problem. And it’s the single biggest thing that stands in the way of a solution to it. And, yes, it’s *really* necessary whenever you’re dealing with controversial topics, at least for the particular people such as the blog owner that are likely to be the targets of assholes. So real names are not really on the table as a solution in this case.

  89. Pteryxx says

    I’m not sure there is any technical or social solution that meshes with a true “safe space” environment that also allows one to reach an audience of any size.

    Great. Then I expect you’ll apologize and retract this:

    Do you want to solve this problem, or just whine about it?

    Right?

  90. Pteryxx says

    Also:

    That was more pointing out the source of the problem — anonymity is the biggest single cause of this problem. And it’s the single biggest thing that stands in the way of a solution to it.

    It’s really not. Just look back at the tweets cited in the OP above. Many of them are under real names, or handles that are openly linked to real names.

  91. scenario says

    I’ll miss Jen. I didn’t always agree with her but she always made me think and challenged my assumptions. Especially assumptions I didn’t know I had. I value that a great deal.

    The level of harassment aimed at her was a lot greater than the run of the mill assholes you see online. It was much more personal, organized and vicious than ordinary. Some people like PZ or Stephanie can handle it, most cannot. Some people are in a better position to handle it, both personally and financially. I don’t blame Jen for stepping back from a sustained attack. I know, I wouldn’t have lasted as long as she did.

    I believe in the John Cleese slow burn method of troll control. Start out politely explaining and gradually escalate once the troll has proven him or herself to be either a troll or an idiot. Give someone a mistake or two before you attack.

  92. hacksoncode says

    Regarding the question, I thought it was rhetorical. I can’t think of any useful answer to “why did you comment on this public forum” other than, “because it interested me and I wanted to explore the space of what I thought was a constructive solution to this problem”. Which I said in the first place.

    If people who are actually exploring ideas aren’t welcome, even if they disagree with you, as opposed to people just spewing vitriol or attacking, then fine, I’ll leave.

  93. 'Tis Himself says

    Because it’s National Help the Terminally Obtuse Day, I’m going to give hacksoncode a clue (or clew if he’s in Australia). Read post #119.

  94. Jim says

    Before we continue the narrative that Jen has been subjected to an abnormally large amount of harassment, can we get a comparison of the amount of hate mail Jen has got vs other notable bloggers (esp those unconcerned with online harassment)? Along with a criteria for what constitutes harassment that is not subjectively variable?

    Oh wait, I forgot asking for evidence means I’m calling women liars and we don’t have to answer misogynists which handily means no evidence ever needs to be provided (since we’re obviously not going to call one of our own a liar).

    In which case I look forward to seeing an outpouring of sympathy to all bloggers (regardless of where they stand of A+) who have ever mentioned getting abusive messages.

  95. Joe says

    Before we continue the narrative that Jen has been subjected to an abnormally large amount of harassment, can we get a comparison of the amount of hate mail Jen has got vs other notable bloggers (esp those unconcerned with online harassment)?

    You have evidence that Jen has recieved a large amount of harrasment. Comparing it to the amount of harrassment other bloggers get is pretty much beside the point – so what if other bloggers get more harrassment, if Jen feels she is getting enough that it is damaging her mental health, then it is too much.

    Along with a criteria for what constitutes harassment that is not subjectively variable?

    The problem there is that harrassment is somewhat subjective. Just because you consider something not to be harrassment, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. In particular, in this case, you may not consider being called a dolt (from one of the tweets above) harrassment, but Jen might (particularly if it happens over and over)

    Oh wait, I forgot asking for evidence means I’m calling women liars and we don’t have to answer misogynists which handily means no evidence ever needs to be provided (since we’re obviously not going to call one of our own a liar).

    Asking for evidence is fine. Asking for evidence when it has been amply provided (such as, for example, in the OP) is not.

  96. 'Tis Himself says

    Jim,

    Before we continue the narrative that Jen has been subjected to an abnormally large amount of harassment, can we get a comparison of the amount of hate mail Jen has got vs other notable bloggers (esp those unconcerned with online harassment)?

    Do you want to set up a statistical system with one McCreight as the baseline and a kiloMcCreight (one Watson) as the upper limit? Why is this important?

    Oh wait, I forgot asking for evidence means I’m calling women liars and we don’t have to answer misogynists which handily means no evidence ever needs to be provided (since we’re obviously not going to call one of our own a liar).

    I got it now. You’re just being an asshole pretending that Jen didn’t actually get any abuse and is really just a whiner.

    In which case I look forward to seeing an outpouring of sympathy to all bloggers (regardless of where they stand of A+) who have ever mentioned getting abusive messages.

    I was right. You’re just being an asshole.

  97. Jim says

    @137

    “if Jen feels she is getting enough that it is damaging her mental health, then it is too much.”

    That’s fine. I specifically started my comment by saying I was addressing the narrative that Jen had been singled out for an unusual level of harassment.

    “You have evidence that Jen has recieved a large amount of harrasment.”

    No, I have evidence that Jen has received SOME amount of harrasment. I expect what was posted was only a sample. “Large” and “small” are relative terms. That’s why quantitative data is useful when you’re implying things of a relative nature.

    You’ll notice I never said anything like “Is there any evidence Jen has recieved any hatemail?”. Obviously even one piece of hatemail can prove that. What I was discussing is a matter of scale.

    “Comparing it to the amount of harrassment other bloggers get is pretty much beside the point”

    Not when people are using this as evidence of how much harassment people like Jen get. Not when there’s a running narrative about how much women like Jen are being targeted and “shouted down” by hateful misogynists. In that case matters precisely how much hatemail Jen gets vs other bloggers.

    “Asking for evidence is fine. Asking for evidence when it has been amply provided (such as, for example, in the OP) is not.”

    The evidence in the OP is not quantitative. I’m assuming its a sample of a larger volume of what is deemed harassment. It doesn’t say Jen got 100 messages today and these were the abusive ones. In order to answer the question of whether she gets more hatemail than the average blogger, one must first establish how much hatemail she has been sent, and then what the average amount to expect is.

    The ratio of benign-to-abuse commentsis also pertinent. If Jen gets hundreds of thousands of comments then the above sample is statistically a very small amount of harassment. If she only gets a few hundred comments its a larger comparative amount.

    For all we know Jen gets even less hatemail than the standard blogger which would significantly dispute the narrative that has been playing on FtB. Or she might get significantly more than average which would vindicate claims of targeted harassment.

    Of course, if you’re not actually interested in knowing whether Jen has had more than her fair share of hate mail, then you might want to suggest to others around here not to play this up as some kind of focussed misogynistic attack, when anecdotes make it impossible to distinguish between run of the mill trolling.

    —————————————————————–

    @138 -”Do you want to set up a statistical system with one McCreight as the baseline and a kiloMcCreight (one Watson) as the upper limit? Why is this important?”

    There are multiple narratives being told about this incident. One is that Jen has been specifically singled out and targeted by harassers for her views/A+.

    The other is that Jen may not be getting any special treatment or unusual level of abuse that any online blogger gets and is just sensitive to run of the mill hate mail.

    If we had evidence Jen had received more hate mail than other bloggers it would substantially support the first idea.

    “You’re just being an asshole pretending that Jen didn’t actually get any abuse and is really just a whiner.”

    I didn’t say she didn’t get any abuse. I said there’s not evidence of the scale of the abuse. The only evidence of abuse I have seen does not constitute a statistically significant sample thereby I’m unable to say whether Jen has been specifically targeted and harassed or whether she is simply responding to the kind of hate mail most bloggers get.

    This is why numbers are important. But apparently anecdotes that aren’t in a larger quantitative context are king in these parts.

  98. says

    Hi Jim, I’ve been an overtly feminist blogger since 2005. I founded the Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog in March 2006.

    There are people out there who regularly denounce that blog as misandrist propaganda. Yet I get almost zero hate-mail about FF101, and it’s not because I don’t have a contact form there.

    I also was the most visible moderator on a major Australian poliblog for many years until it ceased publication in April 2012. I did get occasional hate-mail related to that, but not even every month.

    I also do the tech support for both Feministe and Geek Feminism, two very high profile feminist websites. I have received one single lonely piece of hate-mail related to Feministe over the last 3 years.

    I even checked my ‘arsehats’ email folder that collects all the hate-words and known-haters whom I’ve filtered over the years so that I’m the one who chooses when I see their bullshit – not a single new message in the last 6 months.

    None of the feminist bloggers I know through any of those sites have anything like the sustained vitriol thrown at them as the women who blog at FtB have experienced (one only has to look at the #FTBullies hashtag on Twitter to get a taste of it – btw the only hate-tweets I’ve ever received have been in response to tweeting challenges to that #FTBullies narrative). Melissa McEwan at Shakesville and Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon might have come close a few years ago back when they were targeted by Edwards-haters, but not so much lately AFAIK.

    Of course, negative evidence is hard to demonstrate, since I’m not about to show you my email logs. But you asked for counter-evidence, so I’ve given you some.

  99. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Jim:
    You are something else.
    It doesn’t matter whether or not Jen got 2 harassing emails or 200.
    It doesn’t matter whether or not Jen got 6 MRA’s assholes posting on her blog about how they hate her, or 35.
    It doesn’t matter whether or not Jen got 4 Twitter hate messages or 27.

    Get it through your head:
    Multiple narratives
    Special Treatment
    and
    Unusual levels of abuse
    Miss the point, do not matter, and shift the focus on to things YOU believe are important.

    You are NOT the person getting harassed.
    You are NOT the person getting worn down as a result of vitriol.
    You are NOT the person being threatened with hate mail.

    What you are doing is minimizing what Jen has gone through.
    Asking for evidence implies that you think she’s not being truthful or actively lying.
    How the hell does someone meet your standards?
    Do you expect her to produce the hateful emails for YOUR benefit?
    Do you expect her to copy/paste all the vile Twitter messages she’s gotten?
    Do you apply this hyperskepticism to every claim you see?

    If I had great sex with a hot guy last night, do I need to provide proof to you?

    If I share with you the story that I found my best friend dead in his bed, do you need photographic evidence before you’re going to believe me?

    If I share with you the joy I have that I finally got a new job today do I have to show you a copy of the paperwork I filled out?

    Or would you believe me when I say all these things are true, but doubt Jen when she talks about the venom she’s been getting?

    WTF is wrong with people like you who are unable to

    BELIEVE WOMEN WHEN THEY SAY THEY’RE BEING HARASSED?

    You make me sick.

    ****

    Stephanie, I apologize if I’ve violated your comments policy with the above.

  100. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    Bullshit hyperskepticism is like faith, but for non-theists. If they say ‘Oh, I don’t think all the evidence (of a totally ordinary phenomenon for which evidence is plentiful – like harassment) you’ve provided is up to my standard’, they’re pretty much telling you there’s nothing that’s going to change their minds.

  101. Pteryxx says

    Before we continue the narrative that Jen has been subjected to an abnormally large amount of harassment, can we get a comparison of the amount of hate mail Jen has got vs other notable bloggers

    Actually this is easy. Jen’s been a notable blogger since Boobquake, which she created as pushback to a misogynist Islamic cleric. As observed by AJ Milne:

    Oh, there was a bit of standard theological excuse-making, how, see, actually, the deity in question might pass on the earthquakes for now so that sinners might work their way deeper into hell (yay, loving god). But I went looking ’round, trying to find some nice death threats or rape threats or vilification campaigns or so on over this, and came up quite short. And, I note, critically, here: whatever those mullahs and their followers did or said in response, Jen McCreight was still blogging in the aftermath to that particular event.

    [...]

    Anyway, still, it’s an observation and comparison I now feel compelled to make: Jen McCreight pointed out the stupidity of an Islamic mullah, and not a whole hell of a lot happened. Point out that the Islamists got some pretty shitty attitudes toward women, and hey, it’s a bit of press, some muttered excuses from those mullahs, and we go on our way.

    And then Jen McCreight tries to point out some of the atheists and skeptics of the web got some pretty iffy attitudes toward women and equality, tries, hey, to ask that equality of the sexes in the west and in the movement and at the conferences in particular be made something more of a priority…

    … and the abusive, nasty shit goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on until she has to take her leave.

    Original comment with much more swearing:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/08/29/thunderdome-4/comment-page-1/#comment-448667

    Jen also noted the increase in hatred, as did Rebecca and Stephanie Zvan and Surly Amy before her, and PZ recently noted his *first* rape threat while Rebecca has gotten thousands.

    And there’s an actual body of research on gendered online harassment. For instance:

    http://phys.org/news66401288.html

    A study by the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering found that chat room participants with female usernames received 25 times more threatening and/or sexually explicit private messages than those with male or ambiguous usernames.

    Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day in the study…

    So yeah, your default hypothesis that Jen somehow cracked up over a *normal* incidence of hate mail? Really freaking stupid hypothesis.

    Also, note that I’m addressing your sneaky little caveat separately:

    (esp those unconcerned with online harassment)?

    Because there’s ALSO an extensive body of research showing that harassers and abusers escalate their attacks when women speak up about it, fight back, or take steps to protect themselves. With that caveat you’ve just gerrymandered your hypothesis right around the evidence you don’t want to admit exists.

  102. James says

    I love how that video was removed for violating YouTube’s policy on videos designed to harass and bully… But I suspect the message won’t get through the Great Wall of Cognitive Dissonance of these people.

    I hope Jen recovers and gets back into the action because she’s an entertaining writer and an amazing person.

  103. says

    Jen also noted the increase in hatred, as did Rebecca and Stephanie Zvan and Surly Amy before her, and PZ recently noted his *first* rape threat while Rebecca has gotten thousands.

    Yes, it’s not like we don’t have our own little handy control group right here. The male bloggers who are also blogging about this report noticably less harassment, but also less threatening and less sexual harassment.
    Apart from the fact that most women are pretty much aware that this is probably more likely to turn real than men. Many of those women have survived rape and are at risk of being re-violated by those conducts.
    So, no, telling a male blogger who has most likely never raped or sexually assaulted “I hope you get raped” is not the same as telling that to a female blogger who has a pretty big chance of being a survivor and who knows dozens to hundreds of women who have been raped.
    The impact is bigger, the hurt is bigger.

  104. says

    Wow. The sexist folks cannot even formulate a response to a woman leaving their abusive bullshit without referencing a totally sexist value system (toughness is good, being a wussy feeling-havin’ woman is bad). I got so pissed off that I blogged about it today. Thanks for proving her point, jackasses!

  105. smhll says

    For all we know Jen gets even less hatemail than the standard blogger which would significantly dispute the narrative that has been playing on FtB.

    Jim, the “narrative” is not specifically that Jen gets more hate mail than a male blogger of equal outspokenness, thus *discrimination*. This is not the threshold for defining the existence of a problem.

    The narrative is that Jen gets lots of hate mail with a gender-based component. The narrative is also that some of Jen’s hate mail comes from within the atheist community, particularly Twitter harassment (I think).

    We don’t need to measure her hate mail and objectively prove that the amount she is getting is a large amount above average. Getting hate mail is a problem. We aren’t going to dismiss people by distinguishing between people who get “some”, people who get “plenty”, and people who get “lots”. (I think Jen gets lots, however.)

    If you are happy to tolerate “medium” amounts of hate mail, ok, those are your standards. It is not your job to set the bar for anyone else. But maybe you should stop posting how you only conditionally disapprove of hate mail if it meets or exceeds your standards in volume and intensity. Because there is an implication that you require a lot of activation energy to care. (But not a lot of activation energy to post.)

  106. says

    Pierce R. Butler: Which Wowbagger here is which?

    There is only one Wowbagger who has posted a comment in this thread. If you are referring to the embedded tweet in the OP where Wowbagger’s name appears, that tweet is address to Wowbagger, not written by Wowbagger.

  107. Pierce R. Butler says

    tigtog – Thanks for helping out the twitter-illiterate!

    Oogh – I just tried saying that three times fast…

  108. GrogSwum says

    The extreme hysteria and bullying towards Rebecca and Jen reveals the herd mentality of many “freethinking” atheists all too well.

    But, you know, FTB is the hivemind.

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  1. [...] that she has decided to stop writing because there are people who take pride in showing just how vile, cruel and sadistic they can be towards her… that makes the loss so much more bitter. She’s not leaving to pursue another [...]

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