Separating Predation from Trolling

One of the good things to come out of the /r/jailbait and /r/creepshots mess is that I discovered the work of Zeynep Tufekci. She is a sociologist who studies “the interaction between technology and social, cultural and political dynamics”. She has one of the best posts on the “free speech” question that I’ve seen so far.

First, let’s point out that defenders of “absolute free speech” actually do understand that speech has power—and are more than ready to ban it to protect themselves. If you were following the story, you know that this all became a public brouhaha after Adrien Chen exposed the real name and location of the main editor of “creepshot” forum in an article in Gawker. All of a sudden, defense of “free speech” became a secondary concern for Reddit management and they banned linking to Gawker from the site. Leaked text of Reddit moderator chats discussing the situation make it very clear that even those who don’t think Gawker should be banned agree that the Gawker reporter did an awful thing. This deep hypocrisy in Reddit’s position that posting names of child predators [as it is predation to post pictures of minors for sexual exploitation] should be banned, but child predation should be protected by Reddit as “free speech” is so blatantly obvious that one could almost stop there (or read this great post by Lili Loofbourow.

Rather, let’s look at this as a good example for why “free speech” as an absolute value for any community that is not balanced by any other concern is at best an abdication of responsibility, and at worst an attempt to exercise power over vulnerable populations.

It’s a wonderfully chewy post. Go read the whole thing.

The reason Tufekci came to my attention, however, was a couple of tweets that I agree with but think miss an important part of this story. [Read more…]

Talking Women in Secularism

A couple of weeks ago, Scott Lohman president of the Humanists of Minnesota, turned to me before we were about to go on the air for Atheists Talk. He said, “We want to do a show about the current status of women in the secular movement. Think you could do that?”

I said I thought I could. I also said that Kammy, who runs SkepchickCon, could do the same.

So we did, three days later. Some subjects don’t require a lot of preparation these days.

Enjoy.

Saturday Storytime: The Lord of Discarded Things

Changing the world is so very much to ask from a child. Of course, that never stops children from doing just that.

Lavie Tidhar is the author, among other things, of the alternate history/reality book, Osama.

A baby looked up at him. An ordinary baby such as one saw every day, everywhere: Jaffa and Central Station were filled with children. This one, however, was inside a shoe box.

Ibrahim knelt next to the baby. The shoe box was for a cheap brand. The baby had clear sparkling green eyes, his skin was Mediterranean-dark, his head was hairless. Ibrahim stared at the baby. There was no one around. The baby burped.

Ibrahim reached for the boy—it was a boy—carefully, still wary. One never knew, in Central Station. The boy’s hand rose to meet his. Older than his years. As if he were shaking hands. Their fingers touched. A current, like high-bandwidth data, hit Ibrahim. Images crowded his mind. Views from the rings of Saturn. A battle of four-armed red-skinned Martian Re-Born in their virtual empire. A rabbi on a spaceship travelling to the belt, praying in the field of asteroids, in a small dank room inside an ancient mining craft. In the touch of the boy was the toktok blong narawan, the impossibly-dense communication of the Others.

Ibrahim’s Other woke up. Said, What the—

Ibrahim’s mind couldn’t face the onslaught. The data-storm raged, diverting to the Other, which shut up as it tried to cope—

One word hovering clear out of the maelstrom, making him cringe—

Messiah—

Pull your hand away!

The light touch of the child imprisoned him. He fought—

The baby burped and laughed. The contact broke.

Ibrahim: Did you get all that?

Nothing from his Other.

Ibrahim: ??

His Other, at last: !

Ibrahim stared at the baby, and his Other, through his eyes, did likewise.

One thought in both of their minds:

Not another messiah.

Keep reading.

Rape Traumas and Triggers

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

If you read much around FtB, you’ve heard about “The Amazing Atheist”, a ragey vlogger who turned his rage on a rape victim. If you need to catch up and are up for some real ugliness, Kazim brought us the news here, PZ had a few choice words about consent and oppression, Natalie noted some strange places she’s seen this guy cited, and DanielCrommunist, Jason, Jen, and Greg have all suggested their readers unsubscribe and shun. So, yes, if you’re subscribed to this guy’s YouTube channel, please fix that now.

I’d like to add a brief note about PTSD and triggers. You see, this whole thing started with TAA declaring on Reddit that he doesn’t believe in triggering. He then went on to attempt to trigger the rape victim in question and claimed it proved his point when no triggering occurred. One little note, then, for TAA: Triggering is part of the definition of PTSD, you self-blindered ass. [Read more…]

Atheists Talk: Alex Berezow on “Science Left Behind”

Is it true that progressives are just as anti-science as conservatives? According to Alex Berezow, editor of RealClearScience and associate editor of RealClearReligion, and Hank Campbell, founder of the Science 2.0 network, they are. From the publisher’s description of their book Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left:

To listen to most pundits and political writers, evolution, stem cells, and climate change are the only scientific issues worth mentioning—and the only people who are anti-science are conservatives. Yet those on the left have numerous fallacies of their own. Aversion to clean energy programs, basic biological research, and even life-saving vaccines come naturally to many progressives. These are positions supported by little more than junk-science and paranoid thinking.

Now for the first time, science writers Dr. Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell have drawn open the curtain on the left’s fear of science. As Science Left Behind reveals, vague inclinations about the wholesomeness of all things natural, the unhealthiness of the unnatural, and many other seductive fallacies have led to an epidemic of misinformation. The results: public health crises, damaging and misguided policies, and worst of all, a new culture war over basic scientific facts—in which the left is just as culpable as the right.

This Sunday, Berezow joins us on Atheists Talk to discuss his book.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

We Need Max Headroom

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

A couple of days ago, President Obama did a YouTube “press conference.” User questions were submitted to Google and answered by the president in a Google+ hangout. The press conference continues Obama’s trend of preferentially speaking directly to the public instead of the press (which is a vast improvement over his predecessor’s practice of speaking to neither).

This didn’t go over well with some White House reporters. In particular, Josh Gerstein of Politico took the opportunity to sneer:

Max HeadroomThe White House’s drive to embrace new media and technology will achieve nirvana next week as President Barack Obama participates in what his aides are proudly billing as the “first completely-virtual interview from the White House.”

Yes, that’s right. We journalists are now entirely superfluous and irrelevant. The White House can solicit questions directly from the public and no third-party involvement is required. Max Headroom would be proud.

I’m not sure Gerstein ever watched Max Headroom, despite being exactly the right age for it. Maybe he was too busy learning to be a serious reporter to catch anything but the Coke ads. They ran on the news, right? Heck, he probably even missed the music video.

Okay, the music video isn’t required cultural knowledge, but Max Headroom itself should be required viewing for anyone in media–particularly for reporters. Don’t be fooled by the goofiness. Don’t be fooled by the ancient computer graphics. Max Headroom is every bit as socially and politically relevant today as it was when it came out to high critical praise.

[Read more…]

Not Social Disapproval!

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

Among the various things that are apparently more important than condemning rape jokes and threats aimed at a young woman on Reddit–besides the precision of Rebecca Watson’s language and whether a deeper understanding of Reddit might make it possible to deflect the blame onto someone else (answer: no)–is this:

While I have compassion for others… their statements are not my responsibility to police.

It’s progress, actually. Consensus is growing that something should be done about situations like these. Now we must instead debate about just what that should be–and who should do it. The refrain has changed from “What’s the big deal?” to “Why me?”

Many of the reasons why “Not me” are variations on a theme. [Read more…]

It’s the Authority, Stupid

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

Massimo Pigliucci has a post up entitled “The goals of atheist activism.” *sigh*

I recommend PZ’s post deconstructing much of Massimo’s argument and note that Massimo is every bit as wrong about the confrontational tactics of the gay rights movement as he is about the civil rights movement. If he thinks people weren’t called “murderers” over their response to the AIDS crisis, he wasn’t paying attention.

I’ll add a harumph of my own for the idea that atheists don’t experience “real discrimination.” Maybe Massimo and his friends have things cushy enough that the kinds of discrimination atheists face aren’t real to them. It’s a little different for those who had to fight to prove they were fit to be custodial parents. It’s different for those politicians who know they can’t aspire to higher office without facing de facto religious tests in their districts. It’s different for those who work for religious bosses or companies and get to choose between being quiet and fighting a lawsuit for discriminatory treatment or termination that they can’t actually afford.

But this post isn’t actually about atheists. This post is about the fact that Massimo still managed to miss my main goal in his list, despite me pointing him to my response to the Stedman article when Massimo linked it on Twitter. [Read more…]

Another Way to Blame Women for Being Paid Less

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

This afternoon, Crommunist tweeted me a link to this post about a Reddit contributor begging women to negotiate salaries:

In general, the women I have negotiated with will say 45k is not enough and they need more, but not give a number. I will then usually give a nominal bump to 48k or 50k. Company policy wont let me bump more than 5k over the initial offer unless they specifically request more. On the other hand, men more frequently will come back with a number along the lines of 65k to 75k, and I will be forced to negotiate down from there. After this phase, almost all women will take the offer or move on to somewhere else, not knowing they could have gotten more if they asked.

At the end, most of the women I hire make between 45k and 50k, whereas the men make between 60k and 70k. Even more crazy, they ask for raises far less often, so the disparity only grows.

I don’t know if this is at all helpful, I feel most of it is common sense, but I see it all the time. How can I help?

What follows is a set of bullet points telling women what they “need” to do to get fair pay. The blogger who posted this also posted several comments agreeing and offering more advice. All lovely and useful and practical.

And bullshit. [Read more…]

About That Evo Psych Polygamy Stuff

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

Last night’s post on the Canadian polygamy ruling included a quote from an “expert” witness in evolutionary psychology, Joseph Heinrich. I didn’t break it down at the time, largely because I was dealing with a migraine and every sound in the room was a major distraction. Let me fix that now. Here is the quote again, now with commentary.

First, like other animals, human males and females have different mating strategies rooted in the nature of primate sexual reproduction.

This is an incredibly ugly sentence. Beyond its infelicities, however, it’s also a muddled mess of an idea. [Read more…]