With Relatively Little Power…

“Witch hunt”.

“Talibanesque”.

“Feminazi”.

“Femistazi”.

“Totalitarian”.

“McCarthy-ist”.

With each one, I’ve been looking at the disproportionality of the response. I talk about the consequences of someone’s behavior, and I get compared to the great villains of the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s always seemed like overkill.

Then I noticed that Michael Shermer has invoked Niemoller against me.

To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemoller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for…” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a…”

That was when it clicked. This isn’t overkill per se. It’s horrendously bad argumentation.
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In Their Own Voices (Updated)

This week is going to kick my ass, and the blog is one of the only things that can give. That’s okay, though. You don’t always need my brilliant pearls of wisdom. You particularly don’t need them on issues where others are speaking up for themselves. The transphobia coming out of some British feminist circles–and the retrenchment that happened when it was pointed out–are an excellent case in point. A few articles you’ll want to read:

An open letter to Suzanne Moore

I was in the bath when I decided to write you a letter. I was feeling depressed. I’d had a long day and a long week at work and I got home to read some of the comments other journalists had made about your departure from Twitter. “Bullied off by a bunch of trannies” was a popular one. “But there’s always stupid journalists writing nasty things about trans people,” pointed out my partner, wondering why I was so upset by your Twitter comments. Suzanne Moore, I told him, is not stupid. She’s the very opposite. I admire her.

I didn’t think your New Statesman article was so bad. I wouldn’t have outright called you a transphobe, that’s unhelpful, but your use of transsexual as a noun was problematic. It’s akin to referring to someone as “a black”, “a gay” or “a cripple”, and I doubt you would ever do that. When I saw you weren’t taking people’s complaints seriously, my first reaction was to Tweet you with images of Brazilian trans women, “murdered trannies”. There are plenty of them, online, if you know where to look.

I don’t want to bash you. But I would like you to understand why so many trans people were angry.

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Mock the Movie: Scary Clown!

This Wednesday, MockTM dives into the world of bad decision making with horror film House of Fears. Also, a scary clown. And an evil scarecrow. A bunch of teenagers decide to take a “sneak peak” at a haunted house, despite the fact that breaking in means the scary part–the actors–aren’t supposed to be there. That’s right, the mockability starts with the first line uttered in the trailer.

This one is available on Netflix and Amazon instant video. That makes it not technically free for everyone, so after this, we’ll do a stretch of freebies. Feel free to make suggestions. [Read more...]

The Other Petition

I’ve pointed you to Adam Lee’s petition to the leaders of several national organizations. I’ve told you why I think signing it is a worthwhile thing to do if you agree with it.

For those of you who don’t agree with Adam’s petition, however, I should make you aware of another petition that hasn’t had quite so much publicity.

For a number of years now, Skepchick.org, FreeThoughtBlogs and some associated sites have been portraying the online skeptic and atheist community as rife with misogyny and unwelcoming to women. This attitude has particularly been encouraged by persons who are considered to be at the higher echelons of those named sites.

These people appear to have uncritically and wholly accepted ideas of gender feminism (as opposed to equity feminism) and have been making factual claims made to support gender feminism which can be found to be wholly incorrect through the application of critical thinking and considered research. These people have also been wholly resistant to the application of any critical thinking in relation to this ideology and the claims made.

The adoption of this ideology, and surrender of principles of critical thinking, has been accompanied by a divisive approach of attaching unwarranted labels such as “misogynist”, “MRA”, “chill girl” and “gender traitor”. These labels are generally, if not always, levelled only on the basis that the person labelled has applied critical thinking to the ideas underlying the ideology of gender feminism and the polite expression of disagreement or scepticism at the factual claims or narratives espoused by the gender feminists within the atheist and skeptic community. The unwarranted attachment of these labels has then been used to justify otherwise unwarranted claims that those people at the sites are being harassed or harangued by the persons so labelled. The conduct unfairly labelled as harassment is then deemed grounds to ban or block those people are ‘harassers’ on the sites purporting to be the face of the atheist and skeptic community to the rest of the world.

It goes on. Read and decide whether you agree. Sign it if you do. Share it either way. I would hate for the petition creators to feel that their numbers were only a reflection of its limited distribution.

Saturday Storytime: Trixie and the Pandas of Dread

Eugie Foster writes rather amazing short stories. She’s won the Nebula for her novelette “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” and published a collection of short stories in a market that mostly doesn’t do that.

Drifting a hairsbreadth above the pavement, Trixie pulled out her holy tablet and launched the Karmic Retribution app. The first thumbnail belonged to a Mr. Tom Ehler, the owner of the walkway and the two-story colonial house it led to. She unpinched two fingers across the screen to zoom up Mr. Ehler’s details.

Yesterday, Mr. Ehler, under the handle GodnessWins, had posted on a public forum a series of inflammatory comments in response to a YouTube video depicting a street fight. His sins were a nearly perfect fit for the specifications she’d told the app to flag, right down to the secondary parameters (Mr. Ehler’s toxic vitriol was also egregiously ungrammatical). But even reading, “yo niggers, whiteman gave u freedom whiteman take it away” and “fucking street monkey deserved to get hang from a tree like the good old days,” only made Trixie feel tired. Where was the seething indignation? The fiery wrath and burning rage?

She knocked on the hardwood door, admiring the architecture as she waited. It was a pretty swank piece of real estate, red brick with whitewashed wooden trim. Definitely upscale.

The door opened at her fourth knock. The man glaring at her matched his profile headshot—receding hairline, thickening gut, age spots beginning to speckle his face—but she didn’t need the app to confirm his identity. Her omniscience had kicked in.

“What you want, missy? Knocking on decent people’s door this time of night?”

Trixie didn’t bother with any theatrical pyrotechnics or a “repent now” spiel. She just punched her fist into Tom Ehler’s chest and yanked out a handful of viscera. He collapsed, spraying blood and choking on his own bile. With disinterest, she watched him flail and shriek before calling down a white-hot levin bolt to finish him off.

She sighed. Yeah, it was still satisfying, ridding the world of another dickhead, but something was missing. Trixie had been a god for so long she barely remembered the time when she’d been mortal, just an earnest supplicant imploring the deities to smite sinners in the name of justice and an offended sense of Why hasn’t this asshole been horribly maimed or engulfed in hellfire yet? She did remember her euphoric rapture when the Karma Committee appeared at her door with an oversized certificate of godhood and a bouquet of burning bushes. But she hadn’t felt anything but a plodding sense of duty for a long time.

A middle-aged woman and a high-school-aged youth spilled out of the house—Mr. Ehler’s wife (now widow) and son. The woman began to sob and scream, but the boy just regarded the messy corpse of his father for a long moment before turning his scrutiny upon Trixie.

“You the god rained annihilation on my dad?” he demanded.

Trixie donned her divine aura with reluctance. “I am,” she boomed in her best holy thunder voice. She wasn’t so good with kids.

Keep reading.

You Count–Be Counted

The timing is coincidental. I know because Adam Lee and I talked about his petition about a week ago. It was driven by Thunderf00t’s video, not by the timing of the HEADS meeting that Ron Lindsay asked about two days ago. Nonetheless, the timing is good.

We, the undersigned, are atheists, skeptics and nonbelievers who value free speech and rational thought and who seek to build a strong, thriving movement that can advocate effectively for these values. We’ve chosen to put our names to this petition because we want to respond to a video created by a blogger calling himself Thunderfoot. In this video, Thunderfoot attacks named individuals who’ve been active in promoting diversity and fighting sexism and harassment in our movement. He describes these people as “whiners” and “ultra-PC professional victims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the secular community, and urges conference organizers to shun and ignore them.

We hold this and similar complaints from other individuals to be seriously misguided, false in their particulars and harmful to the atheist community as a whole, and we want to set the record straight. We wish to clarify that Thunderfoot and those like him don’t speak for us or represent us, and to state our unequivocal support for the following goals:

What are those goals? Making the movement more diverse and inclusive; having strong, sensible anti-harassment policies at our gatherings, and supporting those of us who have been targeted by bullying, harassment, and threats.

Why is the timing good? Shortly the leaders of several national secular organizations will meet to discuss the state of the movement and their priorities for the near future. They could have gone into this knowing that this is an important issue to some of them but not really being able to sort out the balance of opinions from the loud voices talking about these issues. They could have gone into it having heard only from those followers of Thunderf00t who listened when he asked them to take his video to the organizations (though Ron’s request and the responses he’s received mitigated that at least somewhat).

Instead, if you are one of the many people who have spoken up here, or nodded quietly while lurking, Adam has given you an easy way to make your opinion known. You can go and leave a message to those leaders with your vote, or you can simply sign and be counted. Many of them responded well to the call to implement anti-harassment policies. Several contributed to Surly Amy’s series speaking generally against hatred. They should be receptive to this as well, but being leaders, they’re not always answerable just to themselves. Help them know they’re speaking for you too when they move forward on this.

Adam has more at his blog on his reasons for creating the petition.

Atheists Talk: Alom Shaha on “The Young Atheist’s Handbook”

If you pick up Alom Shaha’s The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God thinking you’re getting a how-to book, you may be disappointed. On the other hand, you may not. While that was Shaha’s original intent in writing a book, his editor persuaded him to write something much more personal. From the publisher’s description:

Growing up in a strict Muslim community in south-east London, Alom Shaha learnt that religion was not to be questioned. Reciting the Qur’an without understanding what it meant was simply a part of life; so, too, was obeying the imam and enduring beatings when he failed to attend the local mosque. But Alom was more drawn to science and its power to illuminate. As a teen, he lived between two worlds: the home controlled by his authoritarian father, and a school alive with books and ideas. In a charming blend of memoir, philosophy and science, Alom explores the questions about faith and the afterlife that we all ponder. This is a book for anyone who wonders what they should believe and how they should live. It’s for those who may need the facts and the ideas, as well as the courage, to break free from inherited beliefs. In this powerful narrative, Alom shows that it is possible to live a compassionate, fulfilling and meaningful life without God.

Join us this Sunday as we discuss Shaha’s book and work promoting science.

Related Links

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How Organizations Can Improve Movement Diversity

Ron Lindsay asked for input going into a meeting of national secular organizations.

Specifically, I’d like your input on these two questions: 1. What specific steps do you think secular groups should take to increase diversity within our movement, in particular with respect to the participation of minority groups? 2. As you are aware, there are some stark differences of opinion within the movement about the appropriate understanding of feminism and how feminism (however defined) should influence the practices and mission of secular organizations. How do you think these differences can best be narrowed or resolved?

The second question is not an easy one to answer from the perspective of what national organizations can do, so I’ll give that one more thought before answering. The first is one of those things I talk about and promote other people talking about, so I have things to say. I started to get long-winded and detailed, so I’m moving my answer here. Luckily, Ron promised to read even treatises. [Read more...]

Do You Know How Scary This Is?

Since Rebecca tweeted about drunkeness and rape, I’ve been seeing a response from generally well-meaning guys. (Yes, I do mean guys.) These are guys who “support” anti-rape efforts in that they are happy to stand up and tell anyone who will listen that rape is bad.

They don’t exactly support the idea that we need to be making the same strong statements about rape and intoxication, though. They’re not quite fighting it either, but they’re…fidgeting. In comment sections, on Twitter and Facebook, they’re trying to figure out what they want to say without saying anything “bad”.

A few of them, here and there, are even talking. They’re saying they’re uncomfortable. One or two will even tell you they’re scared. “She could just say she was drunk, and then I’d be facing rape charges. Do you know how scary that is?”
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