Not About the Words


Mick Nugent is in the middle of an excellent job of allowing Justin Vacula to demonstrate that Vacula has no interest in dialog or coming to any kind of agreement with the people he has been harassing. Nugent has written two posts containing questions that Vacula has side-stepped entirely and a third post pointing out that side-stepping is no basis for dialog.

The comments on Nugent’s second post, however, repeat an ongoing meme that it’s time we just took apart. Read the comments at your own risk, but among them is the whole “it’s just words” thing again, along with a solid dose of “They do [did] it too!” Then along comes vjack at Atheist Revolution with a charming little post on “Nuh-uh. Your feelings; your fault.

That makes it time, once again, to take a step back and remind ourselves what this whole fight is about.

Once upon a time, a bunch of people asked why there were so few women involved in the skeptical and secular movements. One of the answers, repeated by several women with minor variations, is that when when they had tried to participate, they were treated as–and sometimes told outright that they were–merely bodies. They were told, verbally or through the behavior of others, they lacked sufficient brains to handle the subject matter as well as the men in the room but that they could function just fine as receptacles of men’s sexual interest. Additionally, as objects of sexual interest, they were sometimes also told that their feelings on the matter–their consent–was beside the point.

Some of us stood up and said that this was unacceptable nonsense, unexamined prejudice and predatory behavior both using our movements inappropriately. We pointed out that women were already well-represented among those who were making a difference in these movements. We pointed out that we were excluding talent so that some small number of people could treat our movements as a personal playground.

This started as a fairly small number of people long before I can properly use the term “we” to describe this group. Recently, however, it’s grown much more quickly as people who used to shrug and say, “How bad can it be?”, got to see a part of the answer. Recently, the group has reached a size where, through numbers, through membership in various organizations, through a certain amount of “star” power attached to it, it has some clout. Additionally, it has done an increasingly good job of explaining what kinds of behaviors are both irrelevant to these movements and harmful to their growth.

Consequently, either through clout or through education, we have started to get some of the things we’ve asked for. We’ve gotten anti-harassment policies enacted in a large number of places. We’ve seen our concerns become the concerns of leaders and our input solicited on issues that may affect us. We’ve made real progress.

This, then, is the context in which these words are occurring. There is no group of random internet trolls who coincidentally all think it’s fun to take the piss, even if that’s what they say they’re doing. There is a network of slime pitters, vloggers, bloggers, and tweeters who come together and socialize around the fact that they harass us in all those various locations and commiserate over what monsters we are. Some of them are men’s rights “activists”. Some of them are feminists (yes, really). Some of them, many of them, are people who felt that the old way of doing things in these movements suited them just fine (for a large variety of reasons, not just because they were predators, though some of them were) and who resent losing control.

What brings them all together, however, is us and our success. And that tells you what nonsense this “just words” schtick is.

Can you call someone a “cunt” as an endearment? Sure you can, because what you’re telling them is that you still love them despite them being such an awful thing. That doesn’t change the meaning of the term, and it doesn’t mean you can hide behind affection when you use the word on someone on whom you’ve openly declared war.

That’s what these words are about, war on those of us who are persuading these movements to change. In this context, “cunt” is as blatantly, stupidly short-sighted an epithet as can be used. A woman called “cunt” is transparently being told that she is no brain and all sex, and it only gets more transparent when she’s fighting being treated as a dumb sex object.

It isn’t just the taboo associated with this word that has made “You’re a cunt” such a losing “argument” for those opposing making these movements more women-friendly. It’s that following, “I don’t show up because you treat me as a dumb sex object”, with, “Nuh-uh, cunt!”, merely reads as, “Nuh-uh. Here, let me prove your point for you.”

“Cunt” isn’t just a word. It’s a word used to tell me why I should be taken out of the war. “Cunt” tells me it’s because I’m the equivalent of a Fleshlight, so anything that comes out of my mouth (or fingers) is useless. “Pussy” does the same thing, but with that charming little allusion to helplessness. “Mangina” does the same thing for guys, with the added connotation that not having a penis is the real reason one should be knocked out of the public discussion.

“Hysterical” says I’m not a valid combatant because, while I may have a brain, my ladybits have completely taken it over. “Professional victim” says I’m not due the consideration that any “brave hero” on this battlefield is because my motives are not what I’ve declared them to be. “Emotional” tells me these I’m lined up against haven’t actually declared themselves my enemies and spent the last year-plus doing everything they could think of to take me out. I’m just imagining their hostility.

No, vjack, I’m not imagining anything. If you don’t see the declared hostility already, from a website that organized to oppose us and has the occasional discussion about how to do so more effectively to the people who have graced their followers with the screaming of their opinions of us, then I have to consider you willfully blind. You’ve seen plenty of this. For those who may not have, still, somehow, try this:

Two comments from Facebook. Text in the post.

[Russell Blackford, responding on Facebook to a post by Lou Doench] Sorry, but I no have time for someone who whines about the so-called harassment of vicious bullies who vilify good people and destroy their reputations on a daily basis. The individuals this Doench person mentions as victims are exactly the ones who need to take the pledge. They and of course PZ Myers, who is the worst of all, as he’s called me a bold-faced liar and encouraged a forum where I can be called scum, a misogynist, etc., etc. Doench is part of the problem if he’s going to defend such people.

People like Doench need to understand that people like me are very angry for good reason. Every time I read something like this claptrap, I get that much angrier. Until I get an apology from Myers in particular, I will not let this drop.

What was he responding to?

And in cases like the horrible people who harass Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Rebecca Watson and others in the skeptical and atheist movement on a weekly basis… well I’m likely to lose my temper.

Yes, Blackford ranted about having no time for someone who would get angry at the people who harassed us because if people understood Blackford’s position, they would not lose their temper at harassers. Sorry, “so-called harassers”–because it’s all been so carefully hidden away where Blackford couldn’t possibly see it.

So…emotional? Yes, I’m emotional. I’m angry. I’m annoyed. I am occasionally disgusted, as when someone like Blackford condones harassment. I’m happy and satisfied when I make some progress on these issues. So what?

Those are perfectly rational emotional responses to being harassed this way while watching the harassers continue to ignore the arguments I’ve made. There is no rational reason to expect me to be a lump of clay while the rest of the world goes about its emotional business–particularly when that emotional business is me or one of my friends or colleagues.

@ @ You know that broadcasting what you dont like to be called may inspire people to call you it? It shows weakeness
@justinvacula
Justin Vacula

Yeah, about that: That thing that the slime pit does where they work hard at messing with my name (NSFW)? You know why they do it? Back in the day when the sexists were less organized, there was a great “tell” for guys who were working hard at patronizing or dominating me. They changed my name–in the middle of an argument, not friendly conversation–from “Stephanie” to “Steph”. One of the pit crew (John Welsh or John Greg, if I’m recalling correctly) decided that me pointing out that this was a tell meant that I was “neurotic” about my name.

That, of course, made it hilarious to use silly variations on my name–even out in the real world where it cost them credibility–because they thought I was upset by it. It didn’t. It just made the behavior into such an obvious tell (“Stefunny”? really, kids?) that I no longer had to point it out. But they never picked this up, because they thought these little words were damaging my emotional health. That was what they were going for. It was strategy.

I think that makes vjack’s point that we are responsible for our own emotional responses in these “petty squabbles”, even to the point of “consider[ing] professional assistance” obviously insulting enough in this context to go on without more explanation. I mean, it’s not as though Kryptonite is a weapon. It’s just an element. Superman should really take responsibility for avoiding it if he can’t handle it, or maybe see a professional. So what if he has to stop being a superhero?

vjack also just doesn’t “get” XYZ-shaming.

Accusations of [insert noun of your choice here]-shaming are rarely helpful because nobody else has the power to make us feel shame unless we give it to them.

vjack apparently thinks we live in a world in which we have just one social encounter at a time and that these never add up in some way to become those emergent entities we call “communities” and “cultures”. Here’s a nice little quote from an article on body-shaming kids that sums this up for his edification:

Instead, the messages children and their parents are taking away from the media is that it’s never too early to begin molding an kid like silly putty into a shape society sees as acceptable.

There are three important points to take away from this.

  1. XYZ-shaming doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Nobody is trying to shame me for having hazel eyes or liking dark chocolate. The things for which you can effectively try to shame me are limited. In this particular conflict, we’ve seen attempts at slut-shaming and prude-shaming (hilariously, both of the same person), fat-shaming, age-shaming (of both the young and old), poverty-shaming, disability-shaming, trans*-shaming, kink-shaming–just off the top of my head. Nobody shamed us because these were salient features of us. They did it because, in our culture, these are the acceptable targets.
  2. XYZ-shaming tells the victim they have something they need to go do instead of whatever they’re doing. They need to fix their “problem”. They need to have more or less or different sex. They need to lose weight or take steps to cover up their age or grow up or figure out how to earn more money or just get over their problems and act the same as everyone else.
  3. XYZ-shaming is just one more attempt to get us off the battlefield, to tell us or others that we are not acceptable and should not be taken seriously because we who are not acceptable to society should have no power to influence it.

Really? Nobody else has any power in XYZ-shaming? I’ve seen some silly things said about the current harassment, but that one gets a ridiculous number of basics wrong.

Then, back in the more general scheme of “just words”, there are the lies that get spread around. No, I didn’t sneer at Dawkins about him not enjoying “pushback”. No, Greg didn’t try to get Abbie Smith fired. No, Ophelia didn’t compare TAM to Nazi Germany. No, PZ didn’t ban anyone for being a white man. No, Rebecca didn’t call Elevator Guy a rapist. No, (to the best of my knowledge) none of us are carrying or have carried on sexual affairs with each other.

More “just words” that don’t address any of the arguments made by the people working for changes but still try to push those people off the battlefield. The whole strategy is a huge argument ad hominem, but as I’ve said before, it’s not much of a fallacy if it doesn’t serve to convince some people. Ditto for the tu quoque, where “You’re harassing, not arguing” is met with “Well, here’s a history of things that people on your side have said over the last six years.”

The funny thing is that having this argument over “just words” has resulted in lots of improvements in how people interact with one another. Even identifying the tu quoque, the people pushing for inclusion have learned a lot about how to practice what they preach. It has made us better, though certainly not perfect, to the point where their side now has to redefine “slur” to include “sexist” and “misogynist” in order to gin up equivalence.

Again, however, these are not mere words. The context of this fight is, again (because the post has gotten very long), that some of us are working to make the secular and skeptical movements more welcoming to the women who have told us that they’ve been driven away by sexist treatment. Identifying sexist and misogynistic behavior is central to fixing that. Redefining those identifications as unacceptable behavior would make it impossible to continue that fight. I daresay that’s exactly the point.

Why? Because all of these disagreements over words boil down to just that. You don’t need to be able to call me “cunt” in order to argue with my points. You may want to do it anyway if you think it will change whether I fight for what I want or interfere with my ability to do it well. It will certainly look more tempting if you can’t address the arguments effectively in the first place.

The last thing we’re doing right now is having an argument over what words are polite. This is an argument over who gets to participate in our movements. Don’t forget that for a minute. It’s the only light in which all of this makes sense.

Comments

  1. says

    The best part of Russell Blackford’s response to my empathetic defense of you folks from what is obviously beyond the pale bullying is that the blog post in question was my reaction and provisional support of Dan Fincke’s civility pledge. And Blackford immediately jumped in and did one of the things that worries me about Dan’s (imho honest attempt to spread civil discussion) pledge. He attempted to use it as a weapon to shut people he disagreed with up.
    Heck, I had to Google Blackford just to figure out who I was dealing with. For someone who’s had his
    “reputation” destroyed he certainly can’t point to his search engine results, as opposed to Ophelia of FSM-forbid Rebecca Watson.

    BTW, no “s” in Doench. It rhymes with Bench… or if you let your inner 3rd grader out many other interesting words. ;)

  2. athyco says

    Again, however, these are not mere words. The context of this fight is, again (because the post has gotten very long), that some of us are working to make the secular and skeptical movements more welcoming to the women who have told us that they’ve been driven away by sexist treatment. Identifying sexist and misogynistic behavior is central to fixing that. Redefining those identifications as unacceptable behavior would make it impossible to continue that fight. I daresay that’s exactly the point.

    Yes. They’re claiming that the phrases used to mark those identifications are conversation stoppers, but they’ve not shown that to be valid. Yes, there may have been instances of their misuse, but nothing about them stops discussion.

    For example, “When I hear ‘check your privilege,’ I stop listening,” said a YouTube uploader. That was his choice, not the choice of the person who said “check your privilege.” He doesn’t bother to discuss in any way–agree or disagree–when given the example of Todd Akin and “legitimate rape.” Where does the ability to say such a thing come from if not in large part the privilege to listen to stupidities that match your prejudices because your male body will never become pregnant after rape? How could the transmission of such stupidities that match prejudices not be a sign of one of the beliefs in a rape culture?

    Another one: “Intent is not magic” is a way to HOLD HOSTAGE your opponents via your irrationally claimed feelings! Justin Vacula’s blog post “Blame and intent” tries to discredit that in disingenuous ways.

    All of these people can even be wrong about their assessments and still not be horrible people. Let’s not arrogantly assume that all of our ideological opponents are moral monsters.

    I am extremely skeptical when the phrase ‘intent is not magic’ seems to convey, as it often does, that there is no excuse for the behavior of individuals who are associated with others claiming offense. Giving others benefit of the doubt and having an open-minded attitude — rather than hastily and unfairly assuming others to be blameworthy — should be a more productive and charitable approach.

    First he tries to tie words/behavior claimed as unintentional as the opponent’s assessments and ideologies. I’d be ever so embarrassed to admit my assessment and ideology was unintentional–that would mean they were unexamined. It also means that no one has ever used “intent is not magic” to refer to assessments and ideologies. Oops, Justin.

    The second paragraph is wishy-washy combined with blatantly biased, something I’ve come to find (unfortunately for me) a common Justin Vacula twofer. Look at the “seems to convey, as it often does.” the struggling “who are associated with others claiming offense,” and a safe “should be” to end it all. Wishy-washy.

    Those who say “intent is not magic” “arrogantly assume…no excuse.” They are “claiming offense…hastily and unfairly assuming others to be blameworthy.” The ones rejecting “intent is not magic”?

    They, like Vacula, exhibit “extremely skeptical” attitudes that extend the “benefit of the doubt” in an interaction that is “open minded…more productive and charitable.”

    Language that slanted and slick would make an excellent inclined plane.

  3. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    As I – and many others – have asked, on Michael’s posts and elsewhere, if it’s ‘both sides are equally bad’, where’s the evidence that FTB/Skepchick/A+ regulars are harassing Slymepitters the same way the reverse happens? Where are the Twitter posts and the Storifying? Where’s the photoshopped porn? Where are the hour-long podcasts of our side ranting about a single Facebook comment? Where are the parody accounts?

    Not to mention that the real giveaway is that the ‘abuse’ at Pharyngula is/was aimed far more often at random commenters with almost nothing in common beyond having gone there and gotten on the wrong side of a regular.

    And there’s the very important fact that many of them were anonymous – so it’s not as if the vitriol could conceivably be, as it’s often intended to be (and I have little doubt is in many cases with the mildew mob), part of a very real implication of threats to their person – which is obviously not the case with well-known, non-anonymous, conference-attending people like you or Ophelia or Rebecca or Amy or Melody.

    Time is also a factor, both in terms of how long the ‘abuse’ continued for, and the how long ago the incidents took place. Only one has continued, unabated, for months and months and months, targeting a small number of people. One the other side you have isolated incidents, maybe lasting weeks, at a bunch of people most of whom were so obscure the Slymepit couldn’t provide any names.

    Really, there’s no comparison. But since ‘thou shalt commit false equivalence’ is a Slymepit commandment, it’s probably not going to stop anytime soon.

  4. says

    Ugh.

    Sadly, there’s a little bit of truth to the whole taking responsibility for your feelings thing. When I first heard a therapist say “No one can make you feel anything,” (in the context of CBT), I thought it was just typical empty therapy bullshit. But it’s actually been really helpful in my day-to-day existance, to catch myself thinking, “_____ is making me so angry!” and then stop, realize, no, I am allowing ____’s disfunctional behavior to interfere with my piece of mind, and I really don’t need to give that up. ____ isn’t worth it. For me, at least, it’s been a helpful bit of advice.

    But that goes both ways. Taking responsibility for your own emotions does not absolve the other party from their responsibility not to be assholes, especially when they are so open about using language only for the purpose of, as you said, eliciting a negative emotional response. At that point, they are obviously not interested in actual dialogue or rational conversation. (Using loaded language with the goal of stirring up negative emotional responses is the dictionary definition of troll. And I think that the only response such people should given, when they descend to that level, is simply: “TROLL.” If anything. Also: *BLOCK*.)

    After all, one of the best ways to take responsibility for your own emotions, in my experience, is to stop interacting with people who constantly try to upset you with other purpose other than the sheer joy of causing discomfort. But I suppose that would be considered censorship from the nasty, facist, FTBullies.

  5. A. Noyd says

    Mick Nugent is in the middle of an excellent job of allowing Justin Vacula to demonstrate that Vacula has no interest in dialog or coming to any kind of agreement with the people he has been harassing.

    But that’s apparently your fault because you might call Vacula a “vacuous shitbag troll” or a “douchebag” again if he answered Nugent’s questions.

  6. says

    Adding to the above, because I left this out…

    My personal favorite way to reply to a troll is: *DELETE* with no other response. In my experience, nothing makes them crazier than to see their words disappear with no feedback whatsoever. (Which is why *BLOCK* is usually necessary right after.) Sure, they might switch names around, but that just gives my clicking finger a little workout. Maybe I’m a little sick, but there’s nothing quite like watching people work themselves up and scream for hours and hours, pounding their wee fisties against your inbox and doing everything in their power to just get a response, knowing all the while that they will never get one.

    But then, that’s usually why my pre-school class (back when I taught pre-school) would usually be filled with all the “difficult” kids by the end of the year. My response to a three-year-old throwing a massive temper fit was a struggle to hide my amusement, where some of my co-workers tended to start freaking out as well, joining the kid in hysteria (and, in the case of one unfortunate co-worker, actually bursting into tears along with the child). Ignoring a little kid throwing a tantrum is usually effective (if it’s a manipulative fit and not genuine frustration/pain/rage that they don’t yet know how to express…that’s obviously a totally differant thing; I’m not a monster, promise); sadly, the internet is full of grown-ass adults who never grew out of that stage.

  7. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    …and the current focus on Michael’s latest thread is, of course, the ‘pitters providing every possible ‘argument’ for why ‘cunt’ isn’t a misogynist term.

    Way to avoid the point.

  8. says

    “No one can make you feel anything,” (in the context of CBT), I thought it was just typical empty therapy bullshit

    David Hume made a good argument supporting that (regarding anger) so if you don’t like therapy bullshit, you can always chalk it up to pyrrhonian skeptical philosophy at its finest!

  9. says

    I just read the threads Nugent posted and they make my head hurt. I haven’t seen such transparently bad faith arguments since I was in high school, and I stopped making them pretty shortly thereafter. ;)

  10. says

    Vacuous is just a disgusting little shit stain (see what I did there?).

    But without a doubt, the biggest disappointment is all this was Blackford. I really respected his mind and his erudition, and learned a lot from him. And then he outed himself as a disturbed anti-human.

    Sad. Really sad.

  11. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Yeah, Blackford’s grudge is particularly intense, as illustrated by the fact he’s prepared to say nonsensical things like referring to the FTB/Skepchick/A+ side as “…vicious bullies who vilify good people and destroy their reputations on a daily basis.”

    On a ‘daily basis’? Surely we’d have heard about all these ‘vilified good people’ and ‘destroyed reputations’ by now if they were occurring on a ‘daily basis’.

  12. Scr... Archivist says

    Stephanie, this post is one of the best encapsulations of the issues and the stakes that I have seen so far. Thank you for writing it, and for helping to keep everyone’s eyes on the prize. I point specifically to paragraphs 4 through 7, and the last three paragraphs. They might be worth pointing to for newcomers to the conflict.

    I generally don’t like war metaphors, but the current situation has more than a few similarities so I think your use of them is appropriate. I would add that those who choose to be your adversaries are fighting a war of attrition, though I don’t think you used that particular term. That is why they go for the personal hounding, which you describe so well.

    I don’t think the “other side” is going to win its barely-articulated goals. The only questions in my mind are (1) how much more has to change — and stay changed — in organized atheism and skepticism before they lose the will to keep fighting, and (2) how much damage they will cause in the meantime to these movements and the people who participate in them.

  13. says

    nobody else has the power to make us feel shame unless we give it to them.

    this counterfactual way of thinking seems to be typical for believers in contracausal free will. As weird as I find this, there really do seem to be people who genuinely believe they consciously control all their brain functions. O.o

  14. crowepps says

    …”one of the best ways to take responsibility for your own emotions, in my experience, is to stop interacting with people who constantly try to upset you with other purpose other than the sheer joy of causing discomfort.”

    Which is one of the reasons why I find all the angst about ‘division’ so ridiculous. People do indeed have every right to be and act racist/sexist/homophobic, and every right to say whatever they want however offensive, but they do *not* have a right to inflict that behavior on people trying to avoid them. In addition, the reaction of outsiders to ‘division’ concerns me far less than the reaction of outsiders to claims that mainstream atheism is full of creepers and jerks.

  15. says

    @ Jadehawk 14

    (Stephanie, if you feel this is an OT derail, please delete this, and I’ll stop talking.)

    there really do seem to be people who genuinely believe they consciously control all their brain functions

    I truly am not trying to be rude; I’m just curious: you don’t think people can consciously control their brain functions?

    Putting aside traumatic events–obviously, there’s plenty of evidence to show people don’t have control over developing things like PTSD, Stockholm, or Battered Person’s Syndrome (to name just a couple). But in my day-to-day existance, and in healing from things like PTSD, I probably would have killed myself a long time ago (not exaggerating) if I didn’t believe that I had control over my brain, and could consciously fix the damage that has been done. I’m certainly not there yet–anyone who’s read even a little of my writing knows that I struggle with severe anxiety, body hatred/shame, and self-harm. But utilizing the methods I was taught first in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and now DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy)–both evidence-based methods, btw–has made me worlds better, and given me so much more control over my life and my thinking (and, so, my feelings). I used to feel that I was always at the whim of whatever happened to me, helpless against where my feelings took me. I’ve learned to identify dangerous thought patterns when they start up (instead of the thoughts being totally unconcious, which is how I used to live), then conciously stop the negative thinking (through things like meditation, telling myself the truth, or plain distraction when all else fails). This allows me to control my feelings…and, therefor, to control my behavior (and my life). I cannot overstate how freeing this is. Fuck, I can now leave my house most days! That in itself would have been a miracle a couple years ago!

    None of this means that other people don’t have a responsibility to behave appropriately. Of course they do. And of course people’s words and behavior can affect others. But I do think people have the power to keep those feelings from controlling them, and I do think people can conciously change their thought patterns. Also, like I said above, part of taking responsibility for my own feelings is knowing when I need to disengage or just remove people from my life.

    I’m really not trying to start an argument, and I hope I’m not coming off like a jerk. It’s just that a couple years ago, I believed that I had no control over how other people made me feel, or how those feelings made me act. I wouldn’t go back to that for any amount of money. (Sorry, AA, that is true powerlessness. And unlike what AA would have had me believe–that I was an addict, that’s it, and I just had to admit the truth: I was powerless against drugs and alcohol–I was actually engaging in voluntary powerlessness, in so many areas of my life. ::shudder::)

  16. Steersman says

    Stephanie Zvan said:

    The last thing we’re doing right now is having an argument over what words are polite.

    Really? I wonder what your comments and arguments were to PZ Myers during the heyday of the porcupine “joke”. I wonder what your observations and positions are on the current use of various other “jokes” and epithets in the same location. And I wonder whether you might think that the hypocrisy manifested by different standards on that question – and others – are not a deeper and more fundamental cause for the malaise that you apparently ascribe to sexism.

  17. says

    I’m really not trying to start an argument, and I hope I’m not coming off like a jerk.

    Nah!11111 Just a bit uninformed on the topic maybe…:P

    and I do think people can conciously change their thought patterns.

    That’s a bit like saying people can pull themselves out of quicksand. Ask yourself, what would be doing the changing of thought patterns? There ain’t some magical Mister Spock on the bridge of your consciousness…

  18. says

    @ Marcus Ranum #9

    Whoa, okay, yet another reason to finally get to Hume! I downloaded whatever the free Kindle version of Hume’s complete works ages ago, when I went on a “dead famous freethinkers whose works are in the public domain” kick, and just haven’t gotten to him, yet. I did finish Thomas Paine, but then I got sidetracked with some Robert Price (not that he’s dead; I bought his books). And some feminist theory, trying to slog through Dee Graham. … Uh, yeah, also the new Lynn Flewelling fantasy paperback. And, okay, possibly the latest Linda Berdoll Pride and Prejudice novel. (::blush::) What can I say, I like trashy literature between the heavy stuff. Anyway! Off to move Hume up in the Kindle Carousel, thanks!

    @ crowepps #15

    People do indeed have every right to be and act racist/sexist/homophobic, and every right to say whatever they want however offensive, but they do *not* have a right to inflict that behavior on people trying to avoid them.

    QFT. Could not agree more.

    Why the hell is this a difficult concept? Why is there argument over this very simple point? This is like basic pre-school lesson, fucking Bambi: don’t be cruel to other people for the sheer joy of being cruel, and if you can’t handle such a basic principle of life, at least have the decency (or shame) to not force your bullshit upon unwilling victims.* Gossip amongst yourselves; I don’t really give a shit. I’m certainly not going to go look it up. But don’t go shoving that filth in your victim’s faces. And even if there was something about Rebecca, Stephanie, Ophelia,Amy, etc. that was just horribly obnoxious and off-putting**, every first-grader understands that if you can’t say something nice (or productive, that contributes something of value, which doesn’t necessarily have to be nice), you keep your fucking mouth shut. Not. Difficult. (To quote the new John Watson: “It’s primary school stuff. How can you not know that?”)

    *I may be reading too much into this, but I think this is one of the reasons so many of these folks flipped over the harassment policy conversation. Their primary mode of internet interaction is forcing themselves upon the unwilling. Why would it be any different in person?

    **I haven’t figured out what it could possibly be, beyond the fact that they are all in possession of both working mouths and brains while being female. And men like PZ have the audacity to turn on their bros (and their cool chicks) by supporting those icky lady lips. That’s all I got.

  19. says

    @ rorschach #17

    Ask yourself, what would be doing the changing of thought patterns?

    I don’t understand why that’s a problem.

    A lot of our thinking becomes unconcious. It also becomes habitual. We lack self-awareness of our own thought process. DBT teaches you to be aware of what you’re thinking, to examine what it is you’re telling yourself instead of letting it happen automatically (mostly through learning mindfullness techniques, meditation). When you identify a problem in your thinking, you work–again, through learned techniques—to change those thought patterns. It’s worked very well for me, pretty much the only thing that has, beyond just using (legal!) drugs to numb myself.

    Also, DBT has some pretty solid research and evidence behind it. The VA uses it to treat service members with PTSD, and it has a better record then medication to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. In one large study I saw, women who were diagnosed with BPD in their early twenties were followed for several years, some who were treated with medication, some with DBT/therapy, some with both. The women who practiced DBT techniques and stuck with therapy were much better than those who just took medication; in fact, 80% of them no longer even met the diagnostic criteria for BPD. (So it’s not just me.)

    Anyway, this is the last I’m going to say about it; I’m totally derailing Stephanie’s post and turning it into The EEB Show, Episode Off Topic, which, no. Talk about being rude! (If anyone has questions, or wants to continue the discussion off-thread, please feel free to email me privately. Otherwise, I’m going to shut up.)

  20. says

    EEB #16:

    …you don’t think people can consciously control their brain functions?

    not all of them, no, which is what Jadehawk was saying.

    Jadehawk’s #14, emphasis mine:

    As weird as I find this, there really do seem to be people who genuinely believe they consciously control all their brain functions.

    (next time, before you go out and ask your opponent if they’re taking an obviously nonsensical position, try re-reading to make sure you didn’t miss something. it seems quite common for people to take criticisms of valued ideas like contracausal free will or capitalism and almost instinctively hyperbolize the criticism into something that is unreasonable on its face, and I’d like to see more self-checking of that instinct kthx)

    (non-deraily comment coming up, just hold your horses while I get my thoughts back in order)

  21. says

    This is an argument over who gets to participate in our movements.

    thank you, Stephanie. and I say thank you because until now, perhaps out of fear of the people who complain about the notion of having this discussion, or maybe just out of purely overlooking it, no one ‘prominent’ has come out and straight up said this.

    and it needs to be said. we don’t allow creationists, or AGW “skeptics”, to participate in our movement — because what they promote is woo, and they insist only on having some “right” to constantly repeat their bad arguments.

    the slymepit and supporters are not much different. some of their arguments are distinguishable from calls to “teach the controversy” or “gather more data” only by the context; one can paste in stuff about global warming or evolution and the argument comes out the same. they are peddling woo. what’s worse is, they’re engaging in many of the same things we see woo-peddlers engage in against their critics. they’re just a step worse than the woo-meisters. in fact, but for their gatherings being confined to the internet, they might take the next step into the sort of physical violence observed in fascist, white-supremacist, and other radical-Right movements. there even exist parallels between the pitters’ lines of thought and those of radical rightist libertarians, the dogmatic opposition to anti-oppressive regulation that shows itself best with the pitters’ devotion to unrestricted free speech where libertarians love unrestricted free markets.

    what’s more, battle lines have already been drawn. TAM it appears is an outlier as far as harassment policies go; since then I’ve seen literally nothing but good news as far as conventions adopting anti-oppressive regulations and opening themselves up to marginalized groups. the slymepit and supporters now grasp at straws, asserting entirely without evidence the existence of invisible “neutral” or “moderate” people who see undisclosed value in the pitizens’ arguments yet conveniently cannot be found because they’ve supposedly abandoned the community due to the conflict and going loudly silent when someone points out the slymepit’s tiny member base (to say nothing of its preferred topic of discussion).

    so why? why do we continue to argue? why can we not simply say “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks”, call the ‘pitters a hate group full of woo-peddlers and have done with them?

  22. says

    TAM it appears is an outlier as far as harassment policies go;

    TAM has also invited Blackford and Sara Mayhew this year. That’s a big fat “up yours Myers/Watson/Benson” right there.

  23. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    rorschach wrote:

    TAM has also invited Blackford and Sara Mayhew this year. That’s a big fat “up yours Myers/Watson/Benson” right there.

    I don’t understand; how does punishing the people who go to TAM by giving them second-rate speakers hurt our side?

  24. says

    I don’t understand; how does punishing the people who go to TAM by giving them second-rate speakers hurt our side?

    Nor do I. Penn and Teller are horrible ‘skeptics’, perfect examples of the mean-atheist stereotype — and Cato fellows to boot. Shermer tried the “liberal war on science” and that was so bad a fail I can’t help but think it was also a shot at feminists, what with the whole blanket dismissal of evo psych critics. He could have gone after GMOs, or guys like Tom Harkin, but no, had to be evo-psych, which also just so happens to support Shermer’s libertarian “free markets rule all” totally-not-social-Darwinism approach to society. TAM itself is going straight to hell.

    Why not just say it? The problem is rooted in the libertarian contingent. Libertarians are concentrated and distilled privilege, their privilege causes them to push this political woo of unrestricted free markets where no not-physically-violent tactic can be wrong and unrestricted free speech where no not-religious-or-‘hippie’/newage idea can be wrong. The overlaps with the libertarian/right-wing segment of the community, libertarian/right-wing attitudes in society at large and radical-right reactionary tactics are there for anyone willing to take off their rose-coloured glasses.

    They can have TAM, smack in the heart of Vegas which is the epitome of fun in the eyes of the white, well-off, normative, cis, straight, able and otherwise privileged men that libertarianism and the Right attract so well. They can have their Slymepit, where they can engage in their Tea Party rhetoric towards PZ and Stephanie and all sorts of other wonderful feminist skeptics. History is on the move; if they do not wish to keep up we can leave them behind to watch from a distance.

    The only people hurt here are the privileged white doods who want to feel all Rational and Smarter Than Everyone Else. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. In fact, it seems like a good thing =/

  25. ischemgeek says

    I side-eye the crap out of “nobody can make you feel something” type statements because they can become very victim-blamey, in my experience. When it goes from victim empowerment to chastising the victim for being traumatized by traumatic experiences, I start to have a huge problem with it.

    Because being yelled at when you’re 7 and crying because kids beat you up in school about how you’re “letting” them get you upset by reacting to the pain of your bruises? Not exactly helpful.

    If it works for you, more power to you. It doesn’t work for me because those sorts of lines have baggage for me.

  26. says

    Steersman, it blows me away that you would read a post in which that kind of comment is correctly labeled a tu quoque and then leave that comment. As for the Pharyngula commentariat, I had a big argument about three years ago with a large chunk of the order of the Molly over recognizing dogwhistles while arguing with persecuted religious minorities. They generally get dogwhistles now, but what makes you think I have any clout there?

  27. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Stephanie wrote:

    As for the Pharyngula commentariat, I had a big argument about three years ago with a large chunk of the order of the Molly over recognizing dogwhistles while arguing with persecuted religious minorities. They generally get dogwhistles now, but what makes you think I have any clout there?

    They have to pretend that every blog – at FTB and Skepchick and even the A+ forums – is an arm of Pharnygula; because if they don’t, they lose the only thing they have that they can even attempt to pretend is a defence of their own actions, which is to claim they’re doing it because of how sporadic commenters there were mean to random people years ago.

    That it wouldn’t be a defence even if it were true – since they can’t provide evidence of anywhere near the same level of abuse that they inflict – is something they’re really hoping more people don’t notice. But that it’s one of the more ridiculous uses of false equivalence I’ve seen tried on the internet (and I was at Pharyngula during Crackergate, so that’s saying something) isn’t stopping them; it’s the ‘pitter’s first response to pretty much everything, after all.

  28. says

    So, Russell Blackford will not give a shit about abuse flung at Stephanie, Rebecca and Ophelia because PZ was mean to him. Yes, that is absolutely how rational adults behave.
    But please, Mr. Blackford, let me make PZ’s point for you. You are a liar.


    And could people please stop flogging the dead porcupine?
    The meme is dead, dead, dead and it is dead because the Horde acknowledged that it was wrong. Which is exactly what we’ve been asking of other people: Recognize where you’ve been going wrong and stop it.
    Nobody’s asking for people to magically change the past. We’re asking for people to change the future.

    As for people making you feel something:
    Yes and no. Something that shames, hurts and triggers you and has done for many years isn’t going to suddenly stop. The immediate reaction is still there. You can actively and consciously understand those things and react then. But it’s hard work. I’m beginning to understand where my troubles lie and why certain things leave me helpless and at the brink of tears, shaking and puking. That will hopefully become better in the future. Still it means that getting in control again takes up lots of resources and strength and those things are finite. So, yes, they still can effectively make me shut up because I’m damn busy getting in control again.

  29. says

    As I – and many others – have asked, on Michael’s posts and elsewhere, if it’s ‘both sides are equally bad’, where’s the evidence that FTB/Skepchick/A+ regulars are harassing Slymepitters the same way the reverse happens? Where are the Twitter posts and the Storifying? Where’s the photoshopped porn?

    Its been brought to my attention on Twitter and Michael Nugents latest post that they may be attempting to create a Tu Quoque for this by inventing “oolon the photoshopping troll”. Now this is a pretty pathetic attempt to troll me, they didn’t even take account of timezones …

    But there is a more serious aspect as I openly admit to kicking the Slyme-wasp nest so I deserve any accusations or trolling from them. I’m more than happy to take it, in fact some of them are smart enough to work out my own pathetic trolling attempts rely on it! But when I would hit wasps nests as a kid and get stung I’d always make sure no one else got hit with any splash damage. So well done pitters you’ve found a way to stop me winding you up –> but seriously if you did aim this at me and not just take another trolls opportunistic fly by and try and pin it on me, don’t. Photoshop me, attack me, I deserve it. (Or if you have any sense just ignore me!) Don’t attack other FtB’ers in an attempt to get at me – if this was the aim then you’ve succeeded in surprising me at how low you’d go. Sorry to whoever it was that got photoshopped.

    In other news I’d guess the reason they are so wound up about me is that I created a little bot to help people ignore them. Again I’ve actually been surprised how much it annoys them to think people don’t want to have them send their crap to others on Twitter. It also turns out that my “trolling” is actually of use and people like to not have the Slymepit shit up their timeline (As Ceepolk very eloquently puts it!) … Now in the hands of A+ so if anyone fancies anonymously annoying the pit then sign up to the A+ block bot here -> The Block Bot

    If you don’t follow @the_block_bot you will be totally anonymous … So no danger of them deciding to target you. Remember this is not a variation of “Ignore the Trolls”, you are just controlling when and how they interact with you. They really don’t like that!

  30. jackiepaper says

    Well written Stephanie.

    The comments from the pro-pit bunch over at Michael’s are unsurprisingly obtuse and dishonest. (Steersman’s porcupine comment above is an excellent example of what can be seen in the comments.) It’s almost cartoonish. Michael appears to have the patience of a saint. I’d have rage flipped my keyboard and walked away by now.

    Steersman, that meme was retired. Nobody is defending it. It is over. That’s not hypocritical. That’s exactly what folks do when they realize they’ve made a mistake. Hypocritical would be continuing to use the meme and continuing to defend it while asking that others not use similar terms.

    Today I read a complaint about the meme, “Bitchez be….” being racist. I’ve used that before. I won’t do it again. The commenter was correct. I did not intend to be racist or to appropriate certain dialects and tie them to sexism. But that’s what I did. Intent isn’t magic. I couldn’t see it. It took someone telling me what it sounded like to them, from their perspective for me to understand I’d made a mistake. I don’t think that makes me a hypocrite, because I’m aware that I have certain kinds of privledge. I know I am socialized to see the world through a certain filter. Stripping that away is a process that I will be involved in for a very long time, if not for my lifetime. I’m not asking anybody to do something I would not do myself.

  31. says

    oolon, according to the page at the pit that is now linking to this post, you’re also off the hook. Turns out the asshole who thought this would be their perfect entry into the pit is someone who subscribed to a bunch of the pitters on YouTube a couple weeks ago. I can’t imagine why he thought this would go over well.

  32. says

    The war analogy is perfectly apt. The brain is not designed to determine reality. The brain is designed to win. They may honestly see themselves as correct about these issues but their behavior shows the reality when you objectively analyze their overall behavior. In fact I would encourage everyone to take Michael Nugents comment threads and put them into a word processing document. Now wait until your own emotional immediacy passes.

    Now look at them. You see repeated, stereotyped, instinctual pack behavior designed to enable one side to “defeat” the other. You see no real attempt to objectively asses the arguments of the other side. Try an experiment in the document. Take a person arguing with a Pit supporter and change their objective points to some other color. Now go to the individuals that they are having a “discussion” with and over the series of responses look for examples where your recolored main points are addressed. If you find an addressed point highlight it.

    After a while you see patterns. Patterns that make you realize that the common denominator of logical fallacies is one thing only. Make your opponents point go away at any cost and substitute it with your own.
    *They avoid answering your questions, no matter how many of theirs you answer
    *They take more complicated issues and run off on incorrect tangents and pretend it is your subject to confuse readers
    *They load their paragraphs with assertions offered as fact and resist all attempts to link them to reality
    *When they do give you a link to reality it is usually more opinion! No actual primary sources!
    *When they describe the content of the position of another you discover that what is represented as paraphrase is dishonest hyperbole at best. You are made into an exaggeration.
    *They engage in projection over and over and over. What they do, they attempt to place on you while they obfuscate.
    *They strike the abused victim stand themselves and try to scream louder than the real victim while offering no evidence that they have been victimized

    My solution has been simple, repeated, relentless, demands that they back up their words. They feel it as reverse harassment when in reality it is quite reasonable. You have to watch carefully for them to do the above. When an item occurs you immediately point it out and use the strongest language possible relevant to the object under discussion (Their objective claim). Use deception, cowardice, distraction, assertion, misrepresentation, and similar. Point out the psychological reversals and projection like the fact that they are being quite hysterical for a group that normally likes to joke about female hysteria (the emotional sensitivity is ASTOUNDING).

    Start stereotyping how you address their main points so a reasonable form becomes apparent (They eventually hate this). One short paragraph, one short take-down after another.
    1. Identify their main subject in their words. This is the part that is an assertion all by itself. Common subjects:
    * Your position “restated” (any change in your wording must be defended)
    * An objective piece of reality (blog post, video, content of any kind, an event)
    * A “summary” of what some other group is like, or what they do
    2. Identify the supporting information statement and it’s nature. If it is absent, point out that this is an assertion and can be rejected without evidence. This is essentially the “why” statement that logically connects their
    3. After identifying the “why” statement identify the primary source for the point that comes from the connection between 1 and 2 and see if the source supports what they say. If there is no source than this is an asserted argument, but can still be rejected without evidence.

    Finally if you get an argument and a source you can do what we should get to do this entire time. Assess a proper argument to see if it holds up.

    Is it disturbing that I actually enjoy this? It feels like I can reduce it to a robotic routine on some days.

  33. says

    @Stephanie, glad they clarified there, finally… I did think Tuvok was just winding me up on Michael Nugents post, until I got an email saying it was a real thing. There is seemingly a tradition on the pit of various slack jawed “supporters” not quite understanding the intent of the pit which is clearly to superficially appear to disagree and obviously never cross the line unless anonymous so there is plausible deniability

    @Ophelia, sorry it was you who got targeted, yet again. Maybe your tip jar could do with some topping up, I see a new pair of purple socks in your immediate future.

  34. says

    @ EEB

    With respect to awareness of ones emotional reactions and impulses, yes people can learn to control them. But not everyone is at the same place in this effort. One of the reasons that I am supporting the FTB side on this is that I have an awareness of the psychology involved and it is a process. At some points of this process individuals need emotional space so they can assess what they feel inside. To control what is inside, first one needs to learn to discriminate the differences in the details of how the emotions flow and when certain things happen.

    An emotional onslaught is not friendly to this process. If there is too much noise there is no emotional discrimination and ones personal psychology matters. Add trauma, lack of social instruction when young, autism, Tourettes, and a whole slew of other possibilities to this and this complicates the process. I only make an exception for people who engage in harassing behavior themselves, and those who make excuses for death and suffering (though only in the proper discussion arena for the last).

    Some people, including normal people, do not respond to communication the same. It really has objective bad effects when it is forced on them. I don’t know how the legal system will ultimately deal with this but I hope harassment gets a more solid biological definition soon.

    I can’t bring myself to do the DELETE though. Its better for the audience to see the take-down because they know why your opponent is wrong. You don’t want to look like you are trying to Win yourself. I say let the picked apart corpses of their “arguments” sit there. But it can be exhausting until ones craft is at a decent level.

    @ Jadehawk 14

    this counterfactual way of thinking seems to be typical for believers in contracausal free will. As weird as I find this, there really do seem to be people who genuinely believe they consciously control all their brain functions. O.o

    Some of us have more control than others. The magnitude remains to be seen but there are yet interesting new things in the world.

    “Children With Tourette’s Quicker At Certain Mental Grammar Skills”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070713131417.htm

    “Speeded processing of grammar and tool knowledge in Tourette’s syndrome”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1955429/

    There is more, but essentially words are tools and I try to be a toolmaker :)
    I think of it as “social munitions”. Other socially related disorders also have associated enhancements and to my surprise no one is trying to help people figure out how to harness these. I have managed to help a few people with other issues look at what they have in ways that might be thought of as advantages (mostly schizotypal and aspergers/autism).

  35. jackiepaper says

    Ophelia, I’m didn’t know who was targeted this time. I didn’t look at the pic. I’m sorry that people do this and I’m sorry if engaging them just makes things worse for you and their other targets.

    I actually thought that Michael was going to be able to pull off the miraculous and get some honest discussion going that might lead to a solution to this problem of harassment in the S/A community. I thought letting them rant in the comments was a good way to let them show themselves as having no decent arguments at all. I did not participate with the realization of what letting people continue to spread disease would do to the feelings of those they slander. Again, I’m sorry for that.

  36. says

    It’s not just feelings. It’s also that what the harassers say doesn’t come with the lies marked in red. There are a lot of them there and they say a lot, and few people who read the comments are likely to know which claims are true and which aren’t.

  37. says

    Yeah, even if we can control our feelings and reactions to the slurs and the harassment, which not everybody can all the time, it still takes a hell lot of effort. And itS’ not something we should have to put up with. It’s not a level playing field if i have to run 5 miles before I reach the start line while you get there in a bus.

  38. says

    @ Setár, genderqueer Elf-Sheriff of Atheism+ #21

    You’re completely right. I wrote that out when I was over-tired and overly emotionally involved in the subject, which is a bad combo. Should have taken a second to look over what I was actually arguing (or, y’know, just gone to sleep). I actually agree with Jadehawk–I don’t think you can control all of your thoughts, and ended up arguing as much in what I wrote. So, that was wrong. Sorry.

    @ Giliell, professional cynic #29, 40

    But it’s hard work. I’m beginning to understand where my troubles lie and why certain things leave me helpless and at the brink of tears, shaking and puking. That will hopefully become better in the future. Still it means that getting in control again takes up lots of resources and strength and those things are finite. So, yes, they still can effectively make me shut up because I’m damn busy getting in control again.

    Yeah, even if we can control our feelings and reactions to the slurs and the harassment, which not everybody can all the time, it still takes a hell lot of effort. And itS’ not something we should have to put up with. It’s not a level playing field if i have to run 5 miles before I reach the start line while you get there in a bus.

    Both of those are very good points, and I totally agree. It is hard work, and it is unbelievably time-consuming (the only reason I’ve been able to do the work I’ve done is because I’m being financially supported by my family–with a tiny bit of SSDI money–and I have health insurance through my dad). And it is silly (and cruel, I think) to argue that other people have the responsiblity to do all that work before getting to come to the metaphorical table, but you have no responsibility to act like a fucking adult and not stir up negative emotions for no purpose but the joy of causing pain,

    I really don’t understand why there’s any sort of feeling of accomplishment from some of the more gross anti-feminist atheists. Like, oooh, you got an emotional reaction from someone with PTSD? Wow, you must be a rhetorical genius! Oh, except, wait, no, emotional triggers are, like, part of the criteria for PTSD. So you effectively showed that…someone with PTSD has PTSD? Good job? Real big accomplishment, there?

  39. says

    I wonder what your comments and arguments were to PZ Myers during the heyday of the porcupine “joke”.

    You mean the porcupine threat that was recanted, walked back and apologised for? The porcupine threat that, PZ has made clear, is unacceptable on his blog and should not be repeated?

    I wonder what your observations and positions are on the current use of various other “jokes” and epithets in the same location.

    What “jokes” are these, Steersman? Can you list and link to some of these, so that we can respond?

  40. jackiepaper says

    Ophelia, again, I really am sorry. To my eye, the lies are obvious. I forget that not everyone who reads Michael’s blog will be acquainted with the history here. To me it was like, “Oh, there’s that lie again. That one was put to bed ages ago. What a tool.” It was completely lost on me that anyone might actually believe the liars. I’m still trying to figure out if the people repeating the lies really believe them and if so how they could believe them.

    But then again, I’m still wondering the same thing about people who claim Hitler was an atheist and there are no transitional fossils.

    I wish I could make this better. I wish I knew how to convince these people to stop being so awful. Barring that, I wish they’d just get bored with being so foul and fade away.

  41. PatrickG says

    (because the post has gotten very long)

    I strongly disagree. Vehemently even! This length of this post was just right! If anything, it could have been longer.

    I really liked Scr… Archivist’s “war of attrition” term, as it aptly sums up the reaction of the anti- crowd to the departures/breaks of people like Natalie Reed and Greta Christina. The puerile “WE TOOK ONE OUT” mentality is disgusting.

    I would add to that the term “fog of war”. Part of their goal is clearly to muddy the waters (apologies for mixed metaphor), and posts like this really help as sort of an internet grounding socket. Not trying to speak for anyone else, but the regressives out there substituting quantity for quality definitely has an impact on my short-term perspective, in that it’s very easy to get bogged down in the latest hatefest du jour and begin to lose sight of the larger picture.

    In short: Thanks for posting this, Stephanie.

    P.S. Steersman, thanks for making me laugh out loud. Your ineptitude in argument leads to endless humor these days.

  42. says

    You mean the porcupine threat that was recanted, walked back and apologised for?

    Anybody got a link to that post? I think it would be useful.

  43. says

    It wasn’t PZ who threw it out, it was the Horde themselves.
    PZ still lists it in the “Rules” section and I wished he’d change that, but not my blog

    Here’s the two threads where people started to voice their concerns:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/07/03/episode-cccxliv-just-for-the-girls/comment-page-1/#comment-385418
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/07/10/episode-cccxlvii-the-saga-of-thunderf00t/comment-page-1/#comment-394497

    Just do a word-search for porcupine…

  44. says

    @ Giliell 40

    Yeah, even if we can control our feelings and reactions to the slurs and the harassment, which not everybody can all the time, it still takes a hell lot of effort. And itS’ not something we should have to put up with. It’s not a level playing field if i have to run 5 miles before I reach the start line while you get there in a bus.

    That is the thing I’m trying to figure out now. I can analyze the crap out of them, and frankly they are welcome to the places they want to socialize in as long as they leave others alone. But how to deal with waves of attackers? The only thing I can think of so far (other than what is already being done with people speaking out) is to somehow organize people willing and able to go and confront this kind of behavior. I can’t be the only person in the world that can and loves to do this kind of thing.

    The best advantage we have is that the reality of the illogic, and irrationality is on our side. No one wants to have their face smeared in that forever. When it becomes obvious to the audience that they are making themselves look bad they will leave because this is primate strategy.

    If anything, does anyone know where i might ask around about organizing a “communication defense squad” centered around dealing with specifically defined suppressive strategies? I even have some preliminary ideas about how to assign roles for psychological impact. You can have some people actually dissecting out the deceit and harassment rhetorically, and others can have the job of summarizing how many of each stereotyped strategies they find score-keeper style. If you show them that they are taken as a joke that has value.

  45. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    jackiepaper wrote:

    I actually thought that Michael was going to be able to pull off the miraculous and get some honest discussion going that might lead to a solution to this problem of harassment in the S/A community.

    There’s isn’t anything we can change about what we do that will stop them, other than shutting up completely about anything even remotely related to social justice, feminism or inclusivity in the community.

    All they want is to be told they’re super-duper-smart and special for the truly glorious achievement of not believing in gods and/or for being ‘skeptics’ (for certain values of ‘skeptic’). Reporting on something evil/stupid someone religious did? That’d be fine. Reminding everyone that bigfoot, unicorns, the chupacabra, Nessie, aliens don’t exist? Yeah, that’d make them happy.

    But indicating you might want them to change the way they treat people? Unthinkable.

    No, we’re dealing with a pack of spoiled, petulant children wo are used to getting what they want and, courtesy of the way the atheist community formed, they’re used to being told they’re right about the nonexistence of gods and have subsequently decided that this applies to pretty much anything they have an opinion on. And they exist in just enough numbers to have an impact on other people courtesy of the internet and having sway over the organisers of one or two conferences like TAM.

    Really, the only option we have is for enough blog owners and prominent members of the community to decide they’ve had enough of the harassment and that they won’t be included in any online discussion that decent people participate in.

    Moderate the bastards back to the Slymepit and their own personal spaces and keep them there, in other words.

  46. Stacy says

    Brony, I admire the way you can argue with them. I can only do it for a little while at a time.

    I remember once you suggested forming a group of folks like yourself who are able to deal dispassionately with the ‘Pit nonsense, who would be available to take on the pitsters upon notification. I like that idea.

  47. Stacy says

    @oolon, #30, I’ve passed on the link to your bot to a couple of groups I’m in which have members who may want to use it. Thanks!

  48. says

    Brony, I like you idea, and I’d suggest discussing it more over at Pharyngula’s Thunderdome if you want more participation and feedback.

  49. says

    To borrow a phrase from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, if Vjack can’t see the hostility, it’s for the same reason that people in Trafalgar Square can’t see England.

    Back when I was just a wee little agnostic, just starting on the road to atheism, I followed three blogs with “Atheis*” in the title–Friendly Atheist, Daylight Atheism, and Atheist Revolution. Of the three, the only one I had any significant interaction with, the only one who commented on my little blog, was Vjack. Consequently, of all the people for whom I’ve lost respect in this whole debacle, Vjack is the one who’s fallen furthest in my estimation.

    I know it’s not worth much, but it’s hard enough to see people I respected as thinkers and skeptics and scientists throwing out such terrible arguments in support of such harmful ideas and behaviors. When it’s closer Internet acquaintances, it stings quite a bit more.

    All that said, thanks for the dose of perspective, Stephanie. It’s always nice to take that step back and remember what actually kicked this whole ludicrous battle off in the first place, and it throws into sharp contrast the irrationality and extreme reactions of the “other side”.

  50. Klango says

    P.S. Steersman, thanks for making me laugh out loud. Your ineptitude in argument leads to endless humor these days.

    They do provide some comedy amidst the annoyance. Over at Nugent’s blog the genius that is Commander Tuvok posted a great little fantasy about how the pit is David, standing up to the Goliath that is FTB. I think he thinks FTB is like a media empire, or something.

    Oh, and that the pit is being silently thanked by many people. Silent thanks. They really are like creationists, just plain making stuff up to support their fantasy that they are somehow in the right.

  51. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Klango wrote:

    Oh, and that the pit is being silently thanked by many people. Silent thanks. They really are like creationists, just plain making stuff up to support their fantasy that they are somehow in the right.

    Ah, yes – the old “the lurkers support us via email” schtick. Still, considering how dishonest they are about everything else, it probably shouldn’t come as a shock they try that; that they’re essentially following the godbot handbook is pretty damn hilarious, though.

  52. great1american1satan says

    I’m sure they have some supportive lurkers. The lurkers on any given blog outnumber commenters 10 to 1 on small blogs, and a thousand to one on something like Pharyngula. Makes me wonder what’s wrong with my head.

    But yes, the Slyme represent the overlap between Fox news fans and atheists, which is a slice of humanity I want Deep Rifted the shit away from me, and yesterday.

  53. says

    Klango #53:

    Oh, and that the pit is being silently thanked by many people. Silent thanks. They really are like creationists, just plain making stuff up to support their fantasy that they are somehow in the right.

    And yet, apparently, suggesting that they be turned out constitutes a political purge which is bad. But purging the creationists is good. Nod your head, no dogma to see here…

  54. says

    @ Stacy 49

    Brony, I admire the way you can argue with them. I can only do it for a little while at a time.
    I remember once you suggested forming a group of folks like yourself who are able to deal dispassionately with the ‘Pit nonsense, who would be available to take on the pitsters upon notification. I like that idea.

    That’s just it, it’s not as admirable as it looks. Whatever else that TS lends me in terms of advantages, emotional exhaustion by this kind of thing just does not happen to me as readily. I did not have to work for it so it more of a matter of figure out how to use it best. I would rather be admired for the things I had to word for.

    As far as forming a group goes, I’ll take SallyStrange’s suggestion.

    SallyStrange @51

    Brony, I like you idea, and I’d suggest discussing it more over at Pharyngula’s Thunderdome if you want more participation and feedback.

    I’ll do that. I need to think about the set-up though so that my intentions are clear. None of this is about any kind of counter-deception or deliberate hostility. It takes the form of hostility because it is ultra-critical. Being emotionally neutral about it lets their imagination take it however they want and the audience can be shown how they are being lied to as well.
    I actually try to teach my approach so this is already mostly developed. All I need to do is organize it.
    http://www.ponychan.net/chan/dis/res/68830.html

  55. says

    vjack apparently thinks we live in a world in which we have just one social encounter at a time and that these never add up in some way to become those emergent entities we call “communities” and “cultures”. Here’s a nice little quote from an article on body-shaming kids that sums this up for his edification:

    This partakes of the standard libertarian trope that society/community don’t exist, and therefore can’t be used as explanatory mechanisms. AFAICT, the trope stems from a fervent belief in contracausal free will and a complete inablilty/unwillingness to understand systemic causation generally.

  56. says

    If mere words are so unworthy of our attention and debate, then why do these overgrown grade-schoolers spend so much time putting mere words all over the Internet?

    This is just grade-school irresponsibility: “My words are the most important thing in the whole wide world — until they get me in trouble.”

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