No, That’s Eugenics

In case you missed it yesterday, Dawkins had his say on Twitter about the morality of aborting fetuses with Down syndrome. More accurately, he stated that it was immoral not to abort those fetuses.

Today, predictably, comes the apology, though as usual, it’s mostly a defense. I appreciate Dawkins’ concern that something he tweeted to one person is being shared widely. I’ve certainly had that happen to me, though if the response to my situation is anything to go by, he won’t find much sympathy among online atheists for that.

Still, Dawkins is who he is, and who he is requires that comments like this be addressed when they become widely known. [Read more...]

Well, It’s Not Tear Gas

When you hear that there was no tear gas in Ferguson last night, no rubber bullets, you might be tempted to relax about the situation. Don’t do that.

Police in Ferguson may not have been indiscriminately shooting tear gas at everyone they saw on the street, but what happened last night was still seventeen flavors of fucked up. That it was an improvement over the night before is a measure of the previous night’s depravity, not an indication of competent police peacekeeping. [Read more...]

Overnight in Ferguson

I did a shorter version of this yesterday morning on Twitter and received a ridiculous number of retweets, so there’s obviously an appetite for “highlights” from the overnight feeds on Ferguson.

Last night, despite curfew having been lifted, police in Ferguson once again drove their armored trucks into residential neighborhoods and shot teargas into the area. Once again, media were gassed. Once again, media were arrested, though that had also been happening during the day. No media arrests I’m aware of have resulted in charges, just detainment.

I’m not in a position to find a link at the moment, but if you have the stomach, find Elon James White’s audio (with poor video) of his crew’s experience. They were not the only news crew that reported being fired upon. White also reported that the police appeared to be firing at anyone they saw on the streets.

The rationale given for the start of tear gas were one again shots fired and Molotov cocktails. Police reported two people shot, one of whom I’ve seen confirmed independently. Among the people the police arrested, they claimed—at a very early press conference—to have confiscated two guns and one Molotov cocktail. The Molotov is the target of much scorn, as it was improperly made, unlighted, and in a Colt 45 bottle. Locals told one reporter that Colt 45, despite the stereotypes, couldn’t be obtained locally.

There were agitators confirmed in Ferguson, including members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The RCP claims that only revolution can fix societal problems, but they haven’t started one in the own communities. This is also the group behind Stop Patriarchy, a pro-abortion group that has been co-opting the idea of “freedom rides” for an abortion tour that appears to be mostly raising funds to film themselves talking about abortion. The RCP agitators were confronted by local black leaders.

Amnesty International observers had been ordered out of the area. At least one report said guns were pointed during the time they were ordered out, but documentation of that had not turned up by the time the Amnesty Twitter list stopped operating for the night.

The county police held a prayer circle before the evening’s activities, and a sectarian prayer was held during the press conference. The police were conspicuously working through the evening and, presumably, into the night, with no badges or other identifying insignia.

Darren Wilson is still at large. No one has so much as announced plans to find him or take him into custody.

 

“Never Point a Gun”

“Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.”

It’s the first thing I learned about guns. It’s what kept running through my head last night as I watched the pictures coming out of Ferguson, Missouri. One on side, protesters dancing, holding their hands up in that signal of physical surrender, remembering their neighbor, demanding answers, knowing it could have been them. On the other side, an armored truck with a carbine rifle mounted on a tripod.

The gun wasn’t merely ready, waiting in case it was needed. It was pointed at protesters. It was pointed at reporters. It was pointed at cameras.

Another gun was pointed at Elon James White later that evening as he asked for information on how to leave the area.

“Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.” [Read more...]

Watch Your Mouth

Things are disappearing. Facebook posts calling people “pussies” have vanished! People with the clout to speak to Richard Dawkins and be heard are leaving some of their thoughts unsaid and unwritten for the fear (no exaggeration) that they’ll be arrested and tortured and punished, maybe even by death! Or because they’re not prepared to deal with being criticized. Either way.

Welcome to my world, guys, or at least a pale approximation of it.

It’s no secret that I’m a feminist and use my blog as a platform for activism, particularly on issues surrounding sexual harassment. What some people, particularly guys with jobs that give them some amount of power, don’t seem to understand about this is that I and everything I say are under constant scrutiny. Not only do people hold me accountable for every individual word I write, but they hold me responsible for every half-assed “gotcha” misreading of those words.

Is that fair? Well, it’s not charitable. It’s not diplomatic. It’s frequently anything but civil. It certainly doesn’t happen through private channels. Yet I never see any of the people who are now afraid going after the people who do this to me. [Read more...]

Why This Matters

American Atheists’ official representative calls a group of people who’ve been harassed for years “pussies” and an American Atheists official posts it to Twitter and Facebook suggesting it’s a reason people should subscribe. The Friendly Atheist posts a video from the Amazingly Notorious Atheist and says, “Oops”, in a buried comment. Some random but persistent asshole spends hours “caricaturing” FtB bloggers, Rebecca Watson, and someone who dropped out of organized atheism after intense abuse—then some other asshole decides he has to send each one of these caricatures to their targets on Twitter.

What does all this mean? It’s time for one of those periodic reminders of exactly what it is those of us standing over here are arguing for.

Have you forgotten how all this started? [Read more...]

What “We” Want

No, we don’t want the same thing. I don’t want what you want.

  • I don’t want my arguments to rely on dressing my opponents’ arguments up in a cheap wig and a sneer because I can’t call them ridiculous when they stand on their own.
  • I don’t want to build a sense of superiority on disagreeing with positions that have only been handed to me through a game of shouty, anti-feminist telephone.
  • I don’t want the endorsement of people or organizations who sweep me under the rug when the time comes to justify their support.
  • I don’t want the endorsement of people who rely on volume to carry their arguments.
  • I don’t want the endorsement of people who get so emotional when faced with feminism that their spelling, capitalization, and ability to make less-than-laughable analogies go to pot.
  • I don’t want the endorsement of people so desperate to discredit feminism that they have to quote mine and misrepresent people’s positions.
  • I don’t want the endorsement of anyone in such need of validation for their positions that they appreciate the support of the slime pit.
  • I don’t want to benefit from the work of generations while telling the world that I’m not a part of what they’ve done.
  • I don’t want to feel so helpless I throw my hands up at YouTube or Twitter harassment because that’s just the way the internet is.
  • I don’t want to have to make myself look brave by suggesting that people who have stood fast in the face of years of harassment are “pussies”.
  • I don’t want anyone ever to see me conflate caring that people are treated well with weakness.
  • I don’t want to be held up as a “good one” by people who are pretty awful themselves.
  • I don’t want to spread misrepresentations and poor arguments that get used to justify the harassment of others.
  • I don’t want anyone ever to see me ask people to support me without question or criticism.
  • I don’t want people to support my organization because I guilt them into it rather than because I’ve made a good argument that it works in their interest.
  • I don’t want anyone ever to see me argue to someone that our mere shared identity is a good way of evaluating how well I work in their interest.
  • I don’t want my success to be dependent on men who try to sell me on sex appeal instead of on my abilities.
  • I don’t want my success to be dependent on organizations that will throw me under the bus the moment I disagree in public with one of their big guys.

But here’s the deal: I don’t think you really want any of those things either. I don’t know what you do want. I don’t know what your dream was or where you wanted making videos to take you, but it probably wasn’t getting yourself stuck in an ideological trap where you get more praise for treating others badly and know what you’re in for if you bite the hand that feeds you. Still, here you are.

Welcome to movement atheism in 2014. Good luck.

And take that silly wig and sneer off. You can do better than that.

“You’re Not Oppressed, White Atheist Dudes”

It’s the Dear Muslima of atheist progressives, so knock it off.

Not enough? Okay, we’ll do this the long way.

No, not all atheist progressives. (Do I really have to do this?) Plenty of atheist progressives manage to critique the actions and priorities of atheist organizations without suggesting that the enterprise as a whole isn’t needed because the atheist oppression white guys complain about isn’t real. It still happens, particularly among a subset of well-educated, urban, white, progressive atheists.

Oppression of people who are otherwise well able to withstand the oppression does not stop being oppression. [Read more...]

Inviting the Ladies

You may have noticed that yesterday’s linkspam post was heavy on Ophelia’s articles on the Global Secular Council. I haven’t had a lot to say about the council myself. I definitely agree with Ophelia on the diversity and basic communication problems that their launch displayed. They promise us research from big names, but their website just has a bunch of Secular Coalition for America publications and high-gloss photos of people who mostly aren’t the folks who did that work.

Will the people in the glossy photos do great work under the Global Secular Council banner? Hard to say. There are some people on that list who have done truly impressive work, but I find it a bit odd that they didn’t hold the launch of the website for the release of work from at least a few of them. I’d like to believe they had the time for that between dinner and going live. There had to at least have been work those people had done that they were willing to repurpose under the GSC banner, right?

Not as of launch, no. But maybe they’ll start producing their own content soon, something more than a blog, since that’s what they’ll need to influence government. They’ll have to produce in order to survive. [Read more...]

On Trigger Warnings and “Scientific Arguments”

In case you haven’t noticed, the fires of the Great Trigger Warning Debate are burning high again, this time in the halls of academia. Students at UCSB have called for trigger warnings in course syllabi, prompting the New York Times to equate dissociative spells, nightmares, and anxiety attacks with “squirming”. Now, along comes Pacific Standard with an article that tells us science says we shouldn’t give sexually assaulted students with PTSD even the same consideration we give television viewers who don’t like nudity on their screens.

As the article was written by Dr. Richard J. McNally, who directs clinical training for Harvard, I didn’t expect to find fault with the science he cited. This turned out to be mostly true. I found the argument presented in the article pretty appalling, however.

On a side note before I get to the arguments: You may well have the impression that “trigger” is a concept unique to post-traumatic stress disorder. If you do, you’re not alone. I saw someone on Twitter just a few days ago suggest that a broad view of trigger warnings was somehow appropriating the experience of PTSD sufferers. Reading the article won’t disabuse you of this notion–it’s entirely a discussion of PTSD–but this isn’t true.

Think of a trigger the way you’d think of a stimulus in classical behavioral psychology. It is an event that provokes a response over which someone has very little control. Pavlov’s bell was a salivation trigger in his dogs.

Of course, we’ve moved on a good bit from strict behavioral psychology, and people aren’t dogs. “Trigger” these days describes an event to which we react in a way that is significantly but not entirely automatic or beyond our conscious control. Suppressing a reaction to a trigger requires cognitive and emotional resources, executive function, but it can be done. “Trigger” now applies to events that provoke a wider variety of maladaptive responses as well, such as bingeing in someone with eating disorders or self-hatred in someone with depression.

But on with the article.

[Read more...]