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Apr 03 2013

I Get Mail – This is Why We Suck

Apparently someone’s written a list of grievances against the kind of stuff I write and has sent it in so I figured I should at least address some of the grievances. A quick google shows that it’s a list from the Slymepit.

I know I have a couple of readers who don’t agree with where I have moved and indeed I have had a backlash that somehow if I had not accepted this I would have broken through some other way into the “somewhat mainstream” of atheism.

But here is the thing. In over 2 years of writing I made less than a couple of thousand hits. I make that per day now. I know I have moved up. And I know this would not have occurred had I not been a diversity hire. I know that FTB specifically went head hunting for non-white, non-judeo-christian atheists to join in. Patheos didn’t. Atheism United tried to do it but frankly all I have seen is a logo come out of that before it petered out.

Either that or someone’s trying to start fisticuffs. However? It does require an explanation because some of the ideas being mentioned are simply harmful.

Perhaps everyone has already put together what points they I don’t claim to speak for everyone, but here’s what I think are the most egregious problems we’re seeing from the FTB/Skepchick/A+ crowd:

The issue here is that FTB isn’t a single entity. PZ Myers and Ed Brayton don’t send feminazis round our houses to kick us in the fork if we don’t agree to his stance on whatever issue of the day is.

We can disagree and we often do. However? If one notes, we have our overlapping magisteria. Our unifying themes are basically freethought and atheism. Some of us are purely atheist. Some of us are specifically for activism. Some of us do skeptical work. Some of us are jacks of all trades.

And yes, some of us believe in the same things because it’s hard to not believe in the same things. We all think racism is terrible. We all think sexism is terrible. These are just stuff most people believe or at least try to believe in.

However? One still has to smack this argument down because these are issues that need sorting out.

  • A destructive “callout culture”. Not only is this counterproductive in resolving conflicts and harmful to interpersonal relationships and trust, but it contributes to an aggressive dogpiling “witch-hunt” environment.

When people say things that are harmful…

You should speak out. Otherwise you let others perpetrate a view that is constantly harmful.

Let’s take the article I wrote about privilege and how a skeptic simply was skeptical about the struggle people of colour face. Something tonnes of us have mentioned. I mentioned the various name changes a lot of south asians have to put up with in order to be successful and how sometimes that involves trading in our identities, because they have probably applied to me too.

I could mention how the same attitude applies to a variety of things from the hiring of people whose names sound “white” to even such horrifying things as police and media responses to white heterosexual people.

To quote Richard Pryor

AIN’T NO WAY TO GET AN AMBULANCE IN THE GHETTO UNLESS YOU CALL UP: “THERE’S FIVE NIGGERS KILLING A WHITE WOMAN.” (SCREECH. “WHERE’S THE BODY?”)

No seriously. That was a serious problem. Public Enemy even wrote a song called “911 is a joke” about this very problem. This has improved but black people simply don’t get the kind of media coverage that white people do if one of their number goes missing or is kidnapped or is murdered. There was a serial killer operating in LA for more than 20 odd years whose modus operandi involved killing black women. Many serial killers “fucked up” when they killed someone white causing the police to dedicate more resources to the case. Oh it applies to other groups too. Jeffrey Dahmer had one of his victims escape. There was a witness too. Both claims were ignored because the victim was gay and the witness was black.

Hell, look at Jessica Lynch. For those who are unaware Jessica Lynch was the poster child for heroism during the Gulf War due to a grandiose piece of bullshit flogged by the USA. Oh don’t worry, Private Lynch herself stood up and told the people who were making shit up about her to step off. Her incompetent commander fucked up something as basic as “reading a map” and got lost despite having GPS. He drove straight through a town filled with Iraqi soldiers who were so puzzled to this move that they assumed it was a cunning American plan because “No One Could Be That Stupid”. When the commander realised his mistake, rather than do the sensible thing and ask for support and make it look like he knew what he was doing he panicked and his convoy beat a disorganised retreat.

Back in to the city where needless to say the Iraqis ambushed them basically killing and wounding a bunch of them while the rest escaped. Jessica Lynch survived but her friend who drove the vehicle and whose quick thinking saved Jessica’s life died. It’s simple. Without googling can you tell me her name?

Jessica’s ordeal was portrayed as half rambo, half blackhawk down with tales of her single handedly mowing down incompetent Iraqi soldiers was bought by a generation of people who were blinded to the reality of combat and who treated it like a video game. She was portrayed as a prisoner of war in horrid conditions and she was eventually rescued from the Iraqi hospital which was treating her.

The reality was that her gun jammed. There were others who were captured but all of them were handed back to the Americans. Jessica in fact was sent back in an ambulance that got shot at. In the end the rescue was televised to make it look like a serious situation but all it was, was a bunch of marines kicking over a hospital full of doctors. Some british reports implied that the Americans invaded an empty hospital using guns that fired blanks and we all noticed the very prominent flag.

We in the UK were not in the mood to celebrate. American tanks supporting a British push had been diverted to the rescue resulting in casualties caused by friendly fire. We saw this is Americans killing our young boys and girls for a photo-op.

Jessica’s autobiography turned out to be a pack of lies forged by republicans with everything from torture to rape being used to portray her as a hero and the Iraqis as monsters.

However she herself said that there was no ill treatment. When they captured her she was treated humanely and even protected. After all there is one uniform scarier than camouflage and it’s a doctor’s coat. Her doctor spoke out against the American claim. No torture, no rape and no guards.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well. The same incident captured a black woman. Not a single mention. In fact Jessica Lynch with her relatively minor injuries got a big pension for her story. Shosana Johnson did not. Shosana was shot through both ankles and was one of the captives interviewed on Iraqi TV.

Jessica Lynch stood up for what was correct and corrected the government that lied about her and tried to clear events. But lies always travel faster. Jessica got married and has a kid called Lori. She is named after Lori Piestewa. Jessica’s best friend and the driver of the Humvee whose quick decision making saved a lot of the passenger including Jessica. Lori died in hospital, the embattled Iraqi doctors couldn’t save her. Lori is Native American.

And that my friends is PRIVILEGE. If we were talking injuries, Shosana’s gun shot wounds were worse than a broken arm, a broken femur and a dislocated ankle courtesy of the crash. She was not stabbed or shot as the erstwhile US government claimed. If we are talking about heroism then there is an actual hero who tried to get them to safety in Lori. Neither got recognised for their actions. The 5 POWs in fact were doomed to obscurity. The first black woman to be captured and the first native american woman to die in combat didn’t get even lip service.

  • Uncritical acceptance of radical feminist dogmas such as patriarchy theory, privilege, infantalization of women, victimhood, and biodenial (the view that gender is entirely socially constructed).

That society is designed to benefit men? That women are treated as idiots? That women who are victimised shouldn’t speak out about it? And biodenial works by differentiation of Sex from Gender. Sex is what you are (X/Y) gender is what you identify as.

We do criticise it. However these are real things in the world. Republicans regularly plan women’s obs/gynae healthcare with no grasp of medicine or indeed women.

And the very notion that privilege doesn’t exist is deathly stupid in a world where people who are considered “integrated” in society have to take on “White People Names”. I go by Amy, my brother by Andy. Neither of them are our “real names” they are anglicised versions of our Indian names.

  • Related to the point above, a form of gynocentrism or “genderitis” as it’s been called elsewhere. That is, the tendency to wear “gender goggles” when looking at social problems – the assumption that “gender power struggle” is behind social problems to the exclusion of other factors and nuances.

Except there are some social problems that have to do with gender and indeed race.

I mean what do you think a rape bus is if not a gender problem? What do you call a society like India or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if not a patriarchal society?

Let’s not call it a gender struggle. Men have dominated society for so long that even with the advent of the notion that men and women are equal men still hold all the power and women simply haven’t percolated through the structure to hold 50% of jobs. There are a lot of factors but in some cases it is “gender”.

  • The abuse of words such as misogynist, harassment, and rape-apologist. Not only are they used as a smear tactic against dissent, but they are given misleadingly broadened definitions. This includes defining the word “feminism” broadly as “the view that women are people” and using it as a cudgel to misleadingly characterize dissent as “anti-woman”. 

I used that term to describe a group of people who defended rape apologists who blamed the Delhi Rape Victim for her attack. I had someone use the horrific rape in India to excuse the rape of a young girl.

Saying we cannot use it allows the MRA within atheism to limbo under the bar of good taste.

  • A patronizing attitude towards women who disagree with their ideology. This includes rhetoric such as “listen to women!” with the implication that they speak for all women. In reality, it’s “listen to [some] women!” Dissenting women are condescendingly dismissed as been duped by patriarchy and given dogmatic ideological labels like “chill girl”, “gender traitor”, “sister punisher” and “handmaidens of patriarchy”.

No. Listen to the concept.

Listen to women and their complaints. Don’t ignore them. I don’t know what the hell those words are but I got better things to do than learn weird definitions. It’s simple and basic.

The enforcers of the Purdah and the Burkha are women. Women oppress each other all the goddamn time. Some of the worst oppressors of women are other women.

What do you call the mother in law who burns her daughter in law for a dowry and fobs it off as a kitchen accident?

You may not be that villainous but you can be part of the problem and helping stop women who require help. And you may not even realise it.

  • A tribalistic, cult-like mentality that encourages groupthink, vilification of dissent, and othering. Dissent is automatically dismissed as misogyny, sexism, and harassment. Dissenters’ statements or behaviours are interpreted in the worst possible light and attributed to sinister motivations (e.g. the “threat” narrative)

Hardly. I have spoken out against Atheism Plus and indeed seen dissenters come through here without me hunting them down as the most dangerous game of all.

There is dissent and then there is making pictures and spreading them about or posting hate mail.

  • Equating internet troll culture with dissent. In other words, some obnoxious 15-year old in his parents’ basement who tries to get a rise out people are placed in the same group as legitimate critics.

Don’t insult 15 year olds. Many of them are smart.

I am genuinely impressed by the 17 year old Piano Black when she started stretching her wings.

The thing is we know it’s not just “some stupid kid” get his jollies by shouting socially inappropriate words loudly till people get pissed off. These are adults. These are some people considered pillars of the community or voices who a lot of atheists listen to. These are people like Thunderf00t whose anti-creationist videos were the staple of the early days of Youtube Atheism. You can’t tell me he is younger than me.

Are you suggesting that every single one of the harassers are nowt more than 15 year old wankers?

  • Use of postmodernist argumentation such as “kafkatrapping”. Concepts such as “privilege” become like the doctrine of original sin. In other words, “you are part of the problem if you don’t agree with my ideology” (*often heard as “you don’t get it!” or “check your privilege!”)

If you told me that the women, GLBT and ethnic minorities do not have it harder than white straight men then we clearly live in different realities. I can tell you all the things that discriminate against us and you still will ignore it. You will pull out some rich Indian bugger to claim that we don’t suffer from racism.

If you tell the GLBT that they have not been discriminated against they will be flabbergasted at the sheer lunacy of such a statement. When they say “GLBT kids are being bullied at schools leading to a suicide rate 3 times higher” and you say “Nah! That’s just you being overly sensitive!” then they are right to say that you are part of the problem.

  • A commitment to a stuffy, overreacting, oversensitive political correctness philsophy that’s counterproductive to free expression (i.e. “your rights end where my feelings begin!”)

And honestly? Many of the nay sayers were just as guilty of that too.

However if you go into a discussion on rape and call everyone a slut then you are going to be kicked out. There are people who are sensitive. It’s hard to talk to them.

Then there are people who keep talking to the sensitive people with the sole purpose of setting them off. Then claiming they are stuffy and overreacting.

  • Frequent hypocritical behaviours. For example: “don’t objectify me, but have our naked Skepchick calendar”; “we want a ‘safe’ space, but let’s dogpile dissenters with vitriole and public shaming”; “we oppose hate, but fuck you you fucking fuck and go die in a fire!”; and “I value freedom of thought, and I like to smear dissenters and ban them”, and others…

One can argue that all sexual attraction is based on objectification of those that we fancy.

HOWEVER, we also value them for other things. We see them as human beings who we just happen to like naked or in sexy lingerie (Whether that’s me or Tiga’s fantasy I will leave that to my readers). The Skepchic calendars were based on the notion that they thought people genuinely appreciated them for their other talents and they also wanted to express their sexuality. It’s extremely bold as an idea and many of us aren’t brave enough to do that.

We have safe spaces in real life too. You would hit on a woman at a bar. Yet you would balk at approaching the same woman in a hospital or a funeral. If you tried to hit on someone there you would get dogpiled. If you went to an drug addiction clinic and called people weak minded you would get turfed out.

We genuinely fear for women who go to abortion clinics because we try to make them a safe space but the pro-lifers make it unsafe.

Honestly? The issue is that there is a line between dissent and blind trolling. And freedom of thought comes with responsibility of thought. Neither of these things have been demonstrated by the detractors.

I believe that all people are human irrespective of the colour of their skin. If you disagree with me that people of colour are not humans then you are not a brave dissenter, you are a racist. A lot of the dissent boils down to people saying very sensible things but still facing dissent.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Jafafa Hots

    Awesome post.

    Why haven’t I been reading you yet?!?!

  2. 2
    Lou Doench

    Is it ok if , when I get to the blockquoted parts my eyes go blank and all I hear is the “bwahwawawahwawaha” sound that the adults in Peanuts cartoons make? Because its all soooo repetitive and poorly thought out and most of all BOOOORRRIIINNG at this point. It’s like these dudes each individually discover the MRA Ur text of grievances and complaints and immediately think ” Aha! I bet that silly feminist has never heard icy logic like THIS before.

    ps: it occurs to me that non US American’s might not get the reference…

  3. 3
    natashatasha

    Can you please tell us what was in the video? It’s been blocked in my country.

  4. 4
    TailorMaid

    The video is Charlie Brown animation clips, one showing the iconic use of “wah-wah” sounds instead of speech coming from a teacher/authority figure.

    While I hate that practices such as diversity hiring need to exist, I am glad that your voice is being amplified Avicenna. I appreciate your insights and read daily.

  5. 5
    beardymcviking

    Good read, much appreciated :)

  6. 6
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Great post. This was brilliant.

  7. 7
    sheila

    I’m really glad you were hired. Your different background is exactly why you’ve taught me so much.

  8. 8
    oolon

    Ha, “diversity hire”, you are clearly one of the best writers on FtBs. Great read, again. I cannot believe you got so few hits on your previous blog!

  9. 9
    Vincent Cappe

    I can’t see the Goodness Gracious Me video here, too.

    I assume it is about these recurring characters:

    The Coopers (Kapoors) and Robinsons (Rabindranaths) – Two snobbish ‘nouveau riche’ couples who claim to be entirely English with no Indian blood whatsoever, but often give themselves away by using each other’s real names, mispronouncing words or silly mistakes such as serving guests some Pimm’s with sliced courgettes in it. They refuse to acknowledge their real ethnic background under any circumstances, and become very upset whenever anyone refers to them as foreigners.

  10. 10
    sillose

    i take issue with your claim that A+ atheists are amongst the most dangerous of game. they often have little experience in the hunt and some are even vegans. have you ever hunted a vegan? boring as fuck.

  11. 11
    VeganAtheistWeirdo

    have you ever hunted a vegan? boring as fuck.

    Cheers! Actually, while hunting with a vegan would indeed be boring, don’t assume that all vegans are themselves easy prey. I personally have no moral objection to self defense including use of lethal force when necessary.

    (I am not affiliated with A+ nor FtB.)

  12. 12
    VeganAtheistWeirdo

    It amazes me that this schism even exists within the atheistic/skeptic community (such as it is). I don’t approach stories or posts with some feminist agenda before I read; I don’t approach them with an anti-feminist agenda. I agree that the reduction to an us vs. them dynamic is anything but beneficial to furthering the advancement of shared goals.

    Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a convincing argument demonstrating those who make sexist/racist/bigoted comments have a worthwhile reason to continue to do so. Being free to express yourself in whatever way you see fit doesn’t magically prevent the harm that may be perpetuated in so doing. Those who insist that they aren’t part of the problem are by definition the problem. Every time I see someone use that phrase, “public shaming,” I want to scream. Why are they ashamed if they’ve truly done nothing wrong? If someone points out to you that what you’ve said is sexist, or racist, or whatever type of subjugation/marginalization/discrimination, and your only response is to become defensive, you’ve just proven your critic’s point.

    Anyway, thank you for this beautifully articulated response. I second (third? fourth?) the notion that your contribution here is an asset, and if we owe it to diversity goals, then those goals have achieved a clear benefit.

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