An open letter to Michael Nugent

This was too long to fit on Twitter and I didn’t want to take to your comments section.

I recognize that you don’t owe me a response, and I feel like you are almost certainly working on one, but I would like to discuss the fact that you saw fit to respond to Richard Carrier before you responded to the “more considered posts” by me, M. A. Melby, or Secular Woman. It’s worth pointing out that you haven’t entirely ignored M. A. Melby’s post because of “having” to respond to Richard Carrier, just the “quite reasonable,” as you put it, part of it.   I would like to highlight the not unreasonable conclusion that one could draw, that indeed we were already discussing: You prioritize getting into petty internet fights about tone over everything else. In this case, you prioritize getting into petty internet fights about tone over serious-minded discussion about an accused rapist in the movement.

You’ve sat with our discussion for over a week now. There are nearly 1000 comments between the two blog posts on my site about this topic. Two other women have chosen to write about this. And done so in a tone that is much more to your preference than the tone of Mr. Carrier. And yet you choose to write a blog not in response to the women who are trying to have a discussion with you about something that they are deeply concerned about, who are writing in what you consider an appropriate tone. You choose instead to respond to a blog post written by a man relying heavily on the posts written by those women — indeed over half his post is dedicated to linking to the other sources on which he’s based his post. You choose to prove the point that if one writes in an aggressive tone, one will get attention and responses, while if one writes in a reasonable tone, one will be put on hold. I now wonder if I might have gotten a faster blog response if I’d written in a less reasonable tone myself.

And I get it, that’s an easy 3000 words to write, just like it’s easier to write 3000 angry words calling someone a fuckhead than it is to write something nuanced. But I think in choosing to respond to the angry tone instead of the nuanced tone you’re guilty of promoting the same thing you’re saying you’re against.

Mr. Nugent, you also state at the beginning of the article that you “have to” respond because of how Mr. Carrier has portrayed you and Atheist Ireland. You really didn’t. You chose to. There are always going to be people misrepresenting you on the internet. There are always going to be people whose tone you’re going to want to correct. There’s always some new fight to be had if you’re itching to write 3000 words about how someone is wrong on the internet. And, to be clear, you chose to respond to that one. And that’s fine, but I want you to understand the message that all of this sends, because it’s the same message you were already sending: Michael Nugent cares more about tone than he does about women.

I don’t think that’s the message you want to be sending, based on the mission of Atheist Ireland, I know it’s not.

 

ETA from comment below: The point of this, like the previous posts, is not that Michael Nugent is a bad guy. It’s that he keeps doing things online that make him look like a bad guy and he’s either unaware of them, in which case hopefully writing them out calmly in a blog post and explaining why they look how they look will help him understand why people see them the way they do, or he doesn’t care about the people who are interpreting his actions that way and he’d just as soon write them off as engage with them, in which case I think his tone arguments are hypocritical. Either way, I don’t see a course of action for myself that is more rational than to call his attention to the interpretations and see what he makes of them.

More on Shermer, PZ, and Michael Nugent

Ashley to Michael: I'm asking whether it's unreasonable for someone to feel uncomfortable when you say it's wrong to call Shermer a rapist.  Michael to Ashley: That's a question I haven't heard before. I don't know. I'll think about it and get back to you. Capped from Damion Reinhardt's Storify

I wanted to respond at length to both Michael Nugent, who I’ve spoken with over Twitter, and to many commenters who agree with him in the previous post and on Twitter.

I don’t have a problem with Michael Nugent’s distaste for PZ’s tone.  I don’t agree in general, though like Nugent, I found PZ to be lacking in his posts about Dawkin’s childhood sex abuse and Robin Williams’ suicide.  PZ has always been a pit bull, and it generally gives his posts clarity and humor, both of which I appreciate.  But, I don’t really care if you hate that, that’s fine, to each his own.

I also don’t really have a problem with Atheist Ireland’s dissociation with PZ.  Again, freedom of association, to each their own.  I do think that, while they’ve made an exhaustive list of why they don’t like his tone, they’ve failed entirely to even try to make a case as to why an American blogger’s tone has any relevance to the work they are doing.  I’m not sure what harm PZ has actually caused to Atheist Ireland, beyond making Michael Nugent very unhappy. Why Atheist Ireland’s agenda includes breaking up with bloggers is beyond me.

The problem I have with Michael Nugent fundamentally boils down to his 9/17/14 blog post in which he equivalizes his complaints about PZ’s tone in his posts to PZ agreeing to post a firsthand account of rape in which the victim names her rapist.  This post by Nugent is in response to a lengthy, in-depth article by well-respected journalist Mark Oppenheimer, known for his work at the New York Times, in which Oppenheimer details multiple accusations of misbehavior on the part of Michael Shermer.

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The Background of Atheist Ireland’s Breakup with PZ: It’s about Michael Shermer

Edits from earlier versions: Two major edits from information sent to me via Twitter by people who were, I think, trying to be hostile, but who I appreciate sending me the information. Ron Lindsay did not ask Rebecca Watson to take down her post, he asked her to reword it and the link to his post has been reworded to reflect that; this was a misremembrance on my part. The second is that I added screencaps and reworded the description of the Slymepit to be more accurate. The inaccuracy previously was the suggestion that they stalked people’s hospitals, which seems to be a game of telephone garbled interpretation I heard of an event that is linked to, in which they took PZ’s hospitalization as an opportunity to make up STD rumors about him. While I did have 2 editors fact check the post, they missed these, as did I.

Mixed Rape Finals - Members of FtB judging a rape; unauthorized photoshop of Brian Engler's original photo

I’m not entirely sure if the joke is that we’re judging our own rapes or a rape we’ve witnessed.

So in recent days, there’s been a bit of drama in the atheist movement over Atheist Ireland and PZ Myers that I’ve spent a bit of time trying to fully understand the background of.  Since I spent all the time getting a big picture overview, I thought other people might like to have access to it as well.  I don’t regularly follow any of the main players’ blogs, and I’ve been ill for the last 8 months, so I haven’t regularly followed anything during that time.  That said, the tl;dr version of the story is that it’s about Michael Shermer, and the longer version follows.  It’s not convoluted, it’s just happened over a long period of time.

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I have mono and everything is difficult

I think you misunderstand. I am not here to keep the darkness out. I am here to keep it in. – Terry Pratchett, Thud!

I haven’t been around so much.  This is because I have mono.

I assumed that if I got to 30 without getting mono it meant that I was one of most everyone who got EBV as a child and it wasn’t terribly noticeable and hooray for me.  I should have been less optimistic.

It’s amazing how much you can not do with your time. Not dissertation, not work, not volunteer, not writing blogs.

There’s a lot of drama going on around here, to which I can only say this: I didn’t know Avicenna very well, I didn’t follow their blog much either.  Much as I hate how some individuals over at Slyme Pit dehumanize some of my friends and colleagues, they did FtB a favor by finding and pointing out the plagiarism.  And if it wasn’t going to be us, it is far, far better that it was them than almost anyone else.

There is something to be said for the fact that even when two groups of people hate each other as much as FtB and SP, it took only a few hours for a legitimate wrong to be corrected once brought up.  I think that speaks to something right in the world.  Now I nap.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes Qui Custodes Custodiet

Michael Shermer’s Harassment

A piece has just been published about misogyny in skepticism and atheism, and particularly about Michael Shermer, that includes me as a named source who has experienced inappropriate behavior from Mr. Shermer.  It’s worth pointing out that my story is merely a supporting story to the larger overall story of Mr. Shermer’s behavior, and not nearly as awful as some others.  I have never told it in public, though many people have heard it in private, because of a fear of litigious reprisals and hate mail; it never seemed worth it until I was asked to comment on this story.  To the extent that it’s useful and people would like to have full details on what happened, this is my full story.

In 2010, I went to the Orange County Freethought Association Conference after reading about it on PZ’s blog.  You could pay $50 to eat dinner with PZ, which struck me as a good deal.  I was in LA and didn’t have a lot of friends and I was a big fan of PZ’s blog.  I was, at the time, an atheist but not really aware of the larger skeptic and atheist communities.  Which was a shame.  As I later learned, if you were part of the movement before you went to events, you’d get warnings on who to avoid.  The number one person I was told to avoid was Shermer, but I didn’t hear that until months after I met him.

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Find me at CONvergence and SSA East

Ashley

Picture courtesy Amy Davis Roth

Hello all

I will be speaking at both CONvergence and SSA East, and I’m getting an awful lot of stage time! This is a preview for anyone interested.

CONvergence

You can start looking out for me at about 1pm Friday at CONvergence.

FRIDAY, July 4th

5pm Paranormal Romance vs Urban Fantasy

With the popularity of paranormal romance, has romance become a fixture in most urban fantasy to a degree? What about the combo of romance, action, and magic keeps drawing readers? What’s out there for readers who want less kissing and more butt-kicking? Panelists: Ashley F. Miller, Cetius d’Raven (mod), Emma Bull, Melissa Olson, Rory Ni Coileain

7pm Coming Out Atheist

Join us to discuss what it’s like to come out as an atheist in various parts of the country, with different religious backgrounds, and the intersection for many of us with coming out in other ways, such as in sexual orientation and gender identity. Panelists: Ashley F. Miller, Heina Dadabhoy, PZ Myers, Debbie Goddard, Brianne Bilyeu

SATURDAY, July 5th

11am Evolution of Disney Princesses

They started out helpless (Snow White), and now they’re shooting arrows. What changed, and why? Panelists: Ashley F. Miller, Kathryn Sullivan, Michelle Farley, Windy Bowlsby, Madeleine Rowe, Greg Guler

SUNDAY, July 6th

9:30am Skepchick and FreethoughtBlog Readings

In room 2201

11am Protofeminists in Shakespeare

Shakespeare portrayed several intelligent, independent, and self-aware women–Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Katharine, Beatrice, Viola, Rosalind. We’ll discuss the problematic and the remarkably (for the era) fleshed-out aspects of their representation. Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Ashley F. Miller, Greg Weisman, Joseph Erickson, Alexandra Howes

12:30pm Loving Problematic Media

Social justice doesn’t have to ruin your fun! We’ll discuss ways to be a literate fan of problematic media, from reality TV to video games, recognizing (rather than rationalizing) its problems, and still finding ways to enjoy it without getting defensive. Panelists: Rebecca Watson, Ashley F. Miller, Emily Finke, Courtney Caldwell, Amanda Marcotte

I will be leaving for the airport as soon as there are no more people with questions for me after this panel.

 

 

SSAEast

I will be at SSAEast for the entire program, I’m speaking in one of the 45 minute slots in union.

SUNDAY, July 13th

10:30am Feminism, Atheism, and Welcoming Women to Your Group

More hate from racists – Coalburner edition

chimpoutlogoIn case you have ever wondered whether I continue to get racist comments for having, of all terrible things, dated someone who was not white and discovered that my DNA was not 100% white, the answer is yes, I still get hateful shit.

My number one incoming link for the last couple weeks has been from a site called Chimp Out which I have no interest in linking to, but I’m happy to just give you a taste of how awful these racist white people are.  Interestingly, these people also hate atheism+ (something I’m not particularly involved in).

 

Coalburner discovers she isn’t 100% white and says daddy is wrong for disowning her

http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymi…not-100-white/

Free thought blogs, despite the name encourages anything but free thought. It’s your typical hive of brain dead left leaning shit streaks all circle jerking their respective brand of victimhood(racism, feminism, homosexuality) It hosts a number of writers including the truly odious Richard Carrier of Atheism plus. Atheism+ is basically an attempt by the far left to attach their pet causes like nigger coddling, radical feminism and so on to atheism in an attempt to make them look rational. The atheists don’t care enough about people’s feelings you see. 

Anyway, not sure if this has been shared but this woman discovers a STAGGERING 0.5% of her ancestral composition is sub-Saharan nigger and states her old man is wrong for disowning her for dating a buck. It’s a sad read because you can see her pathetically obvious attempts at trying to twist the science to fit her views and her angst over daddy rejecting her.

 

she is a confirm nigger, if you out yourself to have nigger dna than you are a nigger. no human should touch her.

 

Why would you even want to pay $100.00 to this site which will sell your information to others including handing it to the government, people are so stupid, as far as that coal burner, if your mammy is white, you pappy is white and grandparents are yt, then why push the issue? Now as far as your pappy disowning you, that’s your fault for for being a coal burner, but you went and fucked a nigger! Now you are damaged goods.

I confess that I’d never heard the term coal burner before, but Urban Dictionary was happy to help me out.  Not all of this makes sense, but it was written by a guy named proud white man w/big dick.

A “Coalburner” is a white girl who is spoiled rotten and rebels against her wealthy or middle class parents for some imagined affront sometime in their short lives. This rebellion manifests itself in the form of fucking any sloppy pussy-ass fake gangbanger nigger they can get their nasty dick-skinners on. Also see “Mud-Duck” punishing parents by giving them 4 grandchildren from 4 sperm donors with cream-colored skin, red afros, big lips and flat noses.Also see dumb bitch riding in the passenger seat of her own car , pumping the gas and paying for it. Also see treated like shit by any white man who could have ever been an equal co-habitating partner and possible non-financial sponge, not because he’s a racist but because only someone with absolutely no self respect would confine themselves to random sexual partners of a different race who’s self- imposed disenfranchisement and liberal suborned laziness only furthers their own deep self-loathing and constant rape of the english language. example- see the names of coalburners offspring, stupid-ass names made up by people unable to spell real names correctly, ie. “spell it like it sounds”, Shawon (shawn), laqueesha (?????).

 

To those of us fighting the good fight

I wrote this, originally, to console someone who was sick to death of her efforts being met with rape threats and death threats and inaccurate accusations.  I debated posting it, knowing it would undoubtedly bring with it some backlash.  I spend my free time volunteering for atheist, humanist, and skeptic causes only to be constantly met with people telling me that I am not a “real” activist.  There are other things I could be doing. It is hard to watch all of the misogyny and sexism go on in this movement.  It’s hard to watch people as wonderful as Pamela Gay be torn down for coming forward with her story.

It’s exhausting to know that there are people who hate you and believe ridiculous, untrue things about you, no matter how clear and unoffensive you have tried to be. I am tired of being accused of being in it for the money when being involved in atheism costs me loads of money every year — travel costs I don’t ever expect to see returned by my blog. I’m tired of every post being a target and rage commenters trying to tear me down for my appearance, education, and family. I have never been targeted by religious people the way I am by atheists. And how much worse is it to be targeted by a group of people you spend your free time working to help.

I am tired of being worried about legal threats and hackers, people who have targeted me as “collateral damage” to others as well as those who’ve directly targeted me. I am tired of getting flooded on Facebook by people I don’t know whenever I post something vaguely in the area of things they label social justice warrioring. I’m tired of everything being a fight. I’m tired of trying to be the bigger person. I’m tired of feeling like all the abuse is pointless because there’s no movement. I’m tired of people with power laughing or shrugging off sexual assault and harassment. I’m tired of people making value judgments about those who’ve been harassed — demanding you have had certain experiences to be able to comment on them and then mocking you if you come forward with those experiences.

I am, in short, very tired. And I don’t have it the worst, by any stretch of the imagination.

But then, sometimes, strangers come up to me or email me and thank me. They thank me specifically for talking about things that get me the most bile. There are people who hear what you say and change their mind, but they’re usually not very loud, because changing your mind is hard and takes a while and is difficult to talk about when you’re in the middle of it. I have many friends who became not very close friends for a little while because I was on the SJW side of things and they weren’t sure which way to go who are now among my strongest allies.

That said, I’ve had a hard time blogging lately because, on top of all the drama of day to day life, it’s so infuriating and upsetting to deal with the internet assholes. It’s hard to find the reward. Every post is a constant decision to put up with attacks.  I have to remind myself that it’s worth it.  And sometimes, it’s just not.  Sometimes, I am just not in a place where I can deal with the abuse.  Ultimately, while changing minds is a lofty and important goal, it’s also not our responsibility. If you’re tapped out, you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason to subject yourself to this if you don’t find it rewarding. And there are less hostile audiences within the movement as well.  The SSA, for example, has been nothing but wonderful to me.

I don’t know if that helps at all, just know I feel what you’re feeling an awful lot.  You’re not alone.

Vote for project about Fox News Brainwashing

There’s a project up for project of the week on IndieWire and it’s about how Fox News brainwashes people and how to fight it.  Let’s go Pharyngulate it so this important work gets more attention!

http://www.indiewire.com/article/vote-for-project-of-the-week-will-it-be-of-by-for-brainwashing-horror-or-water

 

Atheism as Social Justice

Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities.

Sarah Jones wrote a post yesterday about why, despite the fact that she’s an atheist, she is not a secular activist.  This made me think long and hard about how our movement receives wonderful activists who agree with us on the God question, and how we sell what our movement is doing.  I have a lot of problems with the atheist movement, and I’ve struggled with engaging with it recently. The level of hostility towards women and hatred for the social justice framework, especially online, makes it really unappealing at times, and almost always exhausting.  But Sarah, sort of ironically, reminded me that I got involved with atheism because of the social justice imperative.

Sarah says:

I care more about social justice than I do about atheism, and I think a person can be a strong ally for social justice causes without being an atheist. Your belief in God matters less to me than your position on gender equality. I don’t strive for a godless world. I would rather see a world defined by respect and tolerance than by spirituality or the lack thereof.

I very much respect Sarah’s greater interest in gender equality and agree with her that respect is a better goal than ending all theistic leanings.  She also has an interest in social justice in the south (particularly Appalachia), which is also close to my heart.  And there is nothing about being an atheist and an activist means you have to be an atheist activist, there’s a lot of causes that are worthy.  If you are someone who cares a lot about equity, racial and gender justice, and you don’t see religion as the primary root of these problems (which I do not), addressing individual issues nothing directly to do with atheism might be more appealing or important to you.  So I have no problem with Sarah’s choice of focus and I think it’s got nothing to do with how secular/atheist she is, and anyone who accuses her of being not atheist enough is being absurd.  And I think it’s a shame that she, justifiably, feels the need to define herself against atheism as a movement.  But I need to push back against the idea that social justice does not or cannot include atheism as a cause.  (The rest of this is not about Sarah, just inspired by her post.)

Atheist equality is very much a social justice cause.

Atheists are not treated as equals in the US.  I know that for my friends and colleagues in various causes I’m invested in, especially those who live in blue areas and big cities, this isn’t always as transparent as it is to those of us from rural, red, or very religious areas.  The amount of social isolation and judgment the non-religious face is shocking.  We are the most reviled group in the US, below Muslims and gay people, on par with rapists.  There’s a reason we borrow the term “coming out” to describe letting people know our non-religious status — because there’s a lot stigma involved in the label and family, work, and social strife comes with openness.

Religious people get special tax consideration. You functionally have to claim religion to be elected to public office.  There are states (including my own) with unconstitutional and unenforcible laws on the books to prevent atheists from holding public office as small as public notary.  We have prisons where only Bibles are allowed as reading material (also South Carolina).  Under God in the pledge, God on the money, court mandated religious drug/alcohol treatment, child custody being determined against non-religious parents because they’re necessarily seen as immoral, discrimination and forced religious events in the armed services, religion being pushed into public schools, inability for non-religious to get credentialed to perform marriages or funerals, and it goes on in ways big and small.

There are a lot of places in the US where it really sucks to be an atheist.  Where your boss will fire you if he finds out.  Where you can’t get jobs if it’s known.  This is not oppression olympics, a lot of people have it worse.  And it’s much harder when you are on the receiving end of multiple systems of oppression.  But a truly intersectional examination of these systems of oppression reveals religion as an important source of injustice, socially, politically, and legally and atheists as victims of the cultural majority.  I think a lot of the anger in the movement is drawn from feeling disenfranchised because of minority status and the evangelism comes partially from wanting people to also be “freed from the shackles of religion” but also so that there are more people like you to be around.

But the resistance to unfairness that drove me to fight for LGBT issues, to fight for women’s rights, to fight racial injustice, to fight economic injustice, to work for progressive causes, to work in reproductive justice, is the same drive that brought me to atheism and keeps me here, despite the high level of pushback from a vocal minority in the movement who are more interested in being mean and boundary policing than effecting change.  I can’t blame anyone for leaving, I can’t promise never to leave myself, but it’s good to know why I am here.