DBAD Follow Up

Why do I suddenly have the urge to build a giant phallus out of straw? - Tracy

I am getting a fair amount of attention from the skeptic community for my post about Phil Plait’s Don’t Be A Dick Speech.  I don’t really have much more to say than what I said originally.

The really funny thing about this debate is that I suspect the only thing anyone actually disagrees on is whether Phil Plait was clear enough in his definition of dick.  Everyone thinks that being nice to people when you’re trying to change their minds is appropriate, and everyone thinks that being a funny asshole about ideas and to Kent Hovind is appropriate.  It’s just that the Dick Proponents, where I’ve found myself along with PZ and Dawkins, think that Phil should have been clearer about what he thought was appropriate or not, and the Dick Haters think Phil’s point was self-evident and everyone should be able to intuit his exact meaning.

Basically the Dick Proponents would like some evidence, examples and clarifications, and the Dick Haters take it on faith that Phil meant what they think he meant.  Hmm.


I agree with Greta Christina, let firebrands be firebrands, let the diplomats be diplomats.

Phil Plait Says Don’t Be A Dick

OK, so, Mr. Plait, who I am told is normally super super awesome and does genuinely seem like a nice guy, really irritated the shit out of me during TAM. And I say this with as much respect as possible and I acknowledge that this is my first exposure to him, and that people who know him and his work took what he was saying a bit differently than did I. He was basically saying that skeptics have a tone problem and more flies with honey and stop being assholes.

My level of being incredibly irritated with him for trying to be the Skeptic Tone Police has subsided a bit, partially because I think he didn’t mean it the way he said it. I think he was using general language because his argument was a little sloppy, not because he genuinely thinks no one should ever raise their voice in angry disagreement. To me, however, it sounded like he was saying “Christopher Hitchens, PZed and Dawkins have all got to stop being so strident and angry and dickish. Why can’t we all just get along?” But, apparently he was saying “The JREF forums are fucking hellish”. But I don’t read the JREF forums, so I wouldn’t know.

I agree that, generally speaking, you should be nice to someone you’re trying to convince if you’re having an argument with them to convince them. But, and this is important, that’s not the only reason you have arguments. Sometimes it’s to convince everyone else that you’re right, regardless of what the other person thinks. The internet is an amazing place where your arguments are all public. Sometimes humiliating someone who has a stupid point of view has the effect of convincing everyone else that you are right. Particularly if you can do it in a hilarious way. Hitchens made me OK with self-identifying atheist simply because he was such a hilariously snobby jerkface.

The entire speech was somewhat patronizing — here’s daddy figure Phil Plait telling us all to mind our Ps and Qs and not be so abrasive because daddy doesn’t like that. Pissed me off something hardcore having to sit through him lecturing me about being too mean to people. I felt the same way in a thread over on Pharyngula where people were saying women didn’t like how abrasive the skeptics/atheists are. It’s not true, I love it, it’s entertaining, it’s informative, it’s fun. I’m not a weak little girl, daddy doesn’t get to tell me to play nice with others.

And the fact is most of the people he’s talking about are people who are incredibly nice, polite and respectful in person. He’s got a problem with their online behavior. And frankly, it’s the fucking internet, that’s how people are and to fucking yell at a bunch of people who are really into the same thing you are because you don’t like the tone they take is a bit much.

AND I take issue with him treating skepticism as something we should be in charge of proselytizing. If I want to have an angry discussion about people hacking off little girls privates and be a complete dick to anyone who disagrees with me, I get to do that. Will that change people’s minds, I dunno, but it’s my way of dealing with the information and skepticism isn’t some fucking religion that has rules. His speech, more than anything, makes me a bit reticent to call myself a skeptic rather than an atheist because it makes me think he wants it to be treated as a religion, and that makes me very squeamish.

I know that this wasn’t the first skeptic event for most of the people in the crowd, but it basically was for me… and now I’m quite skeptical of this whole “Skeptic Movement”. I’m an uppity ginger, and I’m not joining any “movement” that tells me that who I am is not OK.

And, as I said, I don’t think that that was what he intended, I suspect it was at least partially him venting about behavior he witnesses online, and, as he doesn’t know me, I’m 80% sure it was not intended as a personal affront. Which is good, because then he’d be guilty of the behavior he’s denouncing. And probably he didn’t mean it was never OK to raise your voice in a crowded room, but that’s sure what it sounded like to me.

Your Friendly Next Door Atheist, Please Don’t Evict Me

My apartment building has new project managers, who also happen to live next door to me. They are a very young, blonde couple with two very young blonde children. They are incredibly polite, though I do hear their baby crying all the time.

They are, of course, god-botherers, having moved in here while he goes to seminary. I feel both good and bad that my radar skills are so honed that I knew he was a seminarian long before he told me (and the rest of the apartment building) through a letter to everyone. I suppose it must be difficult being a priest because you can’t say what you do without saying what you believe, and therefore implying what you think about people who believe differently.

Perhaps it’s overly paranoid of me, but I worry that there’ll be some prejudice against me should he find out I am not into the Jeezy Creezy, and as he is in a position of authority it’s one of those :/ things. Plus his kids are cute, I’d hate for him to be like, “Stay away from the evil monster lady next door.” On the other hand, priest types are usually more interested in conversations with the non-believer than the average Christianist, I think they think it hones their skills.

Slightly related to this is something that came out about Elena Kagan recently — she supported a landlady’s right to refuse to rent to an unwed couple on religious grounds, despite the Fair Housing Act. This is one of those ideals versus real life problems — ideally people would be free to discriminate and the free market would prove that they don’t do well and no one would want to discriminate anyway, but in the real world, you have to balance rights — which is more important the right to housing or the right to discriminate? Maslow has some thoughts on this, but basically my right to resources offered to the public trumps your right to refuse me those services because you don’t like me.

Also today, the guy at the 7/11 near where I work let me get $10 in quarters. Maybe he’d have done this for anyone, but I’m going to say it’s because I’ve made a real effort to talk World Cup with the people in the 7/11, even though they can be somewhat difficult to understand, and I’m always very nice to them. I have a weird psychological need to get along well with all the people who do jobs I would hate to do.

I’m thinking about going to TAM for just one day, which would be 175 instead of 450. Have to figure out work situation first, but it could be cool. Penn&Teller have cancelled and I’d miss Adam Savage, but I would see Randi and Dawkins. And I’d get to, you know, be there.

The Internet is Amaz!ng

There is a really cool convention in Las Vegas every year hosted by James Randi, The Amaz!ng Meeting aka TAM.  It is not, however, the cheapest thing in the world.  Registration costs $450 and a room for three nights would be $250 (not really that bad), which brings it to $700 upfront costs.  Also, two days of lost work, gas, and eating out of town.  And if I had an extra $1000 I could eat dinner with James Randi and Richard Dawkins.

Obviously, I don’t have an extra thousand.  I don’t even have the first thousand to go to TAM in the first place.  Suddenly, $50 to eat dinner with PZ Myers makes him seem like kind of a cheap date.

Anyway, I was bemoaning this yesterday, being in a particularly bad mood thanks to a migraine, and Jen “inventor of Boobquake” McCreight over at Blag Hag ended up bemoaning her own inability to pay for it.  Made even worse in her case in that she was invited to speak, but JREF doesn’t cover speaker’s registration, travel, or hotel expenses.  In 8 hours, she raised $1500 dollars.  That’s insane!

Suffice to say I am jealous and astounded, probably in that order.  Because, in addition to Dawkins and Randi, who are both pretty much 10s on the awesome scale, there will also be Penn&Teller and Adam Savage, all of whom are probably 11s.