Thoughts on Life of Pi »« American Atheists Convention 2013 recap: Sunday evening

AACon13: An object lesson in building communities

I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to share my experience of the convention with people. I figure that even if few people read them, I’d like to look back at these posts in a few years and remember how enjoyable it was. In case you missed some, here are the recaps of:

In case it wasn’t obvious from those four posts, I had an amazing time. I don’t regularly get the opportunity to travel out of town for these conventions, and it was kind of American Atheists to host this particularly enormous event in my home town. I loved the speakers, but just getting to meet and swap stories with people who have influenced me or been influenced by me, was really enjoyable.

[...]

Jerry DeWitt’s Sunday “sermon” probably captured the spirit of the convention better than anything else. If we don’t have a God to answer to, if we don’t have an afterlife to look forward to, then what do we atheists have? We have each other. We have our friends, our supporters, our networks, and our loved ones… all of which elevate us above anything we can accomplish individually.

Attentive readers will have noticed that quite a lot of the speakers I described touched on the inclusiveness of women and minorities as an important theme in their talks. On Friday, Richard Carrier. On Saturday, the panel with Beth, Amy, Greta, and Ophelia. On Sunday, Ophelia’s solo talk, then Cristina Rad, then the Godless Bitches. I got at least some amount of contact with all those people this weekend, they’re all fine individuals, and I agree with what they’re saying. The crowd of people who were attending, almost universally enjoyed their contributions.

Many people who were not attending, however, seemed not to.

On Friday Ophelia posted:  “Brilliant – the #AAcon13 hashtag is being invaded by harassers. A lot. Good thinking! Way to demonstrate to a whole bunch of new people just what we’ve been talking about!” #AAcon13 was the official Twitter hashtag of the conference; since not every reader uses Twitter, a brief explanation is that if you post about the convention, you are supposed to include the tag in your post; then readers who are interested in convention-related tweets can search for the tag and find relevant posts.

In this case though, they manage to find a lot of angry people who were less interested in talking about the convention than insulting the people on the panels. While Matt Dillahunty was giving his advice about being rational and skeptical, apparently the Twitter feed was being flooded with dozens of messages like this one:

First up, skepticism of feminism which is attempting to usurp the atheist/skeptic communities. #aacon13

Comparing median incomes of men and women with no controls and calling pay gap- so #skepticial [link to an old blog post] … #aacon13

“An Open Plea to Advocates of Atheism Plus, Apologize and Then Start Over” [blog link] #aacon13 #atheismplus

These tweets were connected to Matt’s talk only by the slimmest of threads, did not reference his content at all, and were mainly used as an excuse to complain about other gripes the posters had had with him in the past.

I met Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism at the convention and have begun following his blog. He had to leave early and posted this:

Adam Lee:
Off to the airport. Sorry I have to leave early, but thanks for all the fun! #aacon13

This was followed up a few minutes later by an apparent parody tweeter who has nothing better to do than watch his twitter feed and post this:

Adam Wee:
Got to go to the airport now! Try not to rape anyone, as per the con policy. #AACon13

The weirdest moment of all, to me, was when my first recap post, full of pictures I had taken, got called out in this odd hashtag reference war, with the following explanation:

It’s against #aacon13 policy to have electronic devices on during talks…but who knows, with all those pics out there…

I just find it funny that the #FreethoughtBlogs people don’t bother to follow their own policies. #aacon13 #Atheismplus

It’s all posturing, apparently…or a horribly written conference policy no one cares about. How can the women be safe? #aacon13

Yeah, I thought #FreethoughtBlogs cared about da womenz! Don’t they care about da womenz? #aacon13 #Atheismplus

There was, indeed, a policy mentioning that cell phones should be turned off; but it was pretty obviously a matter of “please don’t let your ringer go off during the talks so you don’t bother people.” Having caught these complaints, Matt Dillahunty alerted me to the issue, and then took all of five minutes to check in with the conference organizers, who immediately posted this clarification:

@AmericanAtheist: Attn #AAcon13: Wrt electronics policy: Video rec is not permitted. Still photos = yes. Live tweeting = ENCOURAGED. NO CELL PHONES RINGING.

So I guess I got out of being kicked out that time. Whew!

What’s weird about all this is that obviously the tweeters weren’t genuinely concerned that I might be disrupting the conference. They were trying to call out the perceived “hypocrisy” of having and enforcing any kind of code of conduct whatsoever. American Atheists was among the first groups to write up an anti-harassment policy, and a lot of people complained that such policies are pointless, unnecessary, and restrictive. I heard a lot of discussion about how the policies implied that no one at a convention is ever allowed to have sex with anyone, even their own spouses.

This kind of rules lawyering is pretty funny when you think about it. The intent of having convention rules is to make sure that people are comfortable and having a good time, and to cover the possibility that there might be obnoxious pests who ruin other people’s experience. They are written by humans, so they are subject to errors; but they are also enforced by humans, who are usually competent enough not to kick someone out of a building for violating the letter of the law without causing real problems. So that was interesting.

I mentioned earlier that I had an enjoyable discussion with Dan Fincke; we were hanging out by the second floor railing, but at one point we were rudely interrupted by some guy I never saw before. He strode up to us, said he was looking for Matt Dillahunty but I’d do as a substitute, and then asked “Do you know if Matt regrets his misguided support for Atheism Plus?”

“No, he doesn’t,” I answered.

“That’s interesting, because he talked about being RATIONAL earlier, but he doesn’t understand how feminism is ruining the atheist movement, and that’s not very rational.”

I rolled my eyes and said “Excuse me, I was in the middle of a conversation with this guy here. Go away, please.”

He did go away, shouting over his shoulder, “That’s what they all tell me! You all avoid facing the truth!”

A few hours later, when Beth, Greta, Amy, and Ophelia were speaking at a scheduled women’s panel, Paul Cooper — president of the Texas Freethought Convention — took a photo of the stage and posted it on Facebook. Within minutes a stranger had posted: “lol the single worst group of individuals that hijacked the title of atheism to spew their venom…”

Paul replied: “Hi, please elaborate.”

He didn’t elaborate. So I posted, “Perhaps he is intentionally providing an ironic avant-garde demonstration of what they have been talking about for the last hour.” …and that was pretty much the end of it.


On an individual basis, these incidents I mention are trivial. They mostly don’t amount to anything like harassment or attacks. They are, however, part of a disappointing pattern which I feel runs counter to the spirit of the convention. Richard Carrier’s talk on Friday was generally well-received. He talked about genuine examples of harassment that had occurred online, receiving a lot of gasps at the appropriate times, nods and smiles at his largely positive message, and a standing ovation when he was finished. Later it went up on YouTube, and a few days after that it was discovered by hundreds of people who didn’t attend the convention, who moved to give it “thumbs down.”

In my view, this kind of behavior is not only disruptive to community building, but it’s also damaging and discouraging of participation from new people. When people are interested in following news about the convention via outlets like Twitter, the link spam comes across as confusing. If they choose to participate in the conversations, they often find themselves under attack from strangers. For all the claims of those who participate that they are worried that the movement is being “damaged”, they are choosing to highlight their claims via immature and disruptive behavior; not because they themselves are being harmed, but simply because they have an ideological bone to pick.

I don’t enjoy writing about this sort of behavior. I realize that some view it as venting division and conflict within atheist groups. In fact, I had a conversation about exactly this with Amy Roth last Sunday. We chatted about my approach when writing my recent post for Skepchick, and then I said that it’s frustrating and energy draining to have to deal with these issues, and much easier to just grit my teeth and ignore it.

And Amy said, in a nutshell… I should suck it up. She’s blunt like that, and I appreciate it about her. I have friends who don’t always have the luxury of ignoring it and moving on. People I talk to regularly with online, people I see every week, people I’ve met and shaken hands with and hugged at the convention. Many of them are going to be scorned, ridiculed for being women, photoshopped on naked pictures, or have people regularly responding to serious posts by talking about their looks or fuckability, or lack thereof. I don’t want those people to be intimidated or chased out of the community, and I think we should all take a little time to stand up for being decent to each other.

Comments

  1. JE Hoyes says

    I think the way to handle criticism is to engage with it and patiently give the counter-argument. That is the skeptical way of dealing with feedback, both positive and negative. Dealing elegantly and eloquently with naysayers is much better than ignoring them or becoming too impassioned by them. As much as I agree that women have had, and are still having, a raw deal out of our societal constructs, I also believe that keeping an open mind to hear dissent – even if we then dispute it and win our arguments – is as important. Otherwise, you just end up becoming protectionist and defensive without understanding what you are fighting for or against. I want to hear the dissent. I want to know what people think – even the dimwits because they are the ones who need to be engaged with the most.

    • Buzz Parsec says

      “I think the way to handle criticism is to …”

      You are probably right, but criticism is an organized series of arguments, based on facts, logic and counterexamples, intended to dispute a position or argument made by another person. I don’t see where that enters into the current conversation. The tweets cited are not criticism. They range from vague, unsupported non sequiturs to whining, ad hominem attacks, slurs and threats. Patiently providing counterarguments to bullies? Useless. The best you can hope for is that they get bored and wander off to find another victim to abuse. That doesn’t help.

      • JE Hoyes says

        It all needs addressing, no matter how trivial it might seem. My main point is, I don’t want to live in a filter bubble. I want to be in open ground.

        • Kazim says

          No. Seriously. Not everything needs “addressing.” Very often it needs calling out, ridicule, and moving on to more productive conversations. You can have your talkorigins as a resource to explain how evolution works and what’s wrong with creationist arguments, but it is NOT YOUR JOB to patiently explain to each and every creationist what they don’t understand about science, in the hopes that they will eventually see reason. Human interactions don’t work like that, and I think it is incredibly naive of you when you make this claim. There is a reason we often simply hang up on people instead of letting them monopolize the entire hour.

          • JE Hoyes says

            Okay, then most of it needs addressing (if you prefer). How we choose to do that, and at what level depends on the circumstances but I think that the snarky remark & low level stuff that some people find intimidating needs addressing not simply ignored or swept under the carpet. And sheltering people from the petty snarkiness can do them more harm than good in the long run. We can mute it or block it at source but I think that can make it more hostile and there’s a danger that people who are being protected can become infantalized or targeted more. There could be a case for everyone to sweat the small stuff to avoid it becoming a larger problem. But, I see that you disagree with me completely. That’s fine. I’m just glad to have the discussion and I think I’ve made my point.

          • Kazim says

            Okay, then most of it needs addressing (if you prefer)

            All right, fine, let’s see your tactical acumen in action.

            “Adam Wee: Got to go to the airport now! Try not to rape anyone, as per the con policy. #AACon13″

            Which part of this needs addressing through a logical argument?

            “lol the single worst group of individuals that hijacked the title of atheism to spew their venom…”

            Which part of this needs addressing through a logical argument?

            Which part of “Photoshopping Ophelia Benson’s head onto a goat, with a word balloon saying ‘I am a bad blogger’” needs addressing through a logical argument?

            Dazzle us all with your ability to charm and reason with people.

          • JE Hoyes says

            Are you saying that you personally don’t want to address the comments that don’t relate to you but that you find offensive? Or do you simply want to filter them out for every one as a kind of blanket protection? Or do you have a different solution?

    • changerofbits says

      I nominate JE Hoyes to be the official person responsible for reaching out to the misguided people, who by happenstance, have found themselves stuck in this abrasive social construct of misogyny. I think a good start would be posting a cordial, reasoned reply after each instance of misogyny found on the internet (text, photoshop, video, podcast or otherwise). There will be some work to do as we need to make sure each post-elevatorgate infraction is dealt with. I suggest compiling a list of stock responses that can be applied to like infractions (such as “I’m having some trouble extracting the assertion you are attempting to make amidst the various adjectives used to describe the subject. Could you please clarify why ____ is a ____?” or “I’m having trouble identifying the person due to the array of phalli covering their face. Could you elaborate on which memes you’re contrasting with this work?”). Of course, this would only be the start. Each post would obviously include email, FB, Twitter info to contact you, but should the person reply on the same forum/site/thread, a follow up post should be made to move the discussion to a less public venue such as email or Skype video call. Should that fail, then I think we could pull together the funds to arrange in person meetings at a coffee shop or diner close to where the poor soul lives to make a personal appeal to give up their errant ways. I believe… No, I know for a fact, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this is the only way to deal with this unfortunate situation. Godspeed to you sir, may the force be with you!

      • JE Hoyes says

        Thanks for the endorsement, changerofbits. If you feel unable to deal with people with whom you disagree then you have my permission to opt out of the scheme (They also serve who only stand and wait). If you would like to opt back in, please respond to this comment and we can carry on discussing the issue. To help you to refocus on my central point: my issue is that I want people to have the right to free speech even if their speech offends me or someone else. And, I also think that this freedom of speech includes people being offended and voicing their opinion about that.

        • changerofbits says

          I do tend to ignore those who are purposely being foul and focus my energy on those who at least express a glimmer of intellectual honesty on the subject. It can be hard to crack through the shell of unreasonableness that has calcified around this cyst of misogyny. I completely agree that countering offensive speech with reasoned, logical speech is the answer (lest we give up our freedom of expression to the tyranny of blasphemy or sedition laws). Let every hate filled ranter and photoshopping rabble-rouser know that a steady stream of well intended rational discussion is headed your way. Live long and prosper my good fellow, I shall join the chorus of logical discussion with every minute I can spare!

        • AmyC says

          “I want people to have the right to free speech”

          FREEZE PEACH!!!

          This issue has nothing to do with free speech. If you’ll notice, nobody is calling for the government to swoop in and limit what these people say. Nice try though.

          • changerofbits says

            *looks around the thread*

            Ok, I think JE Hoyes is gone now.

            I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems like we can almost predict that any engaging with these tone/approach concern trolls, at their level, will end up with a “formerly fluid prunus persica” non sequitur as a justification for limiting (silencing) how we should deal with the misogyny that pervades our lives. There’s a parallel with the anti-marriage equality “debate”: “feminism” is to “taking away free speech” as “marriage equality” is to “bad for the children”. IT DOESN’T FRAKING FOLLOW!!!

        • JE Hoyes says

          I’m truly interested, Kazim. What was your final decision about how you intend to deal with your horde of rude, obnoxious misogynists? You made a post that seemed to bemoan your plight having to deal with them. I offered a possible way forward for you. I don’t have a problem with misogynists breathing down my neck making snarky tweets I’ve been there, done that, overcome it. But – be my guest – continue to moan about your unhappy lot. Sorry I couldn’t help in any way.

          • Kazim says

            You can refer to it as moaning if you want; I refer to it as calling out the behavior. I drew attention to it so that those who care about having a robust atheist community are aware that this stuff was going on.

            What to do about people who harass others on Twitter, post childish responses or sexualize them? Express contempt for the behavior, marginalize them, make sure they don’t harbor any illusions that their angry, childish outburst will ever be a part of the mainstream movement. Block the posters on an individual basis if they get too obsessed with trying to get your goat. Keep them from chasing away decent people who want to get involved. That’s what you do.

            You might just as well ask “What are you doing to change Fred Phelps’ mind and bring him into the skeptic movement?” Nothing. I’d rather use the example of Phelps as a recruiting tool and an object of ridicule.

          • JE Hoyes says

            Well thanks for clearing that up Kazim, feel free to moan all you like and let me know if my input is not required; I was just trying to be constructive. Can I add to your list of options? That we: try not to get too heated about other people’s behaviour (don’t take it personally); avoid invective (that’s a personal preference); provide good articulate responses to them in our own style and; offer the antagonist a “golden bridge” (Sun Tzu: “The Art of War”) so we don’t paint them into a corner – a cornered rat is often a vicious rat. So, no matter how obnoxious someone is, if we can stomach it (and they’re not armed), we can find a way to tackle their anger by targeting their issues rather than them as people. I think my method is not to attack or defend but to parley.

          • Kazim says

            And again, godspeed with your mission. You seem perfectly content to snipe at me for “moaning”, but all I’m saying is knock yourself out. Go to the Slyme Pit and parley all you want. I’m not stopping you.

          • says

            I apologize if you think I was sniping, that was unintentional – I think you might have read more emphasis into my words than I intended. Perhaps I should have used a different word… like “complaining”. You complained, I empathized and offered help and you rejected it. I hope you find a way to deal with your situation at conferences and on line – sorry I couldn’t help.

          • says

            “When your opponents are unethical by nature, parleying probably won’t have the effect you hope.”

            Possibly, Martin. But I like to hope that education is the key to so many situations of ignorance and arrogance. And, without basic information, we don’t have the material to find which key might unlock someone’s ignorance or arrogance. We could liken it to the analogy of dogmatic theists who stick their fingers in their ears and continue quoting from their rule book without listening to any contrary view. Without listening, we don’t test our rules. And rules always need testing – the human species evolves its codes; they aren’t static, we’re not even all on the same page let alone using the same rule book.

            I hold a fairly unpopular view, I know, in that I want to raise the inner strengths & consciousness levels of “victims” and “villains” alike; Bearing in mind that we can all flow back and forth between those groups, I think both groups need constructive help rather than giving palliative care to the victim whilst vilifying their tormentor – I think that leads to the status quo that we have now, which isn’t moving anyone forward. I’m pretty convinced that both bully and bullied need a similar level of understanding.

          • says

            It’s not that we’re unsympathetic to your point of view, it’s just that we’ve been dealing with this particular set of thuggish idiots for a while now, and are aware that there’s pretty much no interest on their part of behaving like grown-ups and meeting us halfway on the whole “understanding” thing. If someone does not wish understanding, there’s little you can do.

          • Kazim says

            Thanks Martin, I hadn’t seen that post and it is well said. Stephanie’s conclusion is “speak up and say, this is not the behavior I want anywhere near me.” It is not, “Invite the trolls to further express and elaborate on their grievances, and try to sympathetically bring them around to be nicer.

            Also, “we are not trolls’ parents, and these trolls are not small children.”

          • AmyC says

            “Perhaps I should have used a different word… like “complaining”. You complained, I empathized and offered help and you rejected it.”

            I call bullshit on this. Saying a person pointing out problems is “moaning” is very demeaning. Demeaning a person for pointing out these problems (and the fact that dealing with it can be tiresome) is not empathetic. You can’t come onto a forum, insult a person and then try to claim you were “empathizing” with them.

        • changerofbits says

          Popcorn??? Brilliant! There could be nothing better than invoking the Pavlovian response of opening a mind to a roughly 90 minute ride through the rational arguments that show clearly how dealing constructively with all our fellow humans is essential to a functional society. Maybe we could even develop some hologram or 3D based interactive media that can step through some of the less obvious examples of how misogyny creeps into seemingly innocuous daily interactions. Are there any takers for this crucial work?

    • DW says

      There are a bunch of a recent posts on this topic of engaging vs. not engaging by the always excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates, a regular writer for The Atlantic:

      http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/04/against-the-conversation-on-race/274855/
      http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/against-the-conversation-cont/274887/

      He’s talking about racism rather than sexism, but the point is the same. You can’t have a conversation about sexism in Atheist communities when one side will not acknowledge the existence of sexism in Atheist communities.

    • FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

      This insistence on unemotional debate is a bog standard silencing tactic. Buying into it gives the person who isn’t being oppressed, harassed or otherwise subjected to bigotry a huge advantage. It’s much easier to remain unemotional when one isn’t being personally harmed.

      So fuck that. I do not choose to allow these wannbe-Vulcan bigots to define the parameters of our interactions.

      And fuck giving up the full range of my vocabulary. So long as I make a rational, evidence based argument I can and will choose whatever goddamn words I deem best fits my position and emotional state.

      I will not pretend to be calm when I’m not.

      I will not pretend to be dispassionate when I’m not.

      And I will flat out fucking refuse to pretend that these issues are some dry intellectual game that does not effect anyone emotionally.

      I will feed the trolls a diet of the finest snark, sarcasm and scorn I can muster with a garnish of rancorous words; may the lot of them choke on it.

  2. says

    “That’s what they all tell me!”

    If he is getting that message from “all” of “they”- that’s a cue to any rational person to rethink their position. As to the rest, I am flabbergasted at what these things devolve into. There’s no god to be accountable to, but we still have to answer to ourselves… and, like it or not, be an example to the rest of the world.

  3. says

    J.E. Hoyes

    1. You have the luxury of patient (and utterly pointless) counter-argument? Then head over to the slymepit and spend your spare time dissenting with them. Come back in a month or so and tell us how that went.
    2. You condescending ass, I know what I’m fighting for: my right to be treated as a human being.

    I trust that’s eloquent and elegant enough for you.

    Russell

    Thanks for all your wrap up posts. I’ve been waiting for this one because you had said you were going to comment on the comedian’s routine and the audience reaction to it. What was the story with that?

    • JE Hoyes says

      I don’t go out of my way to engage with misogynists, Ibis3 (Lbsb), but if I am confronted by someone who is making a claim that is easy to disprove then I’d probably do it – particularly if I felt very strongly about it and even more so if I were a community leader or politically active. If you are “fighting” for your right to be treated as a human being, part of that fight is to engage with the misogynists and racists and deal with the issues rather than fleeing from them or becoming abusive. In the end, after name-calling and gunfire, we all have to sit around a table and work it out with our enemies.

      • says

        I don’t go out of my way to engage with misogynists

        Yes, but do misogynists go out of their way to engage with YOU? Clearly not or else you’d be making more useful suggestions because then you’d know what the fuck you’re talking about.

        • JE Hoyes says

          I’ve had my share of sexist and dogmatic comments and actions to deal with through my life. I’m interested, how would you deal with them? My choice is to call people out or ask for clarification when they make assertions that aren’t based in fact. Sometimes I’m surprised that someone can say something that I find illogical or inhumane and, after a discussion, I can find the kernel of their logic and humanity. I might even change my view slightly. I used to be quite a dogmatic feminist but I can see that basic humanism is a better way to combine all our rights, responsibilities and freedoms without fear or favour.

  4. says

    Oh, by the way,

    On an individual basis, these incidents I mention are trivial. They mostly don’t amount to anything like harassment or attacks.

    I have to disagree with you here, Russell. They do amount to (i.e. add up to) harassment: the creation of a hostile environment by employing a pattern of repeated microagressions. As you say, newcomers will be turned off, women will feel unwelcome in the community (I know I do), and intimidated or even merely dissuaded from active participation.

    • JE Hoyes says

      Haven’t you just contradicted yourself here? You tell me (in no uncertain terms) that we shouldn’t address the naysayers and now you suggest here that such “microaggressions” should be addressed. I must have misunderstood your earlier comment.

  5. says

    …he talked about being RATIONAL earlier, but he doesn’t understand how feminism is ruining the atheist movement, and that’s not very rational.

    Yeah, because every time I hear some basement-dwelling 35-year-old virgin whine about how feminism is “ruining the atheist movement,” I think, “By golly, I’ve never heard anything so RATIONAL in all my life.”

    • says

      By golly, you’re right! A person’s dwelling, age, and sexual experience are strong indicators of one’s rationality and the strength of one’s argument.

    • Edward Gemmer says

      Yeah I don’t get this. “Hey you man, you don’t know how to exploit women sexually! What a loser you are!”

      I like a good insult, but this type of thing just seems out of place in defending feminism.

      • says

        Well, if they wish to call women cunts who deserve to be raped to death, then I don’t mind calling them basement virgins, and at the end of the day, my insult is still the less mean-spirited and cruel one.

        • JE Hoyes says

          Your insult stigmatizes the wrong group by using an innocent virgin to equate with a misogynist is unfair to virgins who have not left home. Rather than insulting the misogynist, you insult the innocent virgin. It’s all mean-spirited. I already have a low opinion of the misogynist but, when we use insults, we start to lose the moral high ground.

          • says

            You can rest assured that in future, I will refrain from insulting misogynists, and treat them with all the deference and respect they deserve.

        • says

          I don’t see how you get from Russell’s description to your own, though I assume the “basement-dwelling 35-year-old virgin” comment isn’t meant literally, but rather to carelessly and stereotypically define an awkward, social loser. But if that portrayal weren’t demeaning enough, you’ve now associated him with, and accused him of, calling women, “cunts who deserve to be raped to death.”

          Perhaps you know much more about that guy than the rest of us do from this post. If so, you should consider sharing, because this is getting ugly.

    • eh says

      Even if there’s a correlation between the demographic you described (sure, less opportunity to mingle with the opposite sex can lead you to form unfortunate ideas and vice versa, unfortunate ideas can lead…) and knee-jerk reaction to feminism, I think the way you phrased it is problematic, Martin. A lot of men who have all sorts of sexual success with women hold vile views on them and at the same time, you stigmatize many men who are fine with women and feminism.

    • says

      It’s like getting the argument from theists that Evolution proves the Bible is right.

      All I can do is stand there and say, “W-w-w-w-what?”

      … it’s not as though they elaborate or anything.

          • JE Hoyes says

            Usually the conversation stops when the other person plays the faith card. Once that’s played it negates their attempt to apply a scientific method to their wishful thinking and then the conversation can move to more philosophical realms. I’ve not come across a Christian trying to use evolution to prove bible stories… I guess Roman Catholics must have to do that. Don’t they accept evolution?

          • says

            Sorry – I thought you were asking about the “Feminism is ruining atheism” crowd. Creationists will at least try to elaborate… unless it’s a drive-by proselytism.

        • Kazim says

          Have you ever tried asking a 9/11 truther to elaborate? Cause they’ll elaborate. For hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours.

          • JE Hoyes says

            I was talking about people who use faith as a backstop when their logic is shown to fail. Do 911 truthers have a faith backstop?

            I guess 911 truthers would only go on for hours and hours (rather than hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours) if you just agreed with them. Cross your fingers first though.

            You raise an interesting point Kazim. Maybe misoynists and 911 truthers and religious zealots have mental health issues in common. If so, the thing to do is have a whole load of printed business cards or flyers offering reputable psychiatric care or counselling sessions, which you can hand out to them when they start up. You could do that for anyone you disagree with if they go over the top with their conspiracy theories. That would be the caring thing to do.

  6. Kazim says

    Ibis, I decided to not devote blog front page space to Blair Scott’s act, because he’s a member of American Atheists and a friend of Matt’s. And really, the main problem with him was that he was a pretty clumsy comedian who didn’t know what he was doing. I wrote a letter to David Silverman about it, and he immediately wrote back “Thank you. Your opinion is shared by many.”

    I’ll give the main highlights:
    * Started off the set by saying something along the lines of “Black people, tell the white people it’s okay to laugh.” Basically saying, not only am I about to be racist, but I’d like to enlist the minority members of the audience to endorse my racism and say it’s okay. Then did some material that played off of fairly uninteresting stereotypes, i.e., “black people can’t swim.”
    * Spent several minutes about his notion that vaginas are disgusting, and rattled off a list of his favorite euphemisms for them, such as “meat curtains”. Joked about how all the single men at the con want to get laid, and the women have too many standards, and guys just want to see the “open for business sign.”
    * Referenced Richard Carrier’s talk in a closing “joke” that went something like “Just remember guys, don’t go to a feminist convention and say they’re all hot babes.” Seriously, that was his last line, which is traditionally supposed to be the funniest part of the set… and it wasn’t even particularly a joke.

    Numerous people walked out. There were laughs, however. I think that inasmuch as Matt spoke to Blair personally, and David is sympathetic to the concerns, it’s hopefully going to be a learning experience for him.

  7. Late For Dinner says

    Vacula’s rant about the “turn off phones” thing was a little whiny but I honestly didn’t know that it just meant turn off your ringers, most of the talks I go to are pretty strict about such things but the tweet from the conference made a pretty minor point very clear.

    My favorite parts of Carrier’s talk were the times he said that shouldn’t just talk about church/state issues and that atheists who find church/state issues boring could be attracted if more issues were covered. I hope this means that church/state issues will be relegated to “Bigfoot Atheists” while the bigger tent takes on internet trolling and the evils of the basement dwelling 35-year old virgin set, as Martin put it.

  8. Edward Gemmer says

    One suggestion. Just be friendly. Excessive anger and insults seem to drive this stuff. The atheist perpetual motion machine of hate.

    • Skeptical Atheist says

      Re: #8

      Another contributing factor driving the division within the atheist community is the money that individuals are making from it.

      • Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

        I know, right? Seeing those pictures of PZ and Ophelia behind the wheels of their Rolls Royces really grinds my gears.

      • says

        I keep hearing this. Who is making the big money out of atheism?

        Only a few. Richard Dawkins can command hefty lecture fees, as can a few people like Sam Harris. They’re building on a foundation of having best-selling books; being atheist is only one facet of their appeal. There’s a much larger middle tier of atheist public speakers, like me, and you know how much I make from it? Nothing. I even go slightly in the hole covering various travel expenses. Nobody in our category of speakers is making a profit off of this stuff.

        When people claim that it’s greedy people dividing the community to command those extravagant speaking fees, they’re full of shit. They don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. What’s dividing the community are gangs of lying idiots who fantasize about bags of imaginary money they’d get if only they could get a speaking slot at Regional Conference X, if only they had something intelligent to say.

  9. Philip May says

    I get the impression that many of the commenters ranting against Richard Carrier’s presentation would also object to American Atheists’ “Aims and Principles” which include the following:

    - “to encourage the development and public acceptance of a humane ethical system stressing the mutual sympathy, understanding, and interdependence of all people and the corresponding responsibility of each individual in relation to society;”
    - “to develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central and must itself be the source of strength, progress, and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity;”

    It was the above aims which made me decide to join American Atheists and to attend the convention. I wanted to be a part of an organization which recognized the need to explore morality and ethics independent of religious influence.

    Those who are objecting to a humanist and feminist approach to morality and ethics aren’t offering any organized alternative.

  10. Klangos says

    Another contributing factor driving the division within the atheist community is the money that individuals are making from it.

    I don’t suppose you’ve read several posts from PZ talking about generally not getting paid any more than expenses for these conferences? Not that I suppose facts matter much to you.

    On another note, I have to (yikes) agree with Gemmer – let’s not slam people for living with their parents or being virgins. Let’s slam their terrible arguments, lack of empathy and general cluelessness, without beating up on people who haven’t had sex too.

  11. Warp says

    Now that you have filled this month’s “poking at critics of feminism” quota, perhaps now you can start posting some actually interesting content.

    • Kazim says

      Now that you have fulfilled your lifetime’s “snarking at the post without offering any useful discussion” quota, perhaps now you can start posting interesting comments on other blogs.

    • AmyC says

      I never understand why people comment about a blogger posting about one thing the commenter might find uninteresting. I read the Friendly Atheist blog a lot. I tend to find the ones about billboards uninteresting. So I skip those blog entries. It’s not like anybody is forcing you to read the entry *and* comment about it.

  12. says

    If you are “fighting” for your right to be treated as a human being, part of that fight is to engage with the misogynists and racists and deal with the issues rather than fleeing from them or becoming abusive

    People keep saying this, but is there any actual precedent for that approach working? Most of the example of civil rights victories I can think of didn’t come from “sitting down at the table” with anyone – they involved repeated public demands to have rights recognized; they involved organization and public demonstration; they involved public shaming of those who stood in the way of progress. I honestly cannot think of an example where anything meaningful was accomplished by sitting down and persuading people out of their oppressive natures through reasoned argument.

    • says

      Everyone has a different approach for engaging issues like this. I typically use my Facebook page to voice my opinions on topics and encourage discussion. There are those (whether in agreement or not) who will engage in a healthy discussion. Then there are those who seem to be a total waste of my time; using the same old arguments over and over again. The latter usually get ignored, deleted, or blocked altogether.

      • says

        Right. My point is not about what tactics different individuals like to use. My point is about historical precedent about what has worked, at the movement level, and what hasn’t. JE Hoyes asserts that there has to be a conversation at some point in order to make progress – I have seen no evidence proffered for why that is a necessary case.

        • JE Hoyes says

          I’m also saying that some people are better placed to have those conversations by dint of their political standing and their debating skills. But all voices at different levels stand a greater chance of getting through than no voices at all. And, even if we’ve heard the same tired arguments over again (like with the William Lane Craig “does god exist?” debates), you just never know which person and which set of words will get through to that particular misogynist, racist or other dogmatic person. I have to hope that people can be educated out of ignorance and hate.

        • sika6061 says

          I have to partially disagree with your statement. I think in all civil rights movements, whether for African-Americans, Women, Hispanics/Latinos, etc. it has taken both elements to be successful. The radical element of a movement brings the energy and direction, and the more conservative element brings the endurance to stick through it for the long haul. Where would African-Americans be without Whitney Young, for example, who worked to develop relationships with white businessmen in order to bring African-Americans into corporate America? Here is a guy who really did “sit down at the table” with white politicians and business leaders, and by doing so, he made it possible for them to be hired into the almost entirely white corporate structure. I think developing relationships with people is important. It humanizes the situation and makes it less contentious. It’s harder to have an “us vs. them” mentality when you’ve got a face to attach to the situation – whatever it may be. My point being, you need both elements to make change happen.

          Now, in this instance, I am not sure how helpful it would be to engage with these guys – especially on the internet. I mean, the reason these guys do this kind of behavior on the internet is because it sheilds them from normal shaming tactics. I’ll bet most of these people wouldn’t say these kinds of things to someone’s face. There’s a certain amount of cowardice to this kind of thing. However, I’m not particularly ready to denounce JE Hoyes’ engagement tactics. Maybe he’s had success with this. You never know.

          • JE Hoyes says

            And by “engagement” I don’t just mean just full-on debate. If someone only feels capable of an off-hand put-down – that’s a form of engagement. I prefer a more adult approach rather than playing up or down to someone’s child so that’s how I would approach a confrontation (presuming no one is carrying a weapon). The more we can talk to people as sensible adults the more chance they will respond as adults rather than childish teenagers having an ego tantrum. My main point is that I don’t want someone else deciding for me if I’m adult enough to deal with a little, or a lot of, misogyny, tasteless jokes, sexism or inexperienced flirting. At my age, I’ve had to deal with a lot of all of that and it hasn’t made me run for the hills; I still push back when I have to and, sometimes sexist jokes are funny… In The Life of Brian, I laugh at the discussion about transexualism between “Loretta” and Reg of the Judean People’s Front – but it’s anti-lgbt on the face of it.

          • sika6061 says

            Okay, and now I don’t agree. There needs to be rules in a civilized society that we all agree to live by or face the consequences. Hence laws. If you want to spend your time arguing with trolls, who am I to stop you? However, in the workplace, in the public sphere, harrassment is not okay. I shouldn’t have to go to a convention or go to work and have to deal with misogynistic comments, sexist/racist/anti-lgbt jokes, etc. Those kind of attitudes have been shown time and time again to make it impossible for the people on the receiving end to get ahead – whether that be in the workplace or the atheist community. If we decide as a community that we don’t want people to feel marginalized, and we want a diverse community, then we need to demonize certain codes of conduct that do not achieve those aims. If people want to show their colors on the internet, there isn’t much to stop them. That’s why they do it. If we as a community want to include other groups besides hetero-white-men, then we need to put policies in place so other groups don’t feel marginalized by poor behavior…as members of this particular conference did, and other community members have mentioned more than once.

    • JE Hoyes says

      Unless we hear from dissenters, we don’t fully understand their gripe. Obviously an argument can quickly descend into ad hominem attacks and worse, but I think bottling up aggression until it spills over is likely to make it worse in the long run. It’s going to be a messy, bloody, tiring, frustrating slog with trolls, fools and idiots but I think it has to be done. At the fiercer end of the scale, nothing was going to start getting better in Northern Ireland until politicians sat down with representatives of the IRA. And the same will be true of the Taliban. I Have a rough idea why some people get irrational when confronted by feminism but each person has their own reasons; the sooner their misgivings are dealt with rationally and fairly, the greater chance they will be turned away from a deeper, more abiding misogyny.

      • says

        Unless we hear from dissenters, we don’t fully understand their gripe

        And your contention is that the opinions of those who “dissent” are missing from the conversation?

        nothing was going to start getting better in Northern Ireland until politicians sat down with representatives of the IRA

        That happened at the end of a looooong process that used a variety of methods of persuasion (to put it in the most diplomatic terms possible). It’s not as though the Northern Irish had failed to make a compelling and rational case against occupation, it’s that the British had not been listening.

        the sooner their misgivings are dealt with rationally and fairly, the greater chance they will be turned away from a deeper, more abiding misogyny.

        Again, this is something that has been asserted many times. I have seen nothing by way of evidence that it is true. It is also not the case that people have failed to present rational and fair arguments against misogyny or other forms of bigotry. The world is awash with calm, patient explanations of the problem. People prefer to either ignore them or fail to seek them out in the first place or read them and then distort them for partisan reasons.

        To bring it back to this particular post:

        Many of them are going to be scorned, ridiculed for being women, photoshopped on naked pictures, or have people regularly responding to serious posts by talking about their looks or fuckability, or lack thereof.

        Your contention is that we have simply failed to rationally demonstrate to people that this kind of behaviour is not okay? Or that it’s just ‘a few bad apples’ that are doing this, but everyone else is on board but have just not had their hands held patiently enough?

        • JE Hoyes says

          I agree, it’s likely to be a long process. You asked for examples where diplomacy works – there are many historical precedents: relationship counselling, legal arbitration, mentoring, peace talks. It seems to me that much of Kazam’s post was bemoaning the problems of dealing with people who hold contrary and unpopular views and how he would prefer to ignore them but, I agree with Amy Roth, we have to suck it up and face the monster – no matter how draining, I’m not sure it will go away if it’s ignored, blocked or sworn at. Another strategy is to ridicule misogynists or find a way to shame them. It’s possible that misogyny is a mental disorder.

          • says

            Actually that is NOT what I asked for. I asked for examples of civil rights struggles where people have been persuaded out of their oppression. None of the examples you have provided so far support your contention that “In the end, after name-calling and gunfire, we all have to sit around a table and work it out with our enemies.” – that has not necessarily been the case historically. Oftentimes the enemies lose power without the need to confront them directly or work it out on a face-to-face basis, as was the case with overt white supremacists, men who wanted to deny women the vote, and homophobic fundamentalist pastors. In each of those cases, the correct strategy was not direct one-on-one debate in order to persuade people out of their bigotry – it was to make a consistent and persuasive case to the public.

          • JE Hoyes says

            The very democratic process (in the UK, at least,) includes debating in a chamber and analyzing issues in cabinet and committee. I would much rather use a democratic process than martyring people under king’s horses. It took a lot of martyrdom for women to gain the vote. But, on top of the headliner names, there were many people (not just women) who used debate, rallies, demonstrations, political pressure to make the point. I thought we were into winning hearts and minds. Hearts can be won through drama and minds can be changed with open discussion.

      • Kazim says

        You know, on our show we enjoy talking to fundamentalists. But we’re never under any illusions that we’re doing it for the fundamentalists’ benefit. People ask us “Why would you talk to them. They won’t change their minds.” Occasionally they do, but usually that is true.

        But the point of talking to extremists isn’t for their sake; it’s for the sake of the audience to show an example of bad arguments. And if they get too pushy, insulting, or unresponsive, we hang up. Yes, that can reinforce their beliefs that they “won” and have undefeatable arguments, but they would think that anyway, so what do we care? The point is to reach reasonable observers, and you don’t have to bang your head against a brick wall for an entire hour to meet that goal.

        • JE Hoyes says

          And yet, even fundamentalists can change. And, you’re right, one of the main points of the exchange is to demonstrate how good your own argument is to interested 3rd parties… people who aren’t so far down the road of misogyny or religious dogma. I can definitely see that it gets exasperating (I’ve been there myself with internet trolls and flamewars) but the information is the important element of the exchange not necessarily the personalities, although each person brings their own vitality and personality to the debate – therefore, all voices and reactions are useful – even when you feel the need to hang-up or time-out, that doesn’t actually end the debate it just ends that particular skirmish.

    • Edward Gemmer says

      Two examples of reducing bigotry by talking occur to me.

      1. In Ohio, state government is dominated by Republicans, who aren’t traditionally thought of as friendly to criminals and the poor. However, under their leadership, with great prodding by the Ohio Public Defender, they have passed two fairly comprehensive crime bills that have done many things, including update many of the laws and make it easier for juveniles to expunge delinquencies. I don’t recall anyone having demonstrations or namecalling to get these things done, but framing the conversation in terms of things Republicans value (like how much this stuff costs) can have great effect.

      2. Gay marriage has quickly become much more accepted and seems likely to be much more widespread (really widespread if the SCOTUS rules in our favor) in the U.S.. That effort has been due to huge efforts by a huge number of people, but if you could identify one person has being the biggest mover and shaker, a great case could be made for Ted Olson. He built up his conservative cred by working for Reagan and W, and was almost a hero to the Republican Party. The gay rights movement could have easily determined that he was to be publicly shamed for his actions and not be allowed to participate. Instead, he has led a pretty big effort to allow gay marriage not just through legal action, but also talking to conservatives and conservative groups and explaining his position. IMO, his involvement has led the way towards conservatives at least showing signs of dropping this fight. This would not have happened had chose to insult everyone who disagrees with him.

      • says

        This would not have happened had chose to insult everyone who disagrees with him.

        This is a ridiculous canard that I see repeated widely and uncritically without any basis in reality. There is no person who just blanket insults everyone who disagrees without providing a rational basis for their response. It is usually only after repeated demonstrations of arguing in bad faith (as I have seen you do multiple times, which is why you’re no longer welcome at my blog) that the insults start flowing. It is after that that people begin bawwing about how they’re being insulted for “disagreeing”.

        with great prodding by the Ohio Public Defender, they have passed two fairly comprehensive crime bills that have done many things

        An encouraging example, but only very tangentially related. You’re talking about the passage of a specific policy proposal, which is not really at issue here (except for the brief fracas over harassment policies at cons).

  13. says

    I’m really curious as to why the individual who interrupted your talk with Dan couldn’t find time to talk to me. I was there, everyday…all day and well into the night. I think I’m pretty recognizable and easy to find.

    No I don’t regret supporting Atheism+, and I still support the principles behind it. Why wouldn’t I?

    I don’t have anything to do with the forum (and a forum isn’t a movement)…but I also don’t have anything to do with (nor do I read) the comment section at PZ’s blog. I also don’t visit the Slymepit or pay much attention to YouTube comments or video replies…and I’m quick to shut down the most idiotic comments on twitter.

    I’ve pretty much decided to just keep working on the positive and let the gnats and haters yell at a closed door. The people who actually want to engage on the subject(s) are welcome to…and I’ve done it over and over and over.

    On a side note, Beth also mentioned that there were a few people who approached her about how they really wanted to talk to me, but were afraid to approach me. I had no idea I was so terrifying. :) Seriously, I know that I’m usually very busy at these things…but talk to almost anyone that I visited with and I think you’ll find there’s very little to be afraid of.

    • changerofbits says

      Well, there is also the fear of meeting/talking to/approaching somebody who has earned your respect. I think I’d have some butterflies given the chance to meet you (or any person from the show) in person. Something tells me that a person wanting to talk to you about how you’re not being rational to when you don’t accept that their alien abduction story really happened feminism is ruining the atheist movement, might have done the right thing by avoiding you.

  14. Edward Gemmer says

    This is a ridiculous canard that I see repeated widely and uncritically without any basis in reality.

    Ok. To put it a different way, you presented what you think are the best ways to effect change:

    1. “repeated public demands to have rights recognized”
    2. “they involved organization and public demonstration”
    3. they involved public shaming of those who stood in the way of progress.

    Then you said:

    “I honestly cannot think of an example where anything meaningful was accomplished by sitting down and persuading people out of their oppressive natures through reasoned argument.”

    Ted Olson has certainly been sitting down and trying to persuade people. His entire job is to sit down (or stand) and try to persuade people, and by and large he seems to be doing a good job. His job closely matches up with your first example, but I haven’t seen much evidence he organizes rallies or publicly shames anyone. In fact, if he did try to shame people, he would be much less effective. His effectiveness stems in part from him not shaming people, and instead treating them for what they are: people with whom he disagrees on a particular issue.

    An encouraging example, but only very tangentially related. You’re talking about the passage of a specific policy proposal, which is not really at issue here (except for the brief fracas over harassment policies at cons).

    Maybe it should be the issue. One problem that seems to lie at the root of all this kerfluffle is that it is difficult to pin down exactly what we are arguing about. “Social justice,” “feminism,” “humanism,” and many other ‘isms are pretty vague. I see a lot of vagueness in the movement – references to “progress” and “moving forward” but it can be tough to figure out what we are trying to progress to. Maybe a bit more concreteness would be a good thing.

    • says

      Maybe a bit more concreteness would be a good thing.

      In part, this is a reasonable suggestion. Some issues cannot be solved through specific policies; some can. The VRA didn’t solve political underrepresentation of blacks in the U.S., but it did remove a few significant barriers. The issue is that there are two parallel problems:

      1) attitudes about certain groups of people that marginalize them
      2) the behaviours that are informed by those attitudes

      Policies can only address #2. A sea change of opinion is required to address #1 (which will, in turn, affect #2). That is why it seems vague, because the problems are about things that go on in people’s heads, about which we obviously have far less evidence.

    • A Hermit says

      One problem that seems to lie at the root of all this kerfluffle is that it is difficult to pin down exactly what we are arguing about.

      I don’t know about that; it’s looked to me for a long time like there are some people who think that sexism is sometimes a problem in the atheist/skeptic community and some others who think that talking about sexism is the problem…

      I see some women saying they are sometimes subjected to dismissive and even insulting language and behaviour when they try to participate in this community and would like that to stop, a small but noisy group of people who call them bitches and cunts and tell them to shut up about it and another group of mostly clueless people who would like to pretend the problem is just rudeness and that both “sides” are equally bad.

      It’s not actually all that complicated.

  15. Edward Gemmer says

    1) attitudes about certain groups of people that marginalize them
    2) the behaviours that are informed by those attitudes

    Policies can only address #2. A sea change of opinion is required to address #1 (which will, in turn, affect #2). That is why it seems vague, because the problems are about things that go on in people’s heads, about which we obviously have far less evidence.

    I would agree with that a thousand percent. The laws and policies don’t necessarily reflect what people feel, and vice versa. Where I probably disagree is what our reactions from that should be. I’m not a huge fan of public shaming (once again: caveat, I represent criminals, I’m dissatisfied with the criminal justice system, and what is the criminal justice system but a gigantic codified public shame system?)

    But what I really don’t like about public shaming is that it penalizes honesty. A person may really be racist. They can drop a few hundred n-bombs and whatnot, and our response is to publicly shame them. No one likes to be shamed, so they can choose from a few options. The easiest option is to just not use the n-word anymore. They may still hate black people, but it’s a lot harder for others to detect when they aren’t using overtly racist language.

    Since we’ve removed the easiest way to identify racists, we look to other ways. Who are their friends? What is their political affiliation? What race are they? Like you said, we have less information, making the job harder to do. We start accusing people of being racists for all sorts of things. Maybe your a racist. Maybe I’m a racist. No one knows because it’s impossible to figure out. The racists don’t really care – they want to focus on things they want to focus on, and the easiest way to treat minority groups is to just ignore them entirely.

    This type of thinking leads us to where we are in the United States today – hardly anyone, and certainly no one in political power, would say or do anything overtly racist. It’s career suicide. Regardless, the poverty and incarceration rates of black people in the United States remain sky high. But because no one is a racist, no one really cares. Despite statistics clearly showing this is a racial issue, it’s ignored because, hey, we don’t want to do or say anything that someone could construe as racism. That would invite public shame.

    • sika6061 says

      And, more to a point, it would invite people to know something about themselves they would rather not talk about or acknowledge. Looking inwardly is something people would rather not do if they can help it, IMHO. I mean, look at all the hoopla with Obama. The media falls over backwards about the need to have a “race conversation” whenever something racial happens…(i.e. Reverand Wright, “The Birthers,” Trayvon Martin, etc.) but then so quickly change the subject before the conversation can really get going. Everyone gets their conversation, nothing of substance changes, THE END…Until the next “converstion” that is. It’s highly frustrating. Same thing with women’s issues or LGBT, etc. Everyone gets to hide in plain sight.

      It is a bit safer to know who your enemy is, I’ll admit. However, I think public shaming does have its place. Unarmed people holding hands while facing down attack dogs and policemen with high-pressured hoses can move mountains…Just sayin’.

  16. Edward Gemmer says

    Thanks Martin, I hadn’t seen that post and it is well said. Stephanie’s conclusion is “speak up and say, this is not the behavior I want anywhere near me.” It is not, “Invite the trolls to further express and elaborate on their grievances, and try to sympathetically bring them around to be nicer.

    Also, “we are not trolls’ parents, and these trolls are not small children.”

    I gotta say: it strikes me that if community building is the goal, referring to a bunch of people who would like to be in the community as “trolls” is the wrong way to go.

    • says

      It’s a strange way to show that you’d like to belong to a community by engaging in trollish personal attacks against people already in it and well-respected among their peers. (The emails and tweets several prominent women in atheism receive calling them “cunts” is rather stunning to behold, sometimes running to dozens per day.)

  17. Edward Gemmer says

    Maybe, but that wasn’t in any of the examples given in the post. Making too easy assumptions about people based on rudimentary knowledge – isn’t that the exact thing feminism (and social justice efforts in general) strive to stop? The theme seems to be the community would just grow if people who Kazim (or anyone) doesn’t like would just go away. Well, obviously. If everyone I didn’t like went away, things would be great for me too.

    But that’s kind of the laziest way to approach growing a community. To grow the community, you have to figure out ways to accommodate people you don’t like and who may be slightly different from you.

    • says

      Yah, you still don’t get it, Gemmer. For the community to grow, it’s actually essential that we stop tolerating anti-social behavior. It’s not about who anyone likes or doesn’t like. That’s a transparent lie on your part. It’s about there being no place for bigotry in any community that’s going to grow in a healthy way. That means excluding active bigots, and anyone who’s outraged enough at the exclusion of bigots to drop out because of it can leave to.

      • changerofbits says

        I’ve never thought of it this way, thanks Sally (good lord, my privilege is showing). Bigotry, by definition, is going to be exclusionary of entire groups of people that are the target. And, of all of the possible groups to bigoted toward, directing it a half of our species isn’t a rational strategy for growing the movement. Even the most cold-hearted, misanthropic, self serving asshat* of a misogynist would have trouble internally rationalizing that. Anything else would be setting up an de facto exclusionary club, which is what they accuse Atheism+ doing (while plugging their ears and screaming “la-la-la-la” while the goal of real equality for women is clearly explained to them).

        * I miss The Non Prophets :(

      • Edward Gemmer says

        I don’t understand this at all. If there were some definition of bigotry that was clear and easy to apply, maybe I could. However, clearly I’m considered a bigot, and nearly everyone I know is considered a bigot. I don’t see how excluding nearly the entire population is helpful to building the community.

        • DW says

          Hi Edward Gemmer,

          I read through this comment thread and nowhere are you called a bigot. Nowhere is it implied that you are considered a bigot or that everyone you know is. I really hope that is not your takeaway from this discussion. There has been strong disagreement in this comment thread, but just because people are arguing with your position does not mean they think you are engaging in bigotry.

          It’s easy to take things the wrong way on the internet because it is difficult to convey tone with just words. It is often unclear whether a comment is directed personally at you or to the broader readership. It looks to me like you are just a participant in a discussion, not a victim, and it would be a good idea to a take a step back and determine if these perceived attacks are actually real.

          • Edward Gemmer says

            Certainly, no one has called me a bigot in this thread. I should have been clearer. I’ve been banned from many atheist blogs and a handful from FtB (as have many). If the reasoning behind this is that we need to get rid of bigots, then I guess my point is (1) why am I a bigot and (2) why is the best approach to building the community to get rid of people like me. That sounds pretty egotistical, so I’m trying to ask it in a broader context – is excluding wide swathes of people a better approach to building a community than including them?

          • DW says

            I can’t speak to why many atheist blogs or FtB have banned you, since I do not know the circumstances that led up to the banning. What I can say is that writing a blog where others can comment is like inviting people into your living room for a chat. Getting banned from a blog is like getting kicked out of someone’s living room. It does not mean you are kicked out of the atheist community. For instance, you’re not banned from this blog. You are not banned from conferences (as far as I know, David Mabus is the only person banned from atheist conferences). I’m also surprised that “nearly everyone you know” have been banned from atheist blogs.

            I can say that usually people are not banned from commenting on a blog because of who they are or what opinions they might hold. They are banned because of what they have said on that blog in the past. When someone invites you into their living room to speak, they get to set the ground rules of the conversation. If you are suggesting that a community would be more inclusive if there were no ground rules (like 4chan) I would have to disagree. You can alienate a lot of people if you allow any off-topic or insensitive or even hateful speech into your comment section. I realize that categorizing comments as off-topic or insensitive is a judgment call and sometimes moderators make mistakes. But I’m fine if that’s the price I have to pay in order to have a nice chat without being interrupted by the worst of 4chan or youtube commenters.

          • Edward Gemmer says

            Well it’s an interesting thought. I am endlessly fascinated by how angry many atheists seem to be with one another. People have been grouping up and excluding others based on some real or imagined difference since the beginning of time, so I guess it isn’t surprising that atheists would do it too. Regardless, trying to figure out the difference can be a puzzle. I’m not very familiar with 4chan or Youtube comments, though I would agree lots of useless comments just take up space and make it hard to have a good discussion.

        • changerofbits says

          Ditto what DW said. I’d be surprised if everyone weren’t at least a little irrationally bigoted about something, but hopefully somebody is kind enough to point it out so we can become better people.

          Back on topic, would you be worried about alienating people if we started criticizing “Adam Wee” for tweeting any of the following:

          Adam Wee:
          Got to go to the airport now! Try not to gas chamber anyone, as per the con policy. #AACon13

          Adam Wee:
          Got to go to the airport now! Try not to lynch anyone, as per the con policy. #AACon13

          Adam Wee:
          Got to go to the airport now! Try not to castrate anyone, as per the con policy. #AACon13

          Of course not, so why do misogynistic comments deserve special consideration?

  18. Edward Gemmer says

    Of course not, so why do misogynistic comments deserve special consideration?

    I’m not certain I understand the question. “Adam Wee” is probably not a real person, so I don’t know that criticizing him makes much difference to anyone. However, if you call real people misogynistic based on spurious evidence, it seems unlikely they would want to join your club.

    • changerofbits says

      Seriously? Why does it even matter if “Adam Wee” is real or fake? God forbid that Adam Wee is a real person and real people think think he is a real misogynist based on real comments made on the real Internet and he actually has to pay a real social cost for being a real bully and really changes so he can actually get along with 50% of the real people on the real earth.

      • Edward Gemmer says

        I’m just saying that criticizing Adam Wee is like criticizing Oscar the Grouch. Neither of them care, because they aren’t real.

        • changerofbits says

          So you would be OK if the completely fictional Oscar The Grouch were teaching your daughter that it her fault if she gets raped/son to that its a badge of honor to take advantage of unconscious women? Wait, before you answer, know that I’m not real either, so you’re arguing with someone who doesn’t care what you think! I suppose that means you’re not real either and you don’t care what I think. Does this mean we should stop seeing each other, lest we bore a circular hole in the fabric of logic?

          • Edward Gemmer says

            I would probably not watch Oscar the Grouch if he advocated those things. Simply, what I am saying is that if the goal is to build the community, you can probably pay less attention to fake people and pay more attention to actual people who are interested in the community. I don’t see this as controversial. Instead of trying to pin some sort of evil motives on everyone who isn’t you, perhaps a better approach would be to listen to what they have to say. Craaaaaazy, right?

          • changerofbits says

            I would probably not watch Oscar the Grouch if he advocated those things.

            I not only wouldn’t watch, I think it would be intolerable.

            Simply, what I am saying is that if the goal is to build the community, you can probably pay less attention to fake people and pay more attention to actual people who are interested in the community.

            I still don’t understand why you think it’s fake (when a real person tweets a real message, albeit anonymously and for unknown actual motive) and why you think anybody’s attention is a zero sum game? You probably don’t realize it, but what you just said can be, in a practical sense, equated with silencing (i.e. “less attention to fake people” = “don’t speak up when a bully pops up on twitter”).

            I don’t see this as controversial.

            Well guess what, not everyone has to agree with you and they’re free to use their energy and time in the way they see fit. Some people think the bullying women/feminists receive online is worth some of their time. Why is that controversial enough to you that you feel compelled to tell everyone that they should spend their time differently? What works for you doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone else.

            Instead of trying to pin some sort of evil motives on everyone who isn’t you, perhaps a better approach would be to listen to what they have to say.

            I’ve been listening to you and I don’t believe you are a bad person. I think you’re wrong, we need all approaches to grow the community and the best ones will attract the most people and outlive/outlast the others.

            Craaaaaazy, right?

            No, it’s not crazy, but not crazy does not equal not wrong.

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