ICYMI, Three Recent Splice Today Articles I Think You All Will Appreciate

As you may or may not know, I recently started writing for Baltimore-based website Splice Today which covers politics, art, and culture. Here are three recent articles I wrote for them that I think y’all might like:

Fear Builds Walls: How Pink Floyd’s The Wall Predicted Trump

Gender Dysphoria as a Still, Small Voice (It’s pretty emotionally raw, so discretion is advised)

The Failure of Classical Liberalism (Oh boy, this is gonna piss off the Free Speech Warriors!)

So yeah, hope you like them.

A Dream Come True–My Guest Spot on This Week’s Everyone’s Agnostic Podcast

One of my favorite podcasts is Everyone’s Agnostic where every week Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview people about their deconversion stories. I always wanted to be on their show, and a few weeks ago I got my wish. Our discussion is now online, and you can listen to it here.

Bye, Milo!

By Niels Noordhoek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Niels Noordhoek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

CN: Rape

Oh happy day! Within 24 hours of a video of Milo Yiannopoulos defending pedophilia coming out, he lost his speaking gig at this year’s CPAC, his book deal, and maybe (it hasn’t been confirmed yet) his gig at Breitbart. [EDIT: He resigned today.] This all came just two days after Larry Wilmore tore Milo a new asshole on Bill Maher (after Maher basically handled Milo with kid gloves).

The best part is those who have defended Milo’s free speech rights are finally realizing what a turd breath is:

(No word yet from Dave Rubin because he’s currently on vacation.)

Of course not everyone is leaving the Milo Fan Club. Russell Blackford, for example, thinks a privately owned business dropping a client is just as bad as government censorship for some reason:

Apparently we need to sit this Russell guy down (whoever the fuck he is) and explain him the difference between the government banning books and a privately owned publisher deciding not to do business with someone.

Now as you all remember, last week I brought up the whole free speech debate and whether or not we should give Milo a platform. While I still think he should have been deplatformed long time ago, my friend Michael Sherlock says Milo’s downfall is exactly how this free speech thing works:

I hate to say it, but maybe he’s right. Maybe by giving Milo enough rope, he’s now hanging himself.

All I know for sure is that I’m loving this train wreck!

The Biskeptical Podcast #19: Milo’s Frozen Peaches

Today Andrew Torrez from Opening Arguments joins us to talk about whether or not that little shithead Milo Yiannopoulos should be allowed to speak on college campuses. We’re gonna talk about what defines hate speech, whether it’s free speech, and whether or not it applies to Milo. Trust me, this is one podcast you’ll want to take legal advice from (although Andrew disagrees)!

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #19: Milo’s Frozen Peaches” on Spreaker.

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Not Another Milo/Free Speech Article!

By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

CN: Transphobia

I know, I know, you’re all sick and tired of hearing about that little shit Milo Yiannopoulos and his freeze peach. However, let me see if I can break it all down for you.

First let me clear something up: I don’t believe in banning people from speaking at colleges just because they’re controversial.

I’ll explain whether or not this applies to Milo in a second, but first I want to say that when it comes to your normal everyday “controversial” speaker like Christina Hoff Sommers or Dave Rubin, I don’t believe banning them from college campuses is the answer. It only fuels the whole “anti-free speech on campus” hysteria. Instead, I suggest attending their talks, fact checking all they have to say, then tell them why they’re wrong during Q&A. Sure, they might get defensive and mumble something about snowflakes, but it’s not really about getting them to change their minds; it’s more about changing the audience’s mind.

I actually saw a real life example of this not too long ago. I attended the Women in Secularism 4 conference back in September, and one of the speakers was Wendy Kaminer, who spoke about the whole Regressive Left Is Stifling Free Speech On Campus Thing. We all gave her a chance to speak (even though we all had resting bitch face), and then when it was time for Q&A, a few people got behind the mic. One woman said, “I’m a biracial bisexual college student, and you don’t know what I go through, so don’t tell me to get over it!” Kaminer then explained that all she meant was “making things less socially acceptable is better than legislating things.” (There’s some debate about whether or not this works, but for now I’ll just share this ACLU article that talks about it.)

Now here’s why Milo’s case is different.

This past December, Milo spoke at the University of Wisconsin where, at one point, he projected a picture of a transgender student along with her name on the big screen and then openly mocked her. He called her a “tranny,” said she was a man trying to get into a women’s bathroom, and ended the rant by saying, “I’d almost still bang him [sic].”

To me, that’s not a “free exchange of ideas.” That’s just flat-out bullying, and there should be consequences.

The funny part is even the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man says free speech has consequences. According to articles 10 and 11:

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law. [Emphasis mine]

Now here’s where things get tricky again: “established by law.”

While doing research for this blog post, I came across a Vice article about the trans student Milo attacked. Near the end of the article, there are two opposing viewpoints about whether or not Milo’s attack falls under the “abuse as defined by law” thing. First is ACLU senior staff attorney Lee Rowland who says:

“. . . when a visiting speaker chooses to use a speech to attack the identity of an audience member, he is the one who bears moral or legal responsibility for those words.” Trying to hold a university liable for that “would be a death knell for controversial speech on campus.”

On the other hand, National Women’s Law Center director of education Neena Chaudhry says:

Kramer could have a legal basis for arguing that the school should have intervened when Yiannopoulos began to target her directly. According to Chaudhry, the question at hand is when free speech crosses over into harassment. “There’s a legal obligation for schools to address such harassment, and that includes when it’s by a third party,” Chaudhry says.

To me it’s a case of harassment, but I know that I’m not a legal expert, so I could totally be wrong. (Maybe I’ll get Andrew Torrez on the Biskeptical Podcast to talk about it.) In the meantime, I suggest to everyone that if Milo’s coming to you town, email the Dean of your local college, remind him/her of Milo’s past, and say, “You want transphobia on your campus? ‘Cause that’s how you get transphobia on your campus!”

The Biskeptical Podcast #8: Indigenous Rights and Free Speech Warriors

Today Morgan and I discuss the North Dakota pipeline protests, followed by a discussion about the rise of the so-called “cultural libertarians.” Also, the President makes a public statement about the importance of free speech . . . at least for some.

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Meet the Free Speech Warriors

The term “social justice warrior” (SJW) is a funny one, isn’t it? Depending on who you ask, it means either anyone who talks about systematic oppression, or just those who refuse to talk to people who disagree with them. According to Urban Dictionary, the latter definition is the right one, although even then it’s easy to throw the SJW label at anyone who doesn’t do respectability politics (I know I have!). Regardless, if the term SJW is meant to differentiate the “good” social justice activists from the “radicals,” then I propose a new term to describe another group of radicals: Free Speech Warriors.

Like the so-called SJWs, Free Speech Warriors (FSWs) are those who take a wonderful thing and totally ruin it for everyone. In this case, the ruined wonderful thing is free speech. I’m not patriotic, but I am glad I live in a country where the government can neither imprison nor execute me just for saying religion is bullshit. I support everyone’s legal right to share their opinions on social media, no matter how shitty. Having said that, though, just because I support one’s legal right to spout bullshit online doesn’t mean I can’t use my legal right to call them out on their bullshit. Also, even though I’m not a legal expert, I’m pretty sure harassment and threats aren’t covered by the First Amendment. As the old saying goes, “Your right to swing ends where my nose begins.”

The FSW, however, says, “Your nose shouldn’t get in the way of my right to swing.” For the FSW, a private individual saying, “That’s racist, don’t say that” is just as bad as the government outlawing racist statements. Also, as we’ve seen from the #FreeMilo hashtag, FSWs apparently think free speech covers harassment as well.

For those that don’t know, two weeks ago Twitter permanently banned gay alt-right blogger Milo Yiannopoulos for his involvement with harassing actress Leslie Jones online. Although Twitter did not specify a particular tweet that broke the camel’s proverbial back, the Washington Post says, “Yiannopoulos was subject to several warnings from the social network over the course of his Twitter career and had lost his blue verification check mark in January for violating Twitter’s rules.” The Post also mentions that conservative pundits Charles Johnson and Robert Stacy McCain have been permanently banned from Twitter for similar reasons.

Of course talk-show host Dave Rubin must have missed the memo that Yiannopoulos was banned for harassment because shortly after the ban, Rubin tweeted his support of Yiannopoulos. According to Rubin:

“#FreeMilo situation is not about 1st Amendment, which is govt. coming for speech. My defense of him is a defense of exchange of ideas. . . .Twitter/Facebook have become the roads we have to partake for exchange of ideas. There should be convo about their responsibilities.”

I don’t know about you, but I like to think stopping online harassment should one of Twitter and Facebook’s biggest responsibilities. In fact, so does Twitter. In a statement released two weeks ago, Twitter says:

People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Over the past 48 hours in particular, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of Tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension. [Emphasis mine.]

And then there’s the brief spat between American Atheist president David Silverman and DJ Grothe about the Reason Rally’s Code of Conduct. After Silverman wrote on his Facebook wall that everyone who was offended by the Code of Conduct should unfriend him, Grothe responded:

Dave, do you honestly believe events that refrain from adopting unenforceable and overreaching policies against “harassment” (including attacking religion, like the Reason Rally’s own “Code of Conduct” does) actually therefore *allow* harassment?

These policies are just for show, and are meant to quell some of the more unhinged parts of the atheist movement. Only in a sense are such policies effective. But in reality, such illiberal policies treat adults like children, and create all sorts of liability issues for organization that adopt them if they actually try to enforce them seriously. They are also inconsistent with the ideals of the event – deliberately offending someone because of his or her beliefs constitutes clear harassment in an HR sense. Attendees of the Reason Rally better be sure not to say anything offensive about religious people and their beliefs. And someone should send Dawkins the memo ASAP. [Emphasis mine]

To which Silverman responded:

These policies set out details for how the illegal activity of harassing people (a far cry from “harassing religion”) is handled, and they definitely work. They are most definitely not for show – I’ve had them at AA conventions for year and yes, they work great, and they provide a more welcoming and safer environment without stifling speech in the slightest. The Reason Rally, as well as the other conventions I’ve run, have theists on stage and attendance. It’s not okay to harass these people. You can say anything you want about their religion, but getting in their faces and badgering AFTER they’ve asked you to stop is harassment and it is not okay, and our policies lay out what happens if you do it. [Emphasis mine]

Silverman hits the nail on the proverbial head. Unfortunately, FSWs believe free speech means freedom to say anything without any consequence whatsoever. It’s a fundamentalist libertarian idea that you should have not only the legal right to yell fire in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire, but also the moral right. Anyone who doesn’t like it, according to FSWs, just needs to stop being offended all the time and grow up.

Which brings me to another defining feature of the FSW: FSWs believe people are way too sensitive these days, yet don’t like it when other people use their free speech to criticize FSWs. As I mentioned a few months ago, YouTube blowhard Sargon of Akkad loves to make fun of the concept of safe spaces, yet once started a petition to have all social justice teachers banned from college. Then there’s the Amazing Atheist’s epic shitfit after Martin Hughes called him out on his racism. Apparently TJ Kirk thinks it’s fine to for him to be a racist, but when people call him a racist, that’s “true racism.” Don’t try to reason that out or else you’ll get a headache.

And then there’s Peter Boghossian, who has a habit of saying provocative things on Twitter and then crying foul when people criticize him. Many remember him tweeting why LGBTQ people would be proud for something they didn’t earn, only to complain about the Regressive Left being offended by everything when people tried to explain why he was wrong. More recently, he predicted on Twitter that “the number of black on black homicides will substantially increase over the next 6 months.” After several people asked him to elaborate, Boghossian sarcastically tweeted, “I want to show my moral community I’m a good person and on their team, so I’ll interpret tweets uncharitably and accuse tweeters of racism.”

To be fair, according to the Pew Research Center, 40% of Millenials polled believe the government should be able to censor things that offend marginalized groups, and that is a problem. As my friend Matthew Facciani wrote a few months ago, “Suggesting that the government should intervene when something is offensive is a clear violation of free speech.” I agree; bigoted assholes should have the legal right to let everyone know they’re bigoted assholes. However, where the FSWs and I disagree is that I believe I should have the legal right to tell bigoted assholes they’re full of shit. For the FSW, calling a racist a racist isn’t “civil dialogue,” and that the worst form of fascism is not giving a platform to fascists. I’m not an expert on John Stuart Mills’ work, but I have a feeling that the FSWs would make him say, “Damn, son!”

I don’t know if the term FSW will catch on like SJW, but there certainly seem to be more FSWs than SJWs out there.

The Biskeptical Podcast #2: Won’t Someone Please Think Of The White Cis People?

Today Morgan and I talk about how the American Humanist Association hurt a bunch of white boys’ feelings, why Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges in the wrongful death of Freddie Gray, and why Oklahoma wants to impeach President Obama for not allowing them to be bigoted assholes. You don’t want to miss this!

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SJWs Aren’t Taking Away Your Free Speech; Facebook Is!

i-got-zucked_400x400

[Image credit: @IGotZuckedTees]

 

[CN: Transphobia, Slurs, Rape Threats]

Oh hello! Apart from my podcast, I haven’t really updated this page in a while. I’ve been HELLA BUSY lately with school and work. In fact, I was hoping to launch a side project podcast a few weeks ago, but life happened so you’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the big reveal.

For now, though, I want to talk about something that’s been happening to my Facebook friends for the past month. There are a lot of people on the Internet who claim that social justice activists like myself are trying to suppress people’s free speech rights. While there may be a few regressives who fit the bill (there are assholes in ALL communities), most activists in my circle believe that you can’t have social justice without free speech. In fact, right now it looks like the best threat to free speech is Facebook.

For starters, my friend Stephanie Guttormson was banned from Facebook for a month after she wrote this (and I’m paraphrasing because the post no longer exists):

Women wear boys’ clothes

Society: “Eh, whatever.”

Trans women exist

Society: “Ugh, faggots!”

Now even if you didn’t know Guttormson is transgender, it’s pretty obvious that she’s saying our society has a double standard when it comes to trans rights and gender nonconformity. It’s a reflection of what our society thinks, not what she thinks. And unfortunately, people do say the Other F-Word. But since her post included that naughty word, she was banned for a month.

Likewise, my friend Damien AtHope was briefly banned from Facebook after, according to him, he posted an atheist meme that contained pictures of the Holocaust, and one picture had a naked man. Apparently Facebook was more disturbed by a penis than mass genocide. Go fig.

Then there was the time Seth Andrews, Sarah Morehead, and JT Eberhard were temporarily blocked from Facebook for “bullying” (a.k.a. criticizing religion).

And then there’s the case of an infamous TERF who is getting posts removed and accounts blocked for simply referring to her as a “fake goth.” Here is a woman who makes a living doxxing trans women (it’s never trans men for some reason) and making life hell for trans people, and she’s mad that people are calling her names on the Internet. The funny part is she claims to be a lawyer, but as far as I know (please fact check me) hurting someone’s feelings isn’t a criminal offense.

Meanwhile, someone made a fake Facebook page impersonating my friend Danielle Muscato, and Facebook hasn’t done shit about it. I also have friends who claim they reported people sending them rape threats on Facebook, but to no avail.

Really, Facebook? Really???

Now anyone who knows me knows I don’t do the whole “PC Culture Is Ruining Everything” bullshit, but you really have to wonder about Facebook’s priorities. In fact, I’d say at this point if the free speech advocates need something to blog about, some random person on the Internet who says the word “stupid” is ableist is the least of their concerns.

How This Free Speech Thing Actually Works

FreezePeach_DontTakeMah_Bk-214x300

A few months ago, Godless Mom posted a video explaining what free speech actually means. In summary, she explains that free speech means the government can’t prosecute you for things that you say. It does not mean people can’t be pissed off about something you say, or that a corporation can’t refuse to do business with you because you’re prone to saying bigoted shit. It just means the government can’t censor you or punish you.

Which is why I’m really disappointed that she recently wrote a blog post blaming the “playdate generation” for the outrage over #TheTriggering. She puts herself on a pedestal as having a “free range upbringing” which gave her a thick skin, while everyone nowadays is just offended by everything, including calling FtB’s very own PZ Myers “mommy’s special little man” with “Buzz Lightyear Band-aids.” She writes:

Well, I was raised in the sticks and stones generation, and from my vantage point, these people are nothing short of absurd. #TheTiggering was not aimed at offending people. The ultimate aim of anything defending free speech, is to protect our valued right to say what we want, even if it does suck. It’s about facing the fact that assholes exist and shit is not always going to go your way and the best fucking way to deal with it, is to “point and laugh at an idea” as Aaminah Khan so eloquently put it.

Now I’ve been corresponding with Godless Mom trying to explain all the complexities of the social justice vs. free speech debate (which shouldn’t be an either/or debate at all), including sending her a link to an article I wrote for TheHumanist.com about trigger warnings (which she enjoyed) and the latest episode of The Gaytheist Manifesto (which she hasn’t responded to yet). Forgive me if I’m misreading Godless Mom, but it seems as though she is jumping on the “SJWs are trying to take away our free speech” bandwagon.

It seems as though ever since Peter Boghossian went on The Humanist Hour to declare that many universities are now “held hostage by the Regressive Left” and that the current discourse over trigger warnings and microaggressions is the “PC Police’s” latest ploy to to suppress free speech, atheists online are split into two categories: those who think the hooplah over safe spaces is overblown, and those who think Big Brother is watching us. And as someone in the former camp, it’s really exhausting trying to explain all the subtle nuances of the debate to the latter camp.

For example, when the whole Richard Dawkins/NECSS thing happened, I got into an argument with someone on Twitter who not only thought that it was wrong for NECSS to un-invite Dawkins after he posted that crappy video, but that anyone who didn’t like the video was a crybaby. Now I can understand why some people think NECSS shouldn’t have uninvited him (this was before they re-invited Dawkins), but I find it odd that so many atheists are offended by the fact that I was offended by the video. I didn’t try to shut Dawkins’ Twitter page down, neither did I petition NECSS to ban Dawkins from all future conferences. All I said was it was a shitty video. Shocking, right?

Despite all the frustrations, let’s try to set the record straight about free speech, shall we? First, here’s what the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It doesn’t say privately operated conferences can’t un-invite speakers they find controversial, or that I can’t criticize something problematic, or that I can’t block anyone from commenting on my blog. It just means the government can’t limit what you say. That’s it! And yet, whenever I get into these debates, I have to whip out my pocket edition of the Constitution constantly.

I think the reason why all my friends are fighting each other about the free speech vs. social justice debate is that some people confuse having a legal right to say something with making a bigoted statement morally right. The two are not mutually inclusive. I may have a legal right to make prejudiced generalizations and stereotypes about groups of people, but having that legal right does not make my bigotry morally right. In other words, if I blog something racist, and PZ Myers decides to drop me from FtB, he’s not violating my First Amendment rights.

The same goes for blocking people from commenting on my blog. I welcome different opinions in the comment section because 1). there’s always a chance I could be wrong about something, and 2). I figure my readers are smart enough to defend their positions on their own. However, if you start dropping racist slurs, calling me names, or threatening to harm someone on my blog, I will block the fuck out of you. I’m not preventing you from commenting on other people’s blogs; I’m just throwing you out the same way a bartender would throw out a violent drunk.

Now of course the whole safe space thing can go too far. For example, the incident with Maryam Namazie and Goldsmiths University. Given her outspoken criticisms of both Islamism and the far-right anti-immigration group Pegida, Namazie was not “creating a climate of hatred,” as Goldsmiths Feminist Society claimed she was. Also, to be fair, the Pew Research Center claims 40% of Millennials support censoring offensive speech. which led Matthew Facciani to write, “Suggesting that the government should intervene when something is offensive is a clear violation of free speech.” But once again, Facciani is talking about the government intervening, not privately operated organizations or individuals.

So for all of you who think I’m coming to take away your First Amendment rights, don’t worry. It’s not as bad as you think. I might call you the fuck out on it and tell you why that thing you just said dehumanizes an entire group of people, and I might block you from spewing your bigotry on my blog, but I’m not going to prevent you from speaking elsewhere. Got that?