Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/11/2013

As an intro to this social-justicey link roundup, I have a request for all of you: Please don’t send me the stupid crap misogynistic assholes write about me unless it contains threats that I need to forward to the police. Thanks.

  • The Good Old Days – Jamie at Skepchick has a great post addressing skeptics who long for the “good old days” where everyone seemed to be happy and get along:

    In a way, this sentiment is true for them. They really are worse off now than they were then. In the old days they could go to any event they wanted and see all their friends. Now they have to pick and choose events based on which “side” they support, often being judged by their friends who would never be seen with the kind of people who attend that event. Just going to a party or taking photos with certain people has become a political statement of whom you stand with. Perhaps they have even lost some friends over these internal movement squabbles. Certainly, things for them were better back before everyone started talking about harassment.

    What they fail to consider is that even as things seem to have gotten worse for them, the good old days had a dark underbelly. Back in the pre-elevatorgate days, harassment of women at skeptic cons was rampant.

  • When Power Goes To Your Head, You May Stop Listening To Your Heart - A new study from neuroscientists at Wilfrid Laurier University shows that feeling powerless boosts the mirror system in people’s brains, resulting in higher empathy, while power diminishes empathy. Explains a lot, huh?
  • Virginia Crisis Pregnancy Centers Caught Lying About Abortion and Contraception – An anti-choice pregnancy crisis center has been caught on video saying disturbingly wrong information:

    The woman working at the center tries to convince the client not to use any kind of contraception whatsoever. She starts slow, claiming that hormonal contraception will make your hair fall out. Then she gets really excited, stating that she’s not interested in judging, but, “First of all, if you’re not married, why are you having sex?” and proceeds to make the following claims:
    - “Condoms are naturally porous,” so don’t protect against STIs.
    - “Within a marriage, sexual relations are procreative.” Also, you don’t need to use contraception in marriage because you can just avoid sex “two or three days a month” to prevent pregnancy. (In reality, the numbers range from 8 days to 11 days, depending on the source.)
    - Taking the birth control pill is like putting a small child on steroids.
    - On IUDs: “Sometimes it grows into the tissue of the uterus,” she says, though that’s not a known risk of the IUD. Perforations do happen, but they’re rare and usually happen during insertion.

  • The Daily Show tackles racial privilege like no one else can.
  • I’m going to end on this comic from Jim C. Hines without comment:

Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/7/13 – Indiana edition

Since I’ve just arrived back home in Indiana to spend a week with my family and be with my mom on her birthday, I figured a themed update is appropriate.

Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/2/2013

Aka, I read a lot of interesting stuff but am too lazy to devote whole blog posts to it, so why not start yet another blog link dump?

  • Living in America Will Drive You Insane – Literally

    “A June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans hate their jobs or have “checked out” of them. Life may or may not suck any more than it did a generation ago, but our belief in “progress” has increased expectations that life should be more satisfying, resulting in mass disappointment. For many of us, society has become increasingly alienating, isolating and insane, and earning a buck means more degrees, compliance, ass-kissing, shit-eating, and inauthenticity. So, we want to rebel. However, many of us feel hopeless about the possibility of either our own escape from societal oppression or that political activism can create societal change. So, many of us, especially young Americans, rebel by what is commonly called mental illness.”

  • Misogynist Trolls Have an Agenda, and It’s Not Lulz – Amanda Marcotte summarizes the latest twitter harassment deluge against the woman who campaigned to get Jane Austen on the ten pound note, and addresses why just ignoring the trolls doesn’t work.
  • Police Threatened to Arrest Me For Taking Their Photo Last Night – Not cool, Seattle police.
  • On Gaming’s Gay Agenda

    “The phrase I most often hear with regards to gay content that currently exists, such as the optional same-sex romances in some of BioWare’s games, is “you’re throwing it in my face”. Or “you’re shoving it down my throat”. Ignoring the ironic phrasing, the implication appears to be that the existence of such content at all is an insult or an attack— like slapping the player in the face with a dildo, it’s beyond the pale.”

  • Patent Life: How the Supreme Court Fell Short - Maggie Koerth-Baker tackles why the Supreme’s court decision to allow patenting of cDNA shows they don’t understand molecular biology. At least Scalia admitted it…
  • Portraits of Grandmas and Their Cuisine From Around the World - This is both adorable and delicious.
  • 75 Unforgettable Moments from Minnesota’s First Day of Marriage Equality – Someone’s cutting onions in here.

My current feelings on the skeptical movement and blogging

I must not be the only one feeling disenchanted, since all of these other people can speak perfectly for me. From PZ, in response to Steven Novella’s piece about the scope of skepticism:

As for that awful, dishonest, destructive claim that “Political, moral, and social ideology are ‘outside the scope’ of skepticism because they remove objectivity” — I ask, OK, so would you claim that there is no rational, evidence-based argument against, say, slavery? That it is impossible to make an objective argument in any domain against treating people as property?

If that’s the case, well then, fuck skepticism. It isn’t relevant or useful anymore. It has abstracted itself into the realm of a private academic circle-jerk, and we can stop arguing, because just maybe atheists, who apparently have more rational minds, can just leave the party voluntarily.

Improbable Joe responds to the second paragraph with this comment:

A-fucking-men! If all that skepticism is for is dismissing the same silly claims that have been dismissed for sometimes hundreds of years, and not for creating positive change in the world, then what goddamned use does it have? “Hey, let’s all get in a room once a week and talk about how homeopathy is still quackery, and that Bigfoot is a hoax! And then we can pat each other on the back for still not believing the same daffy shit we didn’t believe last week, and didn’t believe the week before either!” Wow, yeah, that’s really inspiring me to join a “movement” that seems to be fixated on not moving, not budging a single solitary inch, if in doing so it moves beyond smug self-congratulation.

And to close, sawells perfectly summarizes why I’m sick of dealing with the skeptic movement:

I think there are two unspoken arguments which people want to make and can’t (publicly).

Argument 1: skepticism is fine if you point it at things which very few people really believe (bigfoot;alien abduction) because if they get angry we can laugh at them. Don’t point it at things which lots of people believe! There are lots of them and if they get angry that might be scary!

Argument 2: skepticism is fine if you point it at other people who are wrong. Don’t point it at me! I’m not wrong!

Hence the massive pushback against applying basic skepticism to things like mainstream religious claims and mainstream gender stereotypes.

This. Oh, so much this.

I’ve grown reluctant to deal with the egos of skeptic celebrities and politics of skeptical organizations who, frankly, aren’t the great skeptics they think they are. But I’ll still keep writing and speaking about science and skepticism because, well, I find them important and interesting. I’ve realized I don’t need to be an official part of a group or a movement to do those things, nor am I personally responsible for spending my time and energy in improving a movement that is so stubbornly resisting improvement.

Because when my time and energy is spent on repeatedly explaining why diversity matters, why harassment policies are good to have and are already widely implemented at other events, why Obviously Sexist Statement from Skeptic Pope X is problematic, and why certain topics are not exempt from skepticism…then I don’t have the time to write about those certain topics that matter to me. I don’t have time to create unique material about science and skepticism when I’m stuck meta-blogging about how some atheist yet again told me to go kill myself on twitter because I’m an ugly bitch who’s ruining skepticism.

And I didn’t realize how obnoxious this meta-blogging was until I took a break from blogging and spent some time as just a blog reader. All of the blogs I had once loved now hardly ever produce unique material about atheism or skepticism because they’re too busy reacting to trolls or debating some “big name skeptic” (who is really just some shmuck* only known to a small group of people whose opinions have little effect on the world at large). Even the rare unique posts are frequently filled with snide offhand remarks about people they don’t like or vague comments alluding to past drama. And you know, if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. One of my main pet peeves as a blogger is when people tell you what you should be writing about, when it’s a blogger’s prerogative to write about whatever they find interesting.

I personally no longer find the meta-blogging interesting.

So consider this meta-meta-blogging my long-winded way of saying that my attitude toward blogging is changing. From now on, trolls and haters will be ignored instead of further publicized, and I encourage my readers to do the same in the comments. I will not feel guilty about moderation or banning in order to make a harassment-free environment for me and my readers. I will only comment on controversies if I feel that they have effects outside of our tiny little skeptical bubble. And most importantly, I will concentrate on writing unique material about the topics I care about instead of just endlessly replying to blogs, comments, and tweets.

That’s what I want to spend my time and energy on, not fixing a stubborn skeptical movement’s academic circle jerk.

*I count myself in the category of “random shmuck that other people care way too much about.” I wish my haters would spend less time obsessing over what’s effectively an open access creative writing journal for a random grad student, and maybe take up some sort of constructive hobby, like actually promoting science and skepticism, or at the very least, knitting.

I get email

I haven’t really been blogging for months, but weird emails still find their way to my inbox.

Dear Private, Registration:

I work for [Annoying Business] and we have discovered that a company we hired to help promote our website have used a variety of techniques to secure links to our site. These links were placed purely for SEO purposes, with the intention of manipulating search rankings.

It appears that there may be links like this that have been placed on your site.

The presence of these links is harmful to our site’s good standing with search engines, and unfortunately, retaining them may also be potentially harmful to your own website’s reputation.

We would ask that you please remove any links on your site that link to [Annoying Business].

 

You clutter my site with annoying spam and now you want me to waste time cleaning it up so you look better?

hey jen

me too liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted feminist atheist .
and desperate to find a girl friend like that.
if u r single and wanna mingle , ping me back.. or refer me any other girl.
i havent read any of your posts nor i have time to read ur stuff.. unless ofcourse u wanna be my frnd..
What.

Goodbye for now

I’m done with blogging for an indefinite period of time.

I hate to do this. After my brief vacation from blogging this summer, I felt recharged and ready to write again. But that happiness ended almost instantaneously.

I love writing, I love sharing my ideas, and I love listening to the ideas of my readers. But I simply no longer love blogging. Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There’s a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.

I just can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want to let them win, but I’m human. The stress is getting to me. I’ve dealt with chronic depression since elementary school, and receiving a daily flood of hatred triggers it. I’ve been miserable. And this toxic behavior is affecting all parts of my life. With this cloud of hate hanging over my head, I can’t focus or enjoy my hobbies or work. It has me constantly on edge with frayed nerves, which causes me to take it out on the ones I love. I spend most of my precious free time angry, on the verge of tears, or sobbing as I have to moderate comments or read what new terrible things people have said about me. And the only solution I see is to unplug.

To those of you who have provided endless support: Thank you, and I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve failed you for not being able to deal with all of this despite the support you’ve given me. I may still occasionally write about science or topics that don’t attract abuse (aka, don’t expect atheism or feminism articles from me for a while). I’ll also still work to get the Atheism+ website and forums (1000+ people already!) running and self-sufficient, since I know a lot of people are really appreciating that community. And I’ll do the speaking gigs that I’ve already committed to (Kansas City 9/9, Lexington 10/6). But I simply can no longer deal with an obsessive horde of haters who are trying to make my life miserable, because they’ve succeeded.

So, goodbye for now. Maybe I’ll be back eventually, if the hatred subsides. Who knows. Maybe the horde of haters will take up knitting as their new hobby, or a time machine will be invented and I can go back to when we were all happy giggling at creationists together without hurling slurs at any woman who dared to be too uppity. But until then, I need to focus on keeping myself sane and happy – and that’s just not going to happen within the toxic atheist community.

Comment registration has been turned on

I hate to do this since a lot of nice, non-trolly people don’t like registering to comment, but it has become necessary. Some troll has been imitating me and other frequent commenters (including our user names and avatars) to derail a thread into sexually explicit discussion about my personal life. I have to give them credit for the amount of time they wasted giving graphic details about how I give blow jobs. Too bad that time and creativity wasn’t put toward something productive instead.

Thunderf00t’s unethical breach of our privacy

If you read any other blog on Freethought Blogs, by now you’ve probably heard of Thunderf00t’s despicable actions. FtB has a private email listserv where we discuss boring technical problems (“My YouTube video isn’t embedding properly!”), ask for feedback or discuss certain topics, promote posts or causes we care about, and talk about cats (or how much they suck, depending on what side you’re on). But we also frequently discuss things that are very private in nature, like what’s going on in our personal life, where we live and work, our medical conditions, gender transitioning, rape, abuse, and (for pseudonymous bloggers) our real identities. We do this in agreement that nothing will leave the list, and there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of every email:

“All emails sent to this list are confidential and private. Revealing information contained in any email sent to the list to anyone not on the list without permission of the author is strictly prohibited.”

Well, Thunderf00t has violated that confidentiality. Now, I was on a different continent with limited internet access when the original Thunderf00t drama went down, so I don’t even want to get into that. But being removed from the network was apparently enough motivation for Thunderf00t to breach our privacy. Ed summarizes what happened:

On August 2, a close friend informed me that a mutual acquaintance of ours had been forwarded messages from that private mailing list by Thunderfoot. A few hours later, I received an email from a longtime commenter on the site telling me that “your email distribution list is not secure. Take the time to verify that only the people who are supposed to be on the list are actually members, as messages have been leaked.” Prompted by those messages, I went into the admin panel of our mailing list software, did some checking and discovered that Thunderfoot had somehow managed to get back on the mailing list after he was removed from it on July 1, when the decision was made to close his blog and remove him from the network. I double checked to make sure that he had been removed from the list at that time and he was (I have email confirmation from the system at the time). I then had our site tech do some digging into the database and he discovered that Thunderfoot had used a security loophole (now fixed) to regain admission to the list only a few minutes after he was removed from it on July 1 and had been receiving all of the email traffic between everyone else from that moment forward, without our knowledge. When that fact was discovered, he was, of course, removed from the list a second time and the settings were changed to close the loophole in our security that allowed him that access; over the next half hour he tried multiple times to get back on the list again but failed.

Jason has the technical details, including logs for evidence, in case you want them. Thunderf00t has confessed to breaching our privacy, but of course he’s trying to spin everything to make himself look like some sort of Wikileaks hero against the Big Bad Evil FtB Bullies. He insists that he doesn’t “doc drop,” even though in that very post he releases private statements from the mailing list. And we already have outside confirmation of people receiving mailing list emails through him. Keep diggin’ that hole!

What’s incredibly ironic is that not even a year ago, Thunderf00t was threatened by Muslims that they would release his private information, including his real name. He blasted them for this violation of privacy and “doc dropping”…which is exactly what he’s doing right now. What a hypocrite.

Greta emphasizes why this violation of privacy is so serious:

There’s a reason these conversations are private. Among other things:

People — especially anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers — reveal private information that could jeopardize their jobs if it were made public.
People — especially anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers — reveal private information that could jeopardize their physical safety if it were made public.
People brainstorm ideas that they later decide are bad ideas, and don’t want to be held to.
People discuss private medical matters and personal family issues, which could hurt both themselves and others if they became public.
People hash out differences of opinion that they don’t want to turn into a giant public debate.
People talk about personal, emotional stuff that they don’t want to share with the entire Internet.

If you have ever said anything privately that you wouldn’t want made public — because you were thinking out loud, because you knew the people you were talking with would understand the context but the general public wouldn’t, because you were mad and said things you didn’t really mean, because you don’t want everyone on the Internet to have your home address and phone number, because some things are just private and you bloody well have the right to decide who to tell them to — then you almost certainly understand exactly how important this is, and what a terrible violation it is, and why. People need to be able to talk freely among their friends and colleagues, without parsing every word for public consumption. People need this — and they have a right to have it. That’s a no-brainer.

But if you want to hear from someone who’s privacy is probably on the line the most, read this post by Natalie Reed. Thunderf00t had previously threatened her with releasing private backchannel information before he… actually started doing it:

Natalie Reed is not my “real name”. I use a different name for “real life”… for employment, for housing, for everything I don’t necessarily want connected to my being out as a transsexual, atheist blogger. There is a huge amount of highly personal, highly stigmatized issues I discuss on this blog, or in other venues under the name Natalie Reed. Transsexuality and transgenderism, my heroin addiction, stories from my life and past, my being a survivor of multiple rapes…I’ve even mentioned my being an incest survivor, an issue that’s incredibly, deeply painful for me. Most of these things I never, ever would have felt able to write about without feeling protected by this name.

It also protects my ability to pursue housing and employment without the threat of being outed as trans, a recovering addict, an atheist and so on by a simple five minute google search. It protects the possibility of my someday choosing to go “stealth” if I ever feel the desire or need, in which I could finally live as just a woman instead of always as a trans woman. It keeps me further removed from my birth name and images of my former self, and the life I led before transition. It protects my physical safetyfrom those who feel the need to enforce their beliefs and feelings about gender through violence. It protects me from the countless rad-fems and HBSers who consistently out or dox trans women, often with the deliberate, explicit intent of exposing them to harassment, discrimination and violence.

Natalie Reed is my safety net.

The e-mail address I had been using on the FTB list was not under this name. It was under my real one.

So, yeah. Thunderf00t scared me. A lot.

Thankfully I’m not in the same situation as Natalie – I don’t believe I have any personal information I shared on the backchannel that could really damage me. But I care about my fellow bloggers, and I care about Thunderf00t’s severe ethical violations and potentially illegal actions. He is a vile hypocrite who has lost whatever shred of credibility he may have had left. And honestly, it’s just fucking sad. How are you that obsessed with taking down a freaking blog network because you disagree with the fucking no-brainer of having sexual harassment policies that you’re willing to cost innocent people their jobs and safety? How is destroying lives of your atheist allies your priority over combating creationism in the classroom, faith healing, the Religious Right, and homophobia?

Just fucking sad.

Who wants a Pharyngula podcast?

PZ asks you to weigh in here. I’d be all for it!

I admit I’ve toyed around with the idea of podcasting for a while, but I just don’t have the time to do the administrative stuff that’s involved in hosting your own. I don’t have good recording equipment, but most importantly I don’t have the time to edit or organize. I’m happy to spontaneously show up and yap on someone else’s podcast, though!

Sometimes I wish I could just record the completely random, geeky, snarky conversations I have with my boyfriend and roommate. Especially when we’re all inebriated.

I admit I’m not a huge podcast person, just because I prefer to read things at my own pace instead of having to tune in. I’m terrible at multitasking when I’m listening to something, so I have to have a block of time to devote to listening. I also don’t really listen to skeptical/atheist podcasts because I get burnt out from the blogosphere. But the two podcasts I make an exception for are the Savage Love podcast with Dan Savage, and Smodcast with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.

Which podcasts are your favorites?

This is post 13 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

The preparation

Most likely thing to get me through Blogathon:

Right now I’m just working on the orange tangerine tea so I don’t peak early in the energy department. But that Red Bull, as disgusting as it is, will come in handy around 3am.

Most likely thing to sabotage Blogathon:

The fucking crow outside my window who won’t shut up. Hey crow, it’s 6am. I don’t need to hear your life story. I don’t care if someone is infringing upon your territory. Stfu.

Second most likely thing to sabotage Blogathon:

Distracting boyfriend cuddles, since I’m typing away in his apartment. It was worth the risk since he’s also agreed to feed me all day. Of course, the risk of boyfriend cuddles won’t really be a problem until he actually wakes up, which will probably be around noon. Lucky jerk.

This is post 2 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.