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Jan 26 2012

Oh no you don’t

The LSE Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Facebook page has a new logo.

There’s more, but I’m not sure they want me quoting them; I’ve asked and I’m waiting to hear back. The logo however is publicly visible.

43 comments

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  1. 1
    NathanDST

    What’s the bar at top covering?

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    LSESU.

  3. 3
    NathanDST

    Ouch.

    Now I can’t wait for the quote.

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Voting is now open on the “Islamompobia” motion, so we’ll soon find out what LSE students think of it.

  5. 5
    NathanDST

    Do we dare to hope for some sense and sensibility?

  6. 6
    daenyx

    I’m… really confused. Is it meant as snark about censorship, or….?

  7. 7
    Steersman

    NathanDST (#5),

    Do we dare to hope for some sense and sensibility?

    Won’t do the credibility of the LSE any good if there isn’t any manifestation of at least the former, particularly given that “sensibility” has a somewhat pejorative “sense” of “hysteria in women or hypochondria in men”, the common element being, apparently, “ultra-sensitive nerves”, a characterization that might fit Islamists to a T ….

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    daenyx, yes.

  9. 9
    Sigmund

    They’ve put the full debate online.
    http://echoweb1.lse.ac.uk/echocontent/1204/4/64709d38-b188-4a97-8e47-e542220b13dd/audio-vga.m4v
    I’ve listened to it and it’s pretty bad, not for the attack on the atheist society (there wasn’t so much talk about the cartoons) but for the implications of how they intend to use their definition of the term “islamophobia.”

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah thanks Sigmund.

  11. 11
    Sigmund

    It’s worth listening to the debate to get the full picture.
    Spoiler Alert!
    Basically what happened was they first put through the motion about anti-semitism – this follows on from a recent incident where a Jewish student was taunted by a group of LSE students about the holocaust and was assaulted, resulting in him getting a broken nose. The motion condemned anti-semitic attacks and pledged to try to prevent them and make the campus a safer place for Jewish students.
    The motion was unopposed by the student body.
    They then introduced the combat anti-islamophobic motion saying that it was exactly the same as the combat anti-semitism motion.
    The proposer, a management student called ‘Anita’, gave an impassioned plea for the passage of the motion – basically claiming that it was to protect muslim students from racist attacks. The motion was opposed by a couple of students who said the rather obvious point that while they supported the sentiments of the motion it was written in such a way that it was possible that a legitimate criticism of ideas would be deemed islamophobic (and thus racist!).
    Some audience members posed some questions and it became rather apparent that this fear of the opposers was pretty much on the money. Anita was rather clear that this was exactly how it should be seen – criticism of islam was pretty much the same thing as personal attacks and thus racist. Drawing a picture of Muhammad was a personal attack on muslim students and thus an example of racism.
    Listening to the debate brought back why I used to hate student politics.
    Listening to the debate I’m pretty sure that the ambivalence of the motion (mixing up race with religion) and the fact that they’ve bundled it in with the anti-semitism motion in the wake of the violent attack on the LSE Jewish student will result in the motion getting passed.

  12. 12
    Bruce Gorton

    Sigmund

    You are a better man than I. I listened to it until about 20 minutes in, and got irritated.

    There is a very clear, and very plain difference between the two motions: Under the anti-semitism motion mocking the Torah is perfectly okay. Having cartoons mocking the various Jewish prophets? Perfectly fine.

    Under the Islamophobia one you are not allowed to do that. That is what including the Quran there means.

  13. 13
    Sigmund

    Bruce, I took one for the team!
    The really infuriating thing about the LSE situation is that it’s not simply a push by the Islamicists to get their way. Most of the anti free speech noise is coming from people who claim to be atheists – such as the proposer of the motion and various members of the LSE SU committee.
    Quite frankly it’s militant accomodationism!
    There’s several examples in the current LSE SU newspaper ‘The Beaver’ (it doesn’t have the same euphemistic meaning in the UK!) For instance Lukas Slothuus, the LSE Community Welfare officer “condemned the Islamophobic actions of the ASH society in calling for a depiction of the Prophet Mohammad”
    The US based accomodationists, Mooney, Stedman and the like, do their best to shush outspoken atheists but the first amendment restricts their ability to do much other than tut-tut. It’s not the case in Europe where the absence of free speech laws mean that ‘interfaith’ atheists, seeking to protect religion and the religious, can have a much more malign influence.

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    Urggh. Listening. Urrrgghh.

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    Ohhh I do not like Anita. According to her everything is Islamophobia.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Racism means anything Anita wants it to mean herpderp!!11!

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Sherell spoke – I think that’s the racism officer.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    Now I like Anita even less. Her final shouty rant at Marshall…no I did not like that.

  19. 19
    Bernard Hurley

    There you have it folks you either have to be an islamofool or an islamophobe. No other option is possible.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    Um – can we make that islamofool or similar?

  21. 21
    Bernard Hurley

    Yes Islamofool has a better ring to it.

  22. 22
    evilDoug

    I don’t think I can bear to watch. I get the feeling Ophelia can’t bear to watch more than two or three minutes at a time.

    While I have no problem with the SU passing a resolution condeming the incident against the Jewish student, I think it is wrong-headed to to pass a motion supporting making the campus safer for Jewish students. I could support a motion in favor of making the campus safer for all students. After all, they said they are in favor of equality for all, which is something to be strived for with some considerable vigor. While I might be OK with a resolution against unjust treatment of a specific group, such as Jews, if there was really a problem with that group being targeted, I would still prefer the wording to be advocating action to deal with any group-directed harrassment or violence that may arise. One law for all.
    I’m not suggesting that affirmative action is always wrong. If there is a need to rebalance due to long-standing problems, I think it has merit. It doen’t appear to me that such is the case at LSE.
    ~~~
    Bernard’s comment at 19 is just what I meant in an earlier comment on another of Ophelia’s threads – you go into bin A or bin B. It does one of the worst things you can do to a person – stick a label on them and the treat them according to what is on that label. Stupid, destructive and obscene. But it’s easy.

  23. 23
    David Hart

    “Yes Islamofool has a better ring to it.”

    I’m learning to play the islamophone – a musical instrument which falls silent whenever you try to play a critical or dissenting note:-)

  24. 24
    Tim Harris

    Just as a matter of interest, were the students who taunted the Jewish student about the Holocaust and broke his nose right-wing English thugs or – dare I say – Islamist thugs? In any case, the incident seems to be being used dishonestly by such as Anita to get the other motion pushed through, but if it is the latter case then the principle of fairness is being abused in a disgusting way. One wonders also whether some back-door quid pro quo is involved.

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    Good question. I didn’t think of that.

  26. 26
    David

    Sigmund, “There’s several examples in the current LSE SU newspaper ‘The Beaver’ (it doesn’t have the same euphemistic meaning in the UK!) ” How come im still laughing then?

    David, uk

  27. 27
    Unity

    On the Jewish student who was assaulted, it appears to an issue with the University’s Ski Club…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2087148/Top-university-probes-Nazi-attack-left-Jewish-student-broken-nose-drinking-party.html

  28. 28
    Sigmund

    As far as I can tell the assault on the Jewish student was carried out by some rich white students. It happened at a ski resort in France during a trip organized by the LSE athletics club. There is no indication that working class white thugs or islamic individuals were involved.
    By the way, Anita, from the audio clip, may be infuriating, but her attitude (militant accomodationism) is very representative of the committee as a whole.

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    Well that’s depressing.

  30. 30
    Tim Harris

    Well, upper-class white thugs, then – they’re no better than the working-class variety and often worse, in my experience.

  31. 31
    NathanDST

    particularly given that “sensibility” has a somewhat pejorative “sense” of “hysteria in women or hypochondria in men”,

    Really? I did not know that, never having encountered that interpretation of the word before. Of course, I don’t encounter the word itself much either. If accurate, then I guess we don’t want to see that.

  32. 32
    Alex Gabriel

    They (and Anita in particular) kept saying the Jesus and Mo cartoon was a ‘personal attack’. Okay, which person was it attacking? What’s their name?

  33. 33
    Ophelia Benson

    Whatsoever person chose to see it that way. Heads I win tails you lose.

  34. 34
    Steersman

    NathanDST (#31),

    Really? I did not know that, never having encountered that interpretation of the word before. Of course, I don’t encounter the word itself much either. If accurate, then I guess we don’t want to see that.

    It’s generally the analysis of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility provided in the Wikipedia article on the topic with further comments on “sensibility” in a linked one. While it seems that the connotations of the word may have changed somewhat over the decades since Austen wrote that book, it still appears that the word retains enough of that sense – “mental or emotional responsiveness toward something, such as the feelings of another” – to justify and highlight the book’s value. And while I haven’t read the article in detail it seems that Austen attempted to address the relative merits of reason and feelings, an issue that I think bedevils us all, to a greater or lesser extent.

    More specifically, there is the fairly well known argument of David Hume to the effect that:

    ‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.

    While reason certainly has its values it also appears that it has its limitations and that it is our feelings – notably empathy I think as suggested by the above definition – that provides a substantial measure of our humanity. Although, regrettably or not, feelings also have their pathologies, some of which show some curious and problematic similarities with the case described here. It is a quote (modified) of, apparently, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association at the LSE on Pharyngula, although that seems to be a case of mistaken identity as the source may have been simply the Muslim Students Association. In any case:

    When certain [individuals] voiced their offense over the issue [of gendered insults or comments on “slut-walks” or any similar topics], for any civil, well-mannered individual or group of individuals, it should then be a question as to the feelings of others and the [offending comments] should then have been removed [and the perpetrators be obliged to commit hara-kiri for the entertainment, if not self-aggrandizement, of those offended].

    Seems we all have a tendency to get huffy – clutching our pearls – about “offended feelings”, offended sensibilities; to a greater or lesser extent conflating reason and feelings. Seems we might all give a little more thought to the merits, the reasons, of the various cases rather than rejecting them out-of-hand simply on the basis of feelings. Really seems necessary to integrate those two, to keep them in balance and not allow one to rule the roost, although that is not always an easy task. As an American moralist, Phillip Wylie, put it: we aspire to the discipline of the instinct by the heart and the mind.

  35. 35
    Noble Ratzloff

    Seriously. I’ve never seen a player called for doing upside down horns. Isn’t that the definition?

  36. 36
    NathanDST

    Seems we all have a tendency to get huffy – clutching our pearls – about “offended feelings”, offended sensibilities; to a greater or lesser extent conflating reason and feelings. Seems we might all give a little more thought to the merits, the reasons, of the various cases rather than rejecting them out-of-hand simply on the basis of feelings.

    True enough.

    And yes, I was enraged when I wrote that piece about the slut-shaming that you linked, but even rereading it now, I agree with every word I wrote.

  37. 37
    Steersman

    NathanDST (#36),

    And yes, I was enraged when I wrote that piece about the slut-shaming that you linked, but even rereading it now, I agree with every word I wrote.

    While I agree with large portions of what you wrote and I agree with at least some of what Giovanni Dannato wrote as did, sensibly, one of your commenters (sinmantyx), I can’t say that I agree with all of it in both cases. And more specifically, while I don’t think “rape apologists” have a leg to stand on it seems to me that your apparent linkage of that with the “slut-shaming” shows – as suggested in my previous post – some unfortunate similarities with the Muslims equating physical abuse with ridicule. For example relative to the last, although it may not need emphasizing, there’s this fairly typical case for the Islamic Awakening site:

    Brothers, the Queen Mary Atheist Society … [is] holding an event today at Queen Mary University of London at 7:00 pm on ‘Is Shariah in violation of human rights’. … Who gave these kuffar the right to speak? Let me ask you – if a bunch of kuffar got together and were given the right to touch your mother up and analyze her, then would you stand by and let it happen?

    Some serious pathology there – echoing Catholicism’s talk of “The Mother Church” – on which any psychologist worth his salt could have field day.

    But while the topics of sexual politics and gendered insults are complex and sensitive issues my impression is that in far too many cases the emotions tend to cloud our judgement, our reason. For instance, I would argue, as suggested above, that you are somewhat “guilty” of that in your own conflation of similarly different categories. For a further example, you say “[women] are not billboards showing off their goods, they’re people”. All fine and dandy but it tends to fly in the face of basic facts about courtship rituals and the display of various primary and secondary sexual attributes in a great many animal species, ours included. Bad karma – and most illogical – to assert that we are only sexual billboards and that our civil rights should suffer thereby, but equally so to insist, apparently, that we aren’t – at times – largely, saliently or mostly just that – and regardless of whether the reasons are considered, correctly or not, sacred or profane.

    And somewhat related to that is the question as to whether that is even morally wrong which the similarities with other species would tend to refute. But further there is the argument, which you touched upon I think and with which I agree, that just because I can’t afford a BMW that doesn’t mean that everyone else has to drive a Volkswagen or that I’m “entitled” to steal the former or that the advertising of differences should be restricted or anathematized – which would show some unfortunate similarities with the philosophy behind the burka.

    In addition, I notice on your blog a book you are interested in – The Ethical Slut; haven’t read it myself, although I have read of it – the title of which is, I think, anything but an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, at least intrinsically and categorically. And yet far too many people seem to think that that is the case, and frequently to the grief of a great many others. For instance, the statistics on violence against prostitutes indicates that they are about 7 times more likely to be murdered than those in the next riskiest occupation (male taxicab drivers). Some serious societal pathology there as well and due largely, as I think and others have argued, to that conflation of reason and emotions. Generally bad karma.

  38. 38
    Ophelia Benson

    Steersman – all very well, but do you seriously think Giovanni Dannato of malafide was just making a science-based argument about courtship behavior? Do you seriously think he wasn’t talking misogynist crap? And do you think that’s usefully similar to (say) making jokes about a religion?

  39. 39
    Steersman

    Ophelia (#38),

    Steersman – all very well, but do you seriously think Giovanni Dannato of malafide was just making a science-based argument about courtship behavior? Do you seriously think he wasn’t talking misogynist crap?

    I will certainly agree that much of what he was talking was “misogynist [or just juvenile or “bad faith”] crap”, but not all of it which needs to be considered on its merits rather than being rejected out-of-hand, sight-unseen because of an emotional over-reaction to some parts of it – which seemed to be at least part of Nathan’s response. But a woman (sinmantyx) commenting on his site put it, and a number of other points, rather well I think:

    I am going to yield a couple points to him [Dannato]. It is rude to dress provocatively in many situations, for any gender, because it can be a distraction. Some women do (by their own admission) attempt to use sex as a means to power, and dressing in certain ways is part of that. More than one woman I know has referred to her breasts as “power” and we used to joke around that some women had the super-power of “breastatude”.

    While one might quibble a little on the distraction point, although I wonder what we all might think if men took to wearing codpieces again, her comments about “power” seem very much to talk to the crux of the matter. And my argument was that that power and its exercise is entirely acceptable and well within the rights of any citizen and not at all leading to the limitation of any other rights, regardless of whether it is used “profanely” to underwrite a personal or business proposition or “sacredly” as a manifestation of the propagation of the species.

    And another very good point that sinmantyx made about the former is that, in general, such power like all power can be corrupting: the results may not necessarily be what they want to define themselves as. Or, as Jacob Bronowski put it in his The Ascent of Man, “… the environment exacts a price for the survival of the fittest; it captures them”.

    And do you think that’s usefully similar to (say) making jokes about a religion?

    Certainly seems to me that at least some jokes or comments about sexual behaviour or stereotypes, the cruder ones generally having very little relevance to much of anything that I can see, can have some utility in changing problematic modes of behaviour and should be given due consideration. And that sinmantyx – a woman I might add to underline the point – can acknowledge some credibility to or justification for Dannato’s arguments suggests some problematic if not actually risible aspects of feminism itself. Similarly, I noticed awhile back that Greta Christina – hardly an accommodationist or weak sister in the battle for women’s rights – acknowledged that some charges of misogynism really don’t hold much water.

    But I am not at all trying to argue that feminism manifests the same flaws or ones that are just as pernicious as those by theism. Although group-think might qualify and some might, and do, reasonably disagree with that, notably, that I’m aware of anyway, Philip Wylie who coined the term “Momism”, a general charge with which more than a few women have apparently agreed including another poster known in these here parts, Veronica Abbass.

    The right to free speech, the right to ridicule and criticize, as we have all been discussing at some length in the last while, at least in one case, really seems to be, and should be, a non-negotiable feature of Western democracies. But to be at all credible it seems that right can only be circumscribed in a very limited number of cases; not of much use if it is whenever our own individual personal “gods” or idols or “isms” are in the target sights. As the barmaid sensibly put it in a recent Jesus & Mo cartoon, “I don’t want my fundamental beliefs to be protected from attack or ridicule, thanks. Please feel free to attack or ridicule them anytime you wish”.

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes but one can find reasonable discussion of those subjects elsewhere. I don’t see much point in taking malafide seriously.

  41. 41
    Steersman

    Really don’t see it as a question of “taking malafide seriously” but as a question of taking seriously any reasonable questions he might raise. Particularly if they have a broader range of application.

    Really seems to be a case of addressing the ideas rather than the person which tends to qualify as and raise questions of emotional responses which tend to be quite a bit less credible.

  42. 42
    NathanDST

    sinmantyx did indeed make excellent points, both at “Occasionally, I think” and “In malafide.” And she maintained a cooler head than I could have, so I mostly stayed out of further responses to Donnato, since she had it covered and wasn’t saying anything I seriously disagreed with.

    There are reasonable discussions that can be had about the use of sexuality as a form of power (and it should be noted that women aren’t the only ones who do this), and when and under what circumstances that’s ethical or courteous (Donnato apparently felt it was discourteous of women to flaunt themselves when they weren’t going to share, while trying to say that he wasn’t arguing against them having the right to dress as they choose).

    It’s true, for example, that, as you say Steersman, we are animals and engage in “courtship rituals” that are very similar in some ways to the rituals of other species. When is it appropriate to do that is a good question. However, that really didn’t seem to be where Donnato was going, at least not in any way that actually acknowledged women as people.

    It should be noted, lest there be any misunderstanding, that I do support his right to speak and express his ideas, so long as he doesn’t cross the line into harassment, bullying, threats, or the like. But that right also goes hand in hand with my right to challenge him and others, and say exactly what kind of person I think they are for holding those ideas. Ideally, that will cause some to rethink such ideas. Less ideally, they’ll decide they don’t want to deal with being challenged, and will stop spreading the poison to others (I’ll admit to going back and forth in my own head as to the latter; do I really want them to shut up if they haven’t been convinced? does that make me like those who try to shut up women by the use of harassment and threats, such as those seen with the #mencallmethings campaign? I don’t know yet).

    The denial of a right to challenge others is at least part of what’s wrong with the LSE situation. The secular group is being denied the right to challenge others in the name of avoiding offense. That is wrong. Come to think of it, perhaps that relates to your point about emotional reactions: the Muslim group is reacting emotionally, over-reacting in fact, and others are following suit, rather than considering the implications of censorship based on offense.

    (yes, I’m trying to make a contribution to being back on topic, as Ophelia is generally not a fan of going totally off topic :))

  43. 43
    Steersman

    Nathan (#42),

    (yes, I’m trying to make a contribution to being back on topic, as Ophelia is generally not a fan of going totally off topic.

    Noted. I will try to do likewise and keep this one short(er). :-)

    Dannato apparently felt it was discourteous of women to flaunt themselves when they weren’t going to share …

    Bit of a bizarre argument – the “goodies” defense as someone mocked – as at least the “procreative capabilities” are not really a shareable resource. And while this is probably a bad analogy – at least superficially – it seems that that defense is not totally so as I’ve read that it is considered worse than poor taste – even detrimental to one’s health – to be publicly eating food in places where there’s not enough to go around. In addition there is the fact that there are some women – and men – who are willing to share even if the price is, as the aphorism has it, somewhat exorbitant. But a complex issue I think with a great many nuances.

    … does that make me like those who try to shut up women by the use of harassment and threats, such as those seen with the #mencallmethings campaign?

    Good question, an intricate and problematic question, a question of tolerating intolerance or not, a question that more than a few Muslims seem to think Western democracies are going to answer in the affirmative and which they should be disabused of.

    Come to think of it, perhaps that relates to your point about emotional reactions: the Muslim group is reacting emotionally, over-reacting in fact, and others are following suit …

    Exactly. Whether it is on the topics of theism, feminism, “gender-insult-ism”, atheism or what-have-you, emotional over-reaction is the bane of civilized dialog – civilization as a matter of fact. And important for us to ensure that the conflation of emotion and reason doesn’t cripple or eliminate the free speech that is crucial to that process.

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