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Apr 18 2012

Sparring

So where were we – oh yes – there’s a post at RDF about the Women in Secularism conference, with a particular mention of Elisabeth Cornwell, who is president of RDF US.

Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell and many other leading women speaking at Women in Secularism Conference

            By – - CENTER FOR INQUIRY                  Added: Sunday, 15 April 2012 at 5:38 PM

May 18–20, 2012 Crystal City Marriott Reagan National Airport Arlington, Virginia

FEMINISM AND SECULARISM.Given the role religion has played in the repression of women, they would seem to be natural allies, and, indeed, many feminists have been outspoken and influential secularists. However, the relationship between secularism and women’s issues remains largely unexamined.

UNTIL NOW.Join us on May 18-20, 2012, for the “Women in Secularism” conference, sponsored by the Center for Inquiry. This historic conference will discuss and celebrate the many contributions women have made to the secular movement, while critically examining both the successes and failures of secularism in addressing women’s concerns.

Naturally we can’t have that kind of thing without at least one anonymous [cough] turning up to sneer, so someone calling himself “The Ghost of Mr Emmeline Pankhurst” (hawhaw, geddit – the poor bastard was pussy-whipped! hawhaw) turned up to sneer, at great and tedious length, thus totally derailing the thread. I replied to him briefly, and he replied to me at great length. After one of his long and insulting (insulting among other things to all the speakers, including Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell, president of RDF US) (and by the way me), a mod said

OK, this is enough now, thank you.

Further sparring posts from either side will be removed.

Wrong! False equivalence. Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Update: The people at RDF have (in response to an indignant email from me) added a note saying the discussion can be continued here. That helps with the false equivalence problem.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    'Tis Himself

    That Ophelia, always stirring up trouble. I know of one blog, moderated by a Mr. Mooney, where she’s been banned.

  2. 2
    Philip L

    And, the thread has been closed down! If I may be permitted to post and enlarge on what I just said before in the other thread,

    Congratulations, Richard Dawkins Foundation. You’ve not only permitted an anonymous troll who registered that account just two days ago, and who only commented on that single thread, to shit all over it with arguments made in bad faith, derisory bullshit about the very idea of the conference, and insults to the women invited to speak at the conference – but in addition, by heavy-handed moderation you’ve totally silenced the very voices who are to speak at the conference, women in secularism, by shutting down both sides of the debate by a false equivalence that those responding to the assertions of the troll were being unreasonable.

    That is odious and unacceptable levels of failure at moderation, at inclusivity towards women, and to idea of the website being an oasis of common sense and reason: you have let the unreasonable anonymous troll scum win the argument by shutting it down after what, only 40 or so comments. You have given them every incentive possible to let them to use the exact same technique on any thread you post, ever.

    Ophelia, I think you should sent your complaint again, with Dawkins and Liz Cornwell cc’ed in.

  3. 3
    Josh Slocum

    I’m so glad you called this out. And while it’s trivial in comparison to the invective you suffered, I can’t help pointing out my outraged comment at the mod’s false equivalence game was disappeared within five minutes of my posting it. Fucking trigger finger on the delete button, and all the time in the world to mod the thread, but no time at all to make basic, decent, humane ethical discriminations among users.

    In. The. God. Damned. Thread. About. The Women in Secularism Conference. Where one of the headliners is the victim in the thread. How I’ve come to loathe the administration at Dawkins’ site. It’s a scandal.

  4. 4
    Philip L

    ’Tis, with the evident laxity at dealing with a brand new, single-purpose troll account (that pattern of behaviour really ought to have been blatantly obvious) I am sort of wondering if they have a case of the “Tom Johnson”s over there.

    Oh, and the RD.net moderators let through this comment before shutting up shop:

    I really don’t get this whole “battle of the sexes” thing, but find feminists absolutely adorable to watch. Will there perhaps be a video?

    No, that can’t possibly be a veiled reference to the objectification of women can it? After all, it’s nice that this guy wants to watch feminists.

  5. 5
    Josh Slocum

    Ugh, Phillip. Those bastards. Those bastards. Somebody needs to take on the deep rot at rd.net. It’s high time.

  6. 6
    Philip L

    I only noticed because I had previously “red flagged” the troll’s comments, and looking at the thread again all the red flag icons had disappeared. Only in the usual small, default text does it say “Commenting is closed for this entry”.

    Having read the comments by yourself and Ophelia that were censored, it seems obvious the moderators more highly value tone, than substance. I’m glad you copied yours to the previous thread for posterity. :)

  7. 7
    Josh Slocum

    Seems true, Philip (sorry for getting your name spelled wrong). I’m past the point where I’m going to be polite, or use my indoor voice for this pervasive bigotry and its tolerance. Way past it.

  8. 8
    Philip L

    Interesting, the comment I quoted here (in #4 above, it was comment #40 over at RDF) has just disappeared. Whilst it was slightly problematic in its own way, it was not an example of, quote, “[f]urther sparring posts from either side”. Hurrah for more heavy-handed moderation, while all of the posts by the troll are still completely untouched!

  9. 9
    Susan Latimer

    I’m commenting here because the thread on RD.net was shut down. I was going to make an attempt at commenting on their judgement, knowing it might be deleted, but I can’t even do that.

    I don’t know how to communicate to the moderators over there (who, I think generally do a very good job under often trying circumstances) what a bad call this was.

    After the moderators said, “Cut it out now, kids.” I posted a comment to the ghost saying that the trouble was not that he was anonymous OR that he disagreed. People argue vehemently on that site all the time, most of them anonymously. It’s that he had not once made any sort of argument. That was deleted. I wasn’t feeding the troll, nor was I bickering. (Nor was Ophelia. I’m not suggesting that.) I thought that this comment would fall well into the fat zone of the terms and conditions. My comment was deleted.

    Ophelia’s comment followed, the one that rightfully rejected the notion that she and the troll were equals, akin to two kids squabbling in the back seat of the car. That was also deleted.

    The troll effectively shut down a thread about women in the secular movement. I find this judgement deeply disturbing. My e-mail no longer functions. (I abandoned it a long time ago due to receiving an overwhelming number of stupid e-mails). I suppose I could borrow an e-mail address to communicate with the mods over there.

    Ophelia, did you e-mail them? They make a lot of good calls. As far as I can tell, this one was terrible. I’d like to know what their reasoning was.

  10. 10
    Susan Latimer

    Anyway, done. I just fired off a message to the mods at RD.net. I look forward to a response.

    It’s strange. I really love that place. I’ve found this last episode deeply troubling. I hope it can be resolved.

    Great site by the way, Ophelia.

  11. 11
    tielserrath

    I really don’t think RD has any interest whatsoever in the issues of any minority in the atheist movement, and this filters down into attitudes on the website. If you’re not a woman being immediately and directly oppressed by religion (preferably islam), he seems to feel any issues of discrimination are imaginary.

    I was also extremely disappointed to note on one of his slides at the GAC he labelled people with disabilities who object to abortion due to disability as ‘militants’. I really wanted to ask him if people who campaign to make ethical objections, without threats or violence, can really be described as militant – since that seems to be the objection he uses to the label of ‘militant atheism’.

    Anyway, I’ve long since abandoned the RDF because of these types of attitudes, but I salute those of you who are still plugging away.

  12. 12
    you_monster

    OK, this is enough now, thank you.

    Further sparring posts from either side will be removed.

    Ridiculous. Sounds awfully reminiscent of “calling out racism is racist”.

    Way to let some fucking disingenuous sexist shit-stain succeed in silencing women and pro-equality arguments.

    Either moderate the thread to stop some idiot from filibustering and shutting down conversation or allow people to post rebuttals. Shutting down the thread and not allowing people to defend themselves from this terrible false equivalency is one of the worst reactions possible.

    I have little respect for the way the RDF blog is run and no respect for the commentariat there.

  13. 13
    Susan Latimer

    >I have little respect for the way the RDF blog is run and no respect for the commentariat there.

    I don’t agree with tha

  14. 14
    dirigible

    That is very unjust false equivalency on the part of the mods, and supports only the individual(s?) that wishes to be disruptive.

  15. 15
    maureen.brian

    Just shows you! The mods over at RD.net are as ignorant as the trolls.

    No-one with any knowledge of the life and human rights campaigning of Richard Pankhurst could possibly have come up with such a very stupid nym. If the mods had been on the ball – clearly they are not – they’d have spotted that from the off.

  16. 16
    Egbert

    I have been a poster at RD.net for years, and the judgment of the moderators has been increasingly questionable. Eventually they do tend to learn from their mistakes, but often far too late after the damage is done.

    Obviously when people have ‘privileges’ it sometimes goes to their heads, and I think this is a prime example where a bit of power and lack of judgement causes damage.

  17. 17
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Oh goodness, I’m glad I never discovered RD.net as a place to hang out, I’d have to look for a new place now.
    Seriously?
    SERIOUSLY?
    The fucking old “both sides are equally to blame and now it’s enough” bullshit?
    S E R I O U S L Y?
    You let the troll shit all over the place and then you cement his unrefuted (because you delete the other comments) bullshit for all times by closing the thread.
    You allow the asshole to attack, denigrate and insult one of the very speakers and then disallow that person to stand up for herself?

    Yeah, but FTB is the new Stalinist Gulag of the atheist community…

  18. 18
    Marta

    The intention of the Mods at RDF.net is to keep the discussion from spiraling out of control. They really do not care who is saying what about whom. To the Mods, it’s all bad, because god forbid we have a repeat of last summer’s elevator guy problem, that’s why. It’s no good bringing up the issue of false equivalency, because they don’t want any kind of discussion whatsoever.

    Besides feeling completely suffocated by that kind of thinking, I’m wondering why they posted the blurb about the upcoming conference in the first place?

  19. 19
    Michael

    I’m wondering why they posted the blurb about the upcoming conference in the first place?

    I assume because:

    Elisabeth Cornwell, evolutionary psychologist, executive director of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science US

    is speaking. Also RDF are picking up the childcare tab.

    There is both an announcement on the page where “events” are announced and also that discussion thread which is no longer taking comments.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    Susan @ 9 – yes, I emailed them yesterday. No response.

  21. 21
    Mark Fournier

    I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Recall that until a couple of years ago, RDF had an actual forum, with topics and everything. I forget what started it, but some of the people on the forum got very upset about something Dawkins or the moderators did (I think it may have actually been shutting down a topic or erasing the history), and as a result of the harsh postings on the forums, they shut down the entire thing.

    The RDF seems to be mainly a public relations outlet, not a forum, so the kind of messy debates we get into aren’t welcome there. Given the kind of nit-picking criticisms the press has been treating him to lately (his ancestors owned slaves!), I think you can see why. He doesn’t want a headline in the Daily Mail, “Do Atheists Hate Women?”, with some hack story about the debate on his web page.

    On the other hand, I find that heavy moderation tends to produce a “child-safe” forum, which in turn encourages a lot of children, or at least, immature people, to take part in it. My favorites were always the ones where there seemed to be no moderators, and idiots were free to speak and be dismantled in turn by smarter participants.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, I’m well aware of the borderline-insane criticisms in the press lately, especially the ludicrous “distant ancestor owned slaves!!1″ item. I talked about them at both the conferences I went to last month. (Interesting fact: Elisabeth Cornwell was at one and Paula Kirby [ED of RDF UK] was at the other.) They’re a perfect illustration of just how low people will stoop in order to denigrate vocal atheists.

    But that doesn’t explain why it was preferable to say “both of you stop it!!” as opposed to banning Mr Pankhurst and deleting his insulting comments.

    By the way my guess is that Mr P is Michael Kingsford Gray of ERV. He likes that kind of heavy, elaborated, boring, pedantic facetiousness.

  23. 23
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Eh, its is Dawkins’ site, after all. The man for whom women’s issues are only important when he can use them to shame women, and then disappear the moment his ass is handed to him.

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least that the mods on his site are equally cowardly.

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    No, that’s not fair. I think he’s made some mistakes (but then so have I, would you believe it!) but I don’t think that’s true about women’s issues. RDF helps to fund Maryam’s work, for instance.

  25. 25
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I’ll defer to you, as my experience with RD is extremely limited (and, honestly, going to stay limited as I’m unimpressed).

    Therefore, consider my statement withdrawn.

  26. 26
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Tielserrath:

    I really don’t think RD has any interest whatsoever in the issues of any minority in the atheist movement, and this filters down into attitudes on the website.

    Agreed.

    Mark Fournier, I’m sure you don’t mean to compare moderating bigoted trolls out of existence to creating a “child-friendly” environment… and, by comparison, women, people of color, etc. to children who “can’t handle debate.” But that’s how your comment reads.

  27. 27
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Ophelia:

    I think he’s made some mistakes (but then so have I, would you believe it!) but I don’t think that’s true about women’s issues. RDF helps to fund Maryam’s work, for instance.

    I don’t know Dawkins at all personally, but my impression is that he’s OK with supporting women’s rights or the rights of other oppressed groups only to the extent that he doesn’t have to reconsider any of his existing attitudes.

  28. 28
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    No, that’s not fair. I think he’s made some mistakes (but then so have I, would you believe it!) but I don’t think that’s true about women’s issues. RDF helps to fund Maryam’s work, for instance.

    IMO, Richard Dawkins is one of those “good guys”. He goes the obvious 80%: Against FGM, supports Maryam’s work, funds childcare at events.
    But he’s totally blind to the remaining 20% and that those 20% actually make the other 80% possible.
    That you’ll never end rape culture without asserting a woman’s right to go to her bed undisturbed, and that such a conflict is NOT children quibbling and will harm the movement so to speak and is therefore best shut up.
    We’ve seen what happens when you keep the lid shut.
    We’ve seen what happens when a small remark in an unremarkable video becomes the final straw.

  29. 29
    Lyanna

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, I think that’s right. Fighting against oppression of women under Islam is valuable, of course, but it doesn’t require Richard Dawkins to rethink his personal behavior, or contemplate how a man in his own society might be sexist. So it’s “safer” for him to support that fight. Fighting against forms of sexism that manifest within Western society–and among atheists–is a different story.

  30. 30
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    So it’s “safer” for him to support that fight.

    And, it’s specifically a fight against religious misogyny, which would fit in to Dawkins’ m.o.

    The “dear muslima” letter was written specifically to shame and silence non-muslim women for daring to think sexism is a problem anywhere BUT in Islamic countries. We don’t have FGM, therefore, shuddup.

    Then, he asked to have women explain to him what the issue was. when they did, he vanished – no response, no apology, not even a not-pology.

    As I said, unimpressed.

  31. 31
    yahweh

    “Fighting against oppression of women under Islam is valuable, of course, but it doesn’t require Richard Dawkins to rethink his personal behavior,…”

    Rethinking one’s personal behaviour is everyone’s job, not just Richard Dawkin’s.

    Fighting oppression of women under religions is specifically (amongst other things) what Dawkin’s site and foundation are about.

    IMO he’s perfectly entitled to focus on what he does and leave his personal failings (it that’s what they are) out of it. It’s not as if he’s short of enemies.

  32. 32
    Godless Heathen

    The RDF seems to be mainly a public relations outlet, not a forum, so the kind of messy debates we get into aren’t welcome there.

    Then they should disable commenting entirely.

  33. 33
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Fighting oppression of women under religions is specifically (amongst other things) what Dawkin’s site and foundation are about.

    You know, that’s perfectly legitimate.
    As longs as you don’t go fucking around and try to shame women who want a bit more.
    You know, if you say you support women but only to a limit that you set and that women are not allowed to challenge does not mean you support women.
    It still means that you think you know better.
    It still means you don’t consider women to be able to decide for themselves what is demeaning them.
    It still means you think you’re allowed to tell women to shut up when they toe your line.

  34. 34
    Josh Slocum

    IMO he’s perfectly entitled to focus on what he does and leave his personal failings (it that’s what they are) out of it. It’s not as if he’s short of enemies.

    Do you not know what actually happened? Nobody provoked Dawkins into saying anything. He chose, of his own free will, to react to Rebecca Watson’s extremely mild statement in a video blog –it was “guys don’t do that” literally. Seriously. That’s all—by writing a mocking, dismissive and insulting post ridiculing her.

    Does that make it clearer why people are upset? Do you expect people just not to say anything about that appalling behavior? Do you think Dawkins was reasonable to go out of his way to do this, but that those protesting it are unreasonable? If so, why?

    And no, I’m not a Dawkins hater. I’m a longtime reader of his work, I’ve corresponded with him a few times, and I worked for his foundation as a volunteer at the 2007 AAI conference. He is an international treasure. But on this issue he’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

  35. 35
    julian

    So it’s “safer” for him to support that fight.

    It looks like the game all politicians play. I’m not sure if my instinct to resent it in him more than I would in another community’s spokesman is fair to him or not (I don’t believe I should hold him to a higher standard but this is a community I identify with so it’s very much in my best interest it ‘stay clean’) but, like Giliell, I still see him as a good guy.

  36. 36
    BuddyBuddy

    You can’t moan about moderation when this site moderates just as much as anybody else.

    Stop being such hypocrites.

  37. 37
    octopod

    BuddyBuddy@36: dude, not all moderation is equivalent. There is intelligent moderation, and there is indiscriminate banhammering. Did you even read the OP?

  38. 38
    BuddyBuddy

    octopod,

    I have read the OP, but it seems Ophelia is demanding that the mods over at RDF wait for her signal (and the all important last word) before they can decide to close the thread.

    It seems to me like that Ghost character was indeed trolling, so why is Ophelia obsessed with getting the last word in on another site thread with him/her.

    Seems like an over-reaction to me. Naturally, this highly controversial “incident” is another golden opportunity for posters here (who all seem to claim to have once been regulars at RDF!!!) to have another go at Dawkins, the people who post there, and its moderators.

    Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

  39. 39
    Josh Slocum

    Jesus Christ. More sewer sockpuppets.

  40. 40
    BuddyBuddy

    Jesus Christ. More sewer sockpuppets.

    Translation:-

    Josh is so narrow-minded and ignorant he has to concern troll away any dissonance.

    I’m starting to see the POV of the RDF mods. I’d certainly consider Josh a “sewer troll” if I was one of the RDF mods.

    Next time, if you’ve got nothing to say, don’t say anthing.

  41. 41
    Josh Slocum

    How ’bout you piss off darlin’:)

  42. 42
    'Tis Himself

    A denizen of the slimepit has noticed a thread about women and has come to make sure we’re toeing the bitches ain’t shit line. Am I right, BuddyBuddy?

  43. 43
    BuddyBuddy

    Josh, how about you just fuck off, you intolerable douchebag.

    Ophelia – how do you put up with this guy?

  44. 44
    Josh Slocum

    Aww. I haz a sad:(

  45. 45
    dirigible

    “Ophelia – how do you put up with this guy?”

    What was that about moderation?

  46. 46
    A. Noyd

    dirigible (#46)

    What was that about moderation?

    It was a point more subtle than your brain can apparently handle. And it wasn’t all that subtle. Maybe if you actually read what people are saying you could start to catch on.

  47. 47
    Michael

    That thread over at RDnet now has a link to this one saying

    For those wishing to continue the discussion you can comment over at Butterflies and Wheels

    Michael

  48. 48
    Philip L

    Well, that’s “cute” – only one of the comments by the troll has been removed, so it seems as though the RDF moderators’ strategy for belatedly dealing with trolls that derail and wreck comment threads is to 1) largely ignore the trolling, and ignore comments having been red flagged 2) lock the thread long after the thread has been wrecked 3) send the discussion (and the trolls?) somewhere else.

    *slow clap*

  49. 49
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s an improvement on the original situation though, in which the troll got the last word.

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