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Jun 03 2012

Degodwinization

Housework. Detailing. Metadiscussion. Tweaking. Reworking an argument that wasn’t done right the first time.

I said something in the Rebecca explains post, after quoting Rebecca saying

I should apparently put on a smile and pretend it doesn’t happen, because by reporting on my treatment, I am creating “a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.”

I said this:

As Jews in Germany circa 1936 might have created “a climate where Jews — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center creates a climate where people who are the object of systematic vocal hatred end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe. That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course, but then Rebecca didn’t name TAM in the item DJ quoted, either; she (or rather USA Today, indirectly quoting her) said “the freethought community.”

Orac pounced on that passage rather rudely and aggressively.

Nonsense, Ophelia. That’s exactly what you just did, compare TAM to Nazi Germany and women to Jews in Nazi Germany. Denying that you did so doesn’t change that. It just makes you sound disingenuous.

As you might (or might not) know, I very much detest the gratuitous use of argumentum ad Nazi-um. I even have a special category for it on my blog:

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/category/history/hitler_zombie/

My taking you to task for your analogy also has nothing to do with whether I agree with you and Rebecca regarding TAM and DJ Grothe. Rather, it has everything to do with language and not sliming your opponents with the Nazi label (while saying that’s not what you’re doing). These are things that really irritate me. I expect better.

I’m debating whether your hyperbole is worthy of inclusion. I haven’t done a Hitler Zombie post in a long time. Maybe it’s time.

I was annoyed by that, frankly. I was annoyed by the claim that you can’t disavow something by disavowing it. (On the other hand I sometimes think people are making fake disavowals, and I think I sometimes say so. That being the case, I probably have no right to be annoyed at Orac for saying the same kind of thing, just because he’s saying it to precious Me. But I knew the disavowal was meant to be real – but then no doubt so do other people. That one may be a wash.) I was annoyed by the bluster, especially coming from someone who never comments here. I was annoyed by the thuggish-sounding “maybe it’s time” nonsense. I was above all annoyed by the fact that Orac is a speaker at TAM. I was very annoyed by what could be seen as an attempt to ostracize me. I still am annoyed by that aspect of it, actually.

Orac also went to the trouble of repeating his objection to my post on Chris Hallq’s post “I support DJ Grothe.”

Well, ironically enough, part of the substance of that post was Ophelia Benson likening the issue with TAM to Jews in Nazi Germany circa 1936 and then immediately trying to say that she wasn’t likening TAM to Nazi Germany. One paragraph in that post is worthy of a Hitler Zombie post. I haven’t written one in a long time. Maybe it’s time for the Undead Fuhrer to rise from his crypt again.

Also annoying, for at least the final reason.

However – he does have a point. It wasn’t a good example for the point I wanted to make. That point was just that targets of hatred and vilification should not be blamed or rebuked for saying they are targets of hatred and vilification. That does, certainly, apply to Jews in Germany circa 1936, but that’s not the best example to choose because it’s colored by what happened to Jews in Germany in 1942. I meant to avoid that by saying 1936, but I should have just chosen a different example, instead. It’s not as if I think all this verbal misogynist bile is going to result in a genocide against women. I don’t think that. I think it sucks and has bad consequences, but I don’t think it’s pre-genocidal or anything like that.

A much better example would have been LGBQ high school kids in (say) suburban Minnesota.

So, ok. Orac had a point. I still think he was rude and a bit thuggish about it, but he had a point.

69 comments

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  1. 1
    'Tis Himself

    Orac had a point. He ran that point into the ground but originally there was a point.

  2. 2
    bobaho

    So, ok. Orac had a point. I still think he was rude and a bit thuggish about it, but he had a point.
    When the only tool in the shed is a sledge hammer, every problem is approached with the same finesse and subtlety that tool offers.

  3. 3
    Tom Williamson

    You see people, this is the key difference between Ophelia Benson and Rebecca Watson. Ophelia listens to her critics rather than dismissing and insulting them. Thank you Ophelia!

  4. 4
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    You see people, this is the key difference between Ophelia Benson and Rebecca Watson. Ophelia listens to her critics rather than dismissing and insulting them. Thank you Ophelia!

    Amazing. Simply amazing.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Rebecca’s a friend of mine. You can keep your thanks.

  6. 6
    pentatomid

    Tom,

    Are you that desperate to critisize RW? Seriously, WTF are you doing. Also, you do realize that Ophelia still agrees with Rebecca, right?

  7. 7
    Ze Madmax

    Tom Williamson @ #3

    You see people, this is the key difference between Ophelia Benson and Rebecca Watson. Ophelia listens to her critics rather than dismissing and insulting them. Thank you Ophelia!

    Methinks the only “key difference” you care about is the fact that Ophelia isn’t Rebecca Watson.

  8. 8
    Candy

    I agree with Orac. The Holocaust comparison was sickening. Has anyone been gassed to death at an atheist conference? Held in a barbed-wire enclosure and slowly starved to death? Get a grip, and get some perspective. Dawkins was dead to rights in what he said last year. For shame.

  9. 9
    soul_biscuit

    Candy, what did Dawkins say last year? Are you talking about the “Dear Muslima” thing?

  10. 10
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I agree with Orac’s assessment of his own behavior. He had a point, but it was not his finest moment.

    In addition to the “attack first, ask questions later” approach, he ignored everything else about your post to make that single point, and then went to Slimepit East where someone asked Hallquist to address the substance of your post to post about it, again ignoring the substance of your post. That would merely have been annoying had he not then proceeded to jump on the “too much invective on both sides and everyone needs to dial it down” bandwagon, even going so far as to suggest that what’s been said about Watson is “probably” more beyond the pale that what’s been said about Grothe [!!!], ignoring all of the concrete evidence staring him in the face.

    It’s complicated to draw any such connections unproblematically, even if you make it plain that you’re not comparing movements or situations in every respect. I posted about Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany several months ago in part, as I say there, because of current arguments about sexist and misogynistic humor. I think the information is important historically, but also theoretically in that it can help us to understand forms of marginalization and resistance in a way that’s relevant to contemporary issues, including some of “local” importance.

    I also remember talking in a B&W thread about Chris Mooney’s insistence, even after he was well aware of “Tom Johnson”‘s dishonesty and that there was no evidence for his story, that something of the sort must still have possibly or probably happened. I said that it reminded me of the dynamic of blood libel legends, specifically one in which there’s still a shrine or prayers to some kid who was claimed to have been kidnapped from a Spanish village in the Middle Ages, despite the fact that no kid was ever reported missing from that village, so the kid in this story never even existed. I wasn’t comparing atheists in the contemporary US to Jewish people in Europe in the Middle Ages. I do think that sort of dynamic has similar marginalizing effects.

    I think we need to make it clear when we make those sorts of connections, in one way or another, that we’re not just talking about other people’s experiences to make a point about our own, but I think the connections in general can be important to make. I also have a problem with people from the dominant group (in this case, men) pouncing arrogantly and scoldingly on people from the subordinate and struggling group (in this case, women) for such things. That’s not to say there’s no place for legitimate objections, but if you’re in the dominant group in question you should step back and think before attacking.

  11. 11
    Sastra

    I hadn’t seen either comment, but my first reaction on reading the post was to agree with Orac. I wondered where you were going to go with it — retract and change the analogy, or double down (or something else.) I see I need not have worried. LGBQ high school kids is a better analogy.

    I’m a bit surprised Orac apparently considered a post on it: I thought he usually stays out of atheism as an issue and away from atheist blogs. Must be the skeptic/TAM connection, of course.

    Being rude and a bit thuggish has never taken away from the charm of any of my favorite bloggers (even when I’ve been on the end of it.)

  12. 12
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    but I think the connections in general can be important to make

    Especially when it comes to atheists. I’m always surprised at how the very same behaviors by religious people and accommodationists towards gnu atheists that we strenuously object to (e.g., the constant characterization of our statements, no matter how factual or mildly stated, as shrill/hateful/troublemaking) are not recognized as such when they’re directed towards women. When I point this out, I’m not saying my situation as an atheist is the same as my situation as a woman. It’s about the forms and dynamics of marginalization and resistance.

  13. 13
    LeftSidePositive

    You know, I’m not sure I entirely agree with the attitude that it’s ALWAYS wrong to make a Hitler analogy. I agree that most Hitler analogies are stupid, but it does not then follow that ALL Hitler analogies are stupid. If someone makes a pointless Hitler analogy, say WHY it’s pointless. Because otherwise it just becomes a “thing” where it’s unfashionable to mention Hitler, end of discussion.

    So, with that in mind, here are my suggested criteria for an appropriate Hitler analogy:

    1) Similarity does not imply degree. Everyone knows this, but when someone draws an analogy person X doesn’t like, they’re the first to go “ARE YOU SAYING I’M AS BAD AS HITLER?!?!?!” instead of reacting to the substance of the criticism. It’s basically Godwin’s first derivative. And the thing is, most people understand how analogies work in every other aspect of their lives: “like firetrucks, strawberries are red.” See? Notice how no one thinks I said a strawberry and a firetruck are the same thing?

    2) You have to have a point. General badness = Hitler is not an acceptable analogy. I think it’s things like this that give Hitler analogies a bad name. Any variant of “you disagree with me–you’re like Hitler!” or “you’re rude on the Internet–you’re like Hitler!” can and should be mocked. HOWEVER, if you’re criticizing behavior that vilifies a certain group, or that engages in deeply dishonest propaganda, that uses non-consenting research subjects, that makes unreasonable demands that cannot be appeased, etc., a Hitler analogy may be appropriate in the those-who-don’t-learn-from-history-are-doomed-to-repeat-it sort of way (but see #1 about magnitude).

    2a) Counterexample: Bill O’Reilly saying DailyKos was “Like the KKK, Like the Nazi party…” Note total lack of actual historical antecedent apart from general badness. As Stephen Colbert put it, “Exactly! The Nazis and the KKK were both notorious for allowing people to express themselves in a free and open forum!” (Notice how this criticism is “your Hitler analogy sucks” not “never make Hitler analogies.”)

    3) That thing Hitler did actually had to be bad. No making Hitler analogies about things like roadwork or public education. (This gets dicey when you want to make a cogent warning about the risks of excessive social cohesion.) Mustaches have to be inherently bad–nothing can BECOME bad solely because of association to Hitler.

    4) The thing you’re criticizing actually has to be true. Counterexample: Sarah Palin and the Death Panels. See, the problem with this is not that it’s a Hitler analogy, the problem is that it’s a LIE. There WAS no plan to deny care to those who weren’t “useful to society.” If, in some twisted alternate universe, someone actually DID advocate limiting access to care based on societal usefulness, a Hitler analogy would be wholly appropriate.

    5) Consider your audience. Are there other historical parallels you could draw that would be more insightful or more interesting? Is your audience sufficiently well-versed in those parallels to understand them, or are you in a situation where you have to go with what everybody knows?

    I am, of course, open to further refinements.

  14. 14
    LeftSidePositive

    So, as to Ophelia:

    1) Explicitly disavowed. Although again, I don’t see the need to disavow when the difference is in degree, not in kind. Most people should understand that, but willfully don’t. Orac is trying to use the classic I-selectively-can’t-understand-analogies dodge here, and that is intellectually dishonest.

    2) Defensible. Jews in 1936 were genuinely unwelcome. They were also blamed for causing social problems by which they were actually victimized, and that comparison is worth making. Furthermore, many Jews did see what was going on and LEAVE because of the rumors, so maybe the analogy is more apt than you realized. Now, that said–were those people *wrong* to leave a situation where others suggested they were threatened? That’s not to say there’s imminent dire harm to women in skeptic conferences, but is it wrong for people to warn others of risks, no matter how small? Is it wrong for people not to subject themselves to those risks, no matter how small? That said, we have no evidence that anyone actually *is* intentionally leaving because of these warnings, so that complicates your analogy.

    3) Yes, blaming victims is actually bad. Yes, singling out some people and harassing them is actually bad. Having a group experience outsider status is actually bad.

    4) Borderline. Where this falls apart is that the organization itself is not actively, publicly ENFORCING outsider status, but rather de facto outsider status, so the SPLC analogy is much better because that describes social attitudes and customs, whereas a Hitler analogy would imply overt, intentional discrimination.

    5) No. There are better ones, and you’ve already chosen them.

    So, ultimately my take on this is that it’s a reasonable, but by no means perfect, Hitler analogy. I certainly don’t think it implies you were unhinged or dishonest by bringing it up, but I respect your choice to make a different analogy because it’s BETTER (in the sense of more apt, e.g., LGBTQ kids), not because “Hitler=Fail.”

  15. 15
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    where someone asked Hallquist to address the substance of your post to post about it, again ignoring the substance of your post

    My apologies to the English language.

  16. 16
    H.H.

    Analogies aren’t perfect, but I don’t see anything dishonest here. Ophelia was saying that blaming vocal feminists for the abuse they receive is as misguided as blaming the Jews for the abuse they received in Nazi Germany. The analogy is not that the abuse is similar or their treatment is similar. That would be to misunderstand the analogy.

    Orac’s principle objection seems to be that invoking the Nazi’s in any analogy is simply a cheap emotional ploy. On that point he may be correct, but that doesn’t give him license to ignore the point the analogy was making. To just say “Ophelia likened TAM issues to Nazi Germany” without stating what parallels Ophelia was actually making strikes me as the same of petty emotionalism he accuses her of engaging in.

    Add in those additional details, in Orac’s statment suddenly becomes less “ironic.”

    Well, ironically enough, part of the substance of that post was Ophelia Benson likening the issue with TAM to Jews in Nazi Germany circa 1936 (in a very particular way) and then immediately trying to say that she wasn’t likening TAM to Nazi Germany (in the way I inferred).

  17. 17
  18. 18
    Greg Laden

    The key difference between Tom Williamson and ….

    … oh, never mind.

    Rising fascism in the 1930s added to a much older European antisemitism is well studied, widely appreciated, and important. It is also archetypal. A reference to that period in a conversation about how a human rights issue plays out in society is not necessarily inappropriate. Ophelia, in your comment you used 1936 as one case, the SPLC as a second case, and explicitly amputated the holocaust from the analogy, honing in on the nature of the social context of the conversation where there is a human rights issue. It was a perfectly apt comparison and it was well done.

    Making any reference to anything connected to the Holocaust that is not the Holocaust has to be done cautiously, but you did it cautiously. Orac’s response was a kneejerk reaction. He saw the keywords and swatted. That is the hamhanded way he does things. Fortunately, he does other things well.

    In the end, though, it is important that you make the corrections, apologize, reword and revise, and make it clear that you understand that the way you said something, what you said, etc. etc. was not the best you can do, and may have even done damage to the conversation. Orac, Knight of TAM and Alpha Male, has made that clear to you. Next time you want to suggest that DJ Groth could correct, apologize, reword or revise, to say something in a way that is better, to avoid saying something that damages an ongoing conversation, think twice about doing that because it isn’t really your role. Leave these matters to the men, woman!

    Between you and Ashley Miller, are we to expect some sort of uprising?

  19. 19
    LeftSidePositive

    And, just to be scrupulously honest here, I did think Ophelia engaged in a bit of the As-Bad-As fallacy on her Taliban post. I don’t think it invalidated her point at all, but the way she worded it kinda came off as though if your opponent didn’t kill millions Jews in Europe you can’t make a Nazi analogy, or if they didn’t throw acid in someone’s face, you can’t make a Taliban analogy. I feel the post would have been stronger if it showed that feminism is not similar to Nazis or the Taliban, not just in degree, BUT IN KIND, because I think that’s the key difference.

    Of course, by the time I got to it I think the commenters had done a great job showing why it was different *in kind* so I didn’t really have much to add in real time.

  20. 20
    H.H.

    By the way, almost any analogy can be made to appear looney if one omits the actual point of comparison.

    Person A: “That sports car is red like my can of coke.”

    Person B: “OMG, person A thinks that cars and soda drinks are the same thing! Try to drive down the street in that can and see how far you get, idiot!”

  21. 21
    Greg Laden

    H. H. Yes! And it’s pretty funny when the demand for “accuracy” of an analogy requires that a thing can only be analogized by itself. I wonder if there is an Internet Memish Fallacy listing for that one on Teh Wiki?

  22. 22
    Steve Caldwell

    Tom Williamson wrote:

    You see people, this is the key difference between Ophelia Benson and Rebecca Watson. Ophelia listens to her critics rather than dismissing and insulting them.

    Tom … actually I think Rebecca Watson does listen to her critics:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1sm8z7i0I

    Given what her critics have said, this deadpan response is perfectly appropriate. If you think it’s dismissive and insulting, perhaps you need to look into the recommendations in her video.

    :^)

  23. 23
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ sastra:

    Being rude and a bit thuggish has never taken away from the charm of any of my favorite bloggers (even when I’ve been on the end of it.)

    Fittingly, because a large part of Orac’s charm comes from the fact that he’s not afraid to be gloriously insolent himself… ;-)

  24. 24
    Sheesh

    Right, to the point Candy is doing it right here in this thread. This analogy was only about the Holocaust and Hitler’s genocide if you don’t know what the qualifier 1936 means. I.e., this analogy fails if your audience is ignorant, so yes, it’s best to use a different one when writing for the Internet where the audience can assumed to be variously awesome and dumb as shit.

  25. 25
    Sheesh

    Also, I could have said that better, so I’m in the dumb end of that pool. But seriously, Candy, this was not a “Holocaust comparison” as you put it.

  26. 26
    Ophelia Benson

    Yo, Candy? There was no Holocaust comparison. Nothing about being gassed to death. Get a grip yourself.

  27. 27
    C. Mason Taylor

    I think ‘Tis Himself’ gets it across best here, without saying the whole hog of what I thought about this.

    “Orac had a point. He ran that point into the ground but originally there was a point.”

    I think the key is the running the point into the ground bit. I think when you disagree with someone, there’s two ways of seeing something they say as incorrect, or a poor way to make a point. One way is to see it for what it is, and then point out why it’s wrong, and move on. And if the person comes back and defends it, you can go for another round.

    The other way is much more cynical; it’s to see the same point of disagreement as an opportunity to shame theme, to rub their face in it proudly and publicly, and try to make people dislike them, just for saying it. This is a decidedly nasty thing to do; it’s a tactic we ordinarily reserve for our enemies. It’s a political response, and not a rhetorical one; it’s something we say when we’ve given up hope on a discussion with the other person. It’s the nuclear option.

    I think that’s—to me—what’s so disturbing about this situation. Not that Orac would resort to using such a tactic; there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it, as we do all have enemies. But that Orac sees Ophelia as an enemy, at least in a political sense, is a rather frightening commentary on where the movement is at right now.

  28. 28
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    This analogy was only about the Holocaust and Hitler’s genocide if you don’t know what the qualifier 1936 means.

    Candy’s a nitwit, but I’m not sure what people are getting at here. Are you suggesting that the Holocaust is entirely distinct from the treatment of Jewish people in Germany in the 1930s? Because that would be wrong.

  29. 29
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    That does, certainly, apply to Jews in Germany circa 1936, but that’s not the best example to choose because it’s colored by what happened to Jews in Germany in 1942. I meant to avoid that by saying 1936, but I should have just chosen a different example, instead.

    It’s also colored by what was happening to Jews in Germany in 1936.

  30. 30
    Simon

    Has Orac commented on the Taliban analogy being made by folks opposing the harassment policies?

  31. 31
    Josh Slocum

    Orac does fantastic work slamming alt-med, but he has huge, unbelievably huge blindspots where his logic node just shuts off. The need for outspoken atheism is one of them. He’s written some stunningly stupid and snotty posts about it, and he literally will not answer if someone asks him why he can’t see the irony in a guy who criticizes alt-med so fiercely turning around and telling atheists to be accommodating. It’s so close to parody I can’t understand why he doesn’t see it.

    This is another, though more understandable manifestation, given his work on Holocaust denial.

  32. 32
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s also colored by what was happening to Jews in Germany in 1936.

    Which is why I should have chosen a different example!

  33. 33
    Ophelia Benson

    But that Orac sees Ophelia as an enemy, at least in a political sense, is a rather frightening commentary on where the movement is at right now.

    Yes; I was startled myself. But then that’s happened quite a few times over the past year.

  34. 34
    Josh Slocum

    Ophelia, I love you best when you’re so understatedly deadpan. You’re a master.

  35. 35
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Which is why I should have chosen a different example!

    Yes, I know. Any apparent misconception from any party can set me off. And believe me, no one wants to get me started on this history.

    :)

  36. 36
    Ophelia Benson

    Very good question, Simon; I wish I’d thought of it.

  37. 37
    Lou Doench

    I would just like to say that at some point Godwin’s law will be taken to such an extreme that it will soon be considered out of bounds to compare actual neo-nazi’s to Hitler.

    LeftSidePositive and Greg Laden summed up my thoughts better than I could, I never thought you were godwinning Ophelia. I do notice a double standard here. Comparisons to Hitler are immediately jumped on as out of line and offensive to Jewish readers, but your mention of the SPLC in the exact same analogy gets nary a peep. Odd?

  38. 38
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I do notice a double standard here. Comparisons to Hitler are immediately jumped on as out of line and offensive to Jewish readers, but your mention of the SPLC in the exact same analogy gets nary a peep. Odd?

    Well, I have seen Orac denounce animal rights activists making analogies to racial oppression* (I don’t recall the specific examples or whether they were stupid, which they might well have been).

    He does tend to focus on Nazi allusions, but generally seems to follow the standard pattern of conservatives (that’s his background, as far as I know), which is to deny contemporary justice movements any links to previous struggles – “How dare you compare any aspect of your situation to that of _____?!” – as a means of diminishing them while ignoring that conservatives opposed those earlier struggles as well.

    *Though not to women’s oppression, for some reason.

  39. 39
    A nym too

    My grandfather, survivor of Auschwitz but not Jewish (along with about four million others, including his entire family) said something before he died:

    “People get angry when you mention Hitler, but. think of this – he did not go straight to slaughtering [people], who would have stood for that?

    He said that criminal were bad, and people not working and contributing [to society], people agreed. Then he said that crazy people and crippled people were not good. I hear that from politician now, in here and America. Difference is that Germans did not know like us, that these illness cannot be helped, not blamed on the victims. They just had no money and were hungry, and saw these people not working either, so they agreed.

    He made people hungry and tired, then they believe anything they’re told, a good trick. After that it was too easy to blame the hard times on Jews, on people opposing him, gypsy, Russian, women, writers.

    All their fault, shut them up, make them pay. That country was deranged, but remember it all started with words, by saying how people were different. That’s clever. Split people, ignore that we’re all the same with little differences. Make the differences big, make the same small… Then the rest is easy”

    He had a huge influence on me. When I came out he said “Good, now go find a nice girl, bring her to meet us!” He knew the end result of shunning people because they’re different.

    In 1936 Germans weren’t aware that the sentiment “Everyone should work for the good of society” would lead to gas vans at the back of hospitals. When horrified people pointed out what was happening, they were just making trouble, they were crazy. Nobody would kill sick children, preposterous!

    Point out the differences, make them into a wedge. Deny privilege, deny reports of harassment and assault, deny that there’s anything to complain about, deny the Other a voice,
    deny their sanity.
    Deny their humanity.

    Rinse and repeat, until the Other is destroyed.

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    “It all started with words…”

    Quite.

  41. 41
    LeftSidePositive

    @39–your grandfather sounds like a great man. You were lucky to have known him, and it’s really great that you’re carrying on his insightfulness.

  42. 42
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    @A nym too — That, at #39, is beautifully written.

  43. 43
    Orac

    Ophelia,

    It’s a rare quality to be able to admit a mistake, even when the person pointing it out did so in a bit of a sarcastic fashion. Yes, in retrospect, although I don’t regret in essence calling you out for a Godwin because I do still believe the comparison to Jews in Nazi Germany circa 1936 was in appropriate and over-the-top, I do regret how I did it. I’m sorry. I could have been a bit less in your face about it.

    You might understand a bit more about why I react that way to such analogies if you knew that I’ve been involved as a member of the Holocaust History Project in combatting online hate speech and, in particular, Holocaust denial for nearly 15 years now. We’re talking going after David Irving and his ilk, plus the assorted racists and neo-Nazis who populated Usenet. Indeed, I cut my earliest skeptical teeth, so to speak, diving into the muck and vile nastiness of Usenet groups like alt.revisionism and various white supremacist newsgroups. Later, I encountered various alternative medicine newsgroups, encountered my first antivaccinationist, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    As a result of this experience, I have a very low tolerance for what I perceive as inappropriate or overblown Holocaust analogies, because they trivialize the Holocaust. No, contrary to the straw man that I’ve had leveled against me many times over the last several years, that does not mean that it’s always inappropriate to make comparisons with the Holocaust. That is not true. My position has been very consistent over the years that such comparisons are not unreasonable if they are done with care, a clear knowledge of history, and nuance. My irritation with the freeness with which so many people toss around Hitler/Nazi analogies to demonize their opponents was what “inspired” me (if you can call it that) to create the Hitler Zombie. Read a few of them. You might even be amused. Or not. But you’ll get the idea.

    No doubt some of your readers (or even perhaps you) will still think I’m a flaming asshole, and that’s fine. Perhaps you’ll get to find out for yourself if you still go to TAM.

  44. 44
    Aratina Cage

    I really can’t get behind anything Orac said about the analogy, which he stretched beyond its function. The reason it was even made was to call out how ludicrous it would be to blame the people talking openly about all the harassment they are recieving for causing the chilly climate, and this was emphasized by providing the most extreme and well known example possible. What a stupid, derailing, obnoxious, mansplaining tactic to turn around and say that Ophelia is comparing TAM to the Nazis. She even explicitly wrote she wasn’t!

  45. 45
    Brian

    Greg Laden:

    “I wonder if there is an Internet Memish Fallacy listing for that one on Teh Wiki?”

    I don’t know if there is, but I think of it as the identity is not analogy fallacy. If something is the same as itself, it’s identical. Analogy is always with something not identical, and as you’d know it’s about whether the property is relevant that makes an analogy strong or not…

  46. 46
    Aratina Cage

    if you still go to TAM.

    What is that supposed to be taken to mean? Back down, Orac!

  47. 47
    jenniferphillips

    I’m a bit surprised Orac apparently considered a post on it: I thought he usually stays out of atheism as an issue and away from atheist blogs.

    Funny, that. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone from The Monument–maybe even Abbie herself–tipped him off that there was a Godwin afoot.

    I know that inappropriate (which most are) references to the Nazis get his goat– I completely understand why and agree with his outrage 99% of the time. This, though, this is just a shame. Because *only* jumping in to the conversation to pick that nit, completely bypassing the frickin’ ZOMGTALIBAN!!!! and every other extreme, hateful, hyperbolic thing that’s passed for dialogue from that side is bad. Jumping into it in the comments of a post that’s already festering with Rebecca bashing, generalized misogyny and ‘don’t let the feminazis [oh, hey, what? WHAT??] get you down, D.J.’ type of sentiments is even worse.

    He’s given a huge boost to participants in that shit fest who are so fond of nitpicking as a (ridiculously impotent but still widely used) form of invalidation. ‘Oh, you said ‘convinced’ when you meant ‘mostly sure’, ‘thousands’ when you meant ‘hundreds’, etc. therefore every other point you tried to make is crap’.

    Respectful Insolence has been my first or second stop of the day for the past 6 or 7 years. I loves me some Oracian insolence, but this is awfully disappointing.

  48. 48
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Excellent post, jenniferphillips.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone from The Monument–maybe even Abbie herself–tipped him off that there was a Godwin afoot.

    I have no idea, but Smith’s already suggesting that, though they might have had a mutually annoying relationship in the past, they could have a good working relationship going forward.

    You must be thrilled, Orac (even though she’s an irresponsible pro-vaccine ally).

  49. 49
    Utakata

    @ jenniferphillips

    “…and ‘don’t let the feminazis [oh, hey, what? WHAT??] get you down, D.J.’ type of sentiments is even worse.”

    Oh, hey…that’s interesting. “Feminazis”. Isn’t that the misogynist, MRA, “Oh no, what about the menz” types own Godwinning? It looks like Orac missed a major spillage in this isle.

  50. 50
    One Brow

    Greg Laden,

    Ophelia, in your comment you used 1936 as one case, the SPLC as a second case, and explicitly amputated the holocaust from the analogy, honing in on the nature of the social context of the conversation where there is a human rights issue. It was a perfectly apt comparison and it was well done.

    I disagree. It is not apt to compare deliberate suppression with a request for better, more balanced messaging. It is not apt to compare societies determined to restrict with a conference that is actively seeking ot improve conditions and wants to be recognized as such. It is not apt to cdomparte a powe3r structure determined to deny prominece with one trying to improve prominence.

    I still haven’t read anything from DJ Grothe where he asks people not to talk; his comment were more the difference between what he saw as appropriate versus not appropriate messaging. I haven’t seen anything indicating that he wants attendees to just acept harrassment; he wants people at teh conference to speak up more.

    If I hear that a place is not safe, I do not interpret that to mean that the place is no more safe than any other typical place. To me, and to many people, it indicates that place is particulary unsafe, to the point that it merits a distinction as less safe. I can appreciate that the various posters have not intended that conferences were any less safe than, say, a typical place of employment, but some people will read the message that way.

    An apt comparison would be the way police respondly differently to crime based on race, or how hospital workers respond poorly to patients of a different cultural background. It’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but not with the assumption that the people in charge don’t care or are interested in enhancing the divide rather than reducing it.

  51. 51
    One Brow

    But that Orac sees Ophelia as an enemy, at least in a political sense, is a rather frightening commentary on where the movement is at right now.

    Perhaps I missed something? Where did Orac say that?

  52. 52
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Speaking as an ethnic Jew, I don’t think you had anything to apologize for, Ophelia.

    Candy, yet another Chill Girl™:

    Dawkins was dead to rights in what he said last year. For shame.

    Actually, shame on you for minimizing rape culture with a classic derail.

    Simon:

    Has Orac commented on the Taliban analogy being made by folks opposing the harassment policies?

    Good question.

    A nym too: איך הייב אַ גלאז צו אייער זיידע.

    Orac, when are you going to have anything to say about how DJ Grothe has ignored, attempted to silence, and slut-shamed women who have complained about harassment at TAM?

  53. 53
    Ophelia Benson

    Orac, thanks for the apology. And good for you (really; not sarcastically) for resisting Holocaust denial. I’ve done a little of that myself in a blogging and website editoring capacity. One of the first articles I published on the first B&W – B&W the website-with-blog as opposed to B&W the blog – was by Richard Evans, who is something of a hero of mine. (He became all the more so by accepting my bashful invitation to publish something on a brand new website.) I’ve also published an article by Deborah Lipstadt. I wrote quite a lot about Irving at the time of his imprisonment. I got in big arguments with people about whether free speech protections cover Irving when he has been demonstrated to falsify evidence systematically – demonstrated by Richard Evans.

    But. I do wonder about what Jennifer Phillips suggested. You never comment here, or interact with me in any other way – what inspired you to read this post in the first place? Is Jennifer right, did someone give you a nudge? In other words was this basically a gotcha, dressed up as concern about trivializing the Holocaust? Why me, why this particular post, why you, why now?

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    SC – blurgh – what? Is Abbie Smith talking about this?

    Jeezis.

  55. 55
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    SC – blurgh – what? Is Abbie Smith talking about this?

    Jeezis.

    I’m not sure if it came up in reference to this, his other comments on Hallquist’s post, or both (and I’m not going there to find out). Her comment that I read said something like “Orac and I have argued in the past. I’ve annoyed him, and he’s annoyed me. But I hope we can go forward and have a good working relationship in the future.” She seems to consider him an ally or potential ally in this now, and for all I know he could be – this year has held many unpleasant surprises. I suspect that he isn’t actually aware of the facts, but it’s possible that he is.

  56. 56
    Ophelia Benson

    Aw, that’s sweet. “I hope we can go forward and have a good working relationship in the future based on trashing uppity radfem bitches.”

  57. 57
    One Brow

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform;

    What has DJ Grothe specifally said that has attempted to silence or slut-shame? I read a couple of requests for more balanced/careful messaging, but may have missed something. I certainly don’t recall anything indicating that women had done something to deserve being harrassed (isn’t that the usual definition of slut-shaming?), but may have missed that.

    If you tell someone that an area or event is unsafe, you create the expectations of being unsafe, and engender the feelings of being unsafe. Is that controversial?

  58. 58
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    One Brow, you might want to see his comment (I forget where it is) in which he compared women talking about having been harassed to women swapping “locker-room stories.” That’s hella shaming.

    Telling someone that an area or event is unsafe, when it actually IS unsafe, may create feelings of being unsafe, but those feelings are well deserved. Is that controversial? Or do you think that DJ Grothe is the one gets to decide whether or not women should feel safe, rather than women themselves, based on their own and other women’s experiences?

  59. 59
    Ophelia Benson

    Also, there was more to it than that – treating it as the explanation for the decline in women registering, when there are other, more obvious explanations; calling it unfortunate; saying we were doing it “clumsily”; the truncation of what Rebecca said, which changed the ultimate meaning of it; and so on.

  60. 60
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    One Brow #57:

    What has DJ Grothe specifally said that has attempted to silence or slut-shame?

    “sexual exploits”, “locker room talk”, throwing around claims about having received emails saying that the JREF supports child sex trafficking…

    Are you seriously saying that you’re coming in here not having read…

    I read a couple of requests for more balanced/careful messaging, but may have missed something.

    You mean like this:

    We have gotten emails over the last few months from women vowing never to attend TAM because they heard that JREF is purported to condone child-sex-trafficking, and emails in response to various blog posts about JREF or me that seem to suggest I or others at the JREF promote the objectification of women, or that we condone violence or threats of violence against women, or that they believe that women would be unsafe because we feature this or that man on the program. I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

    The scare-claim and the silencing tactic are in italics.

  61. 61
    Ophelia Benson

    I wish Orac had replied. I really would like to know if he’s trying to pressure me not to go to TAM, and why he saw this post in the first place, and why he chose to pick a fight with me now of all times, and whether this is some kind of group project.

    I guess I’ll just have to email him.

  62. 62
    One Brow

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform,

    I was not aware that “locker room stories” indicated some slut-oriented shame or fault to the teller beyond an indication that such stories have a propensity to be distorted in the retelling. However, I am conscious enough of my privledge to accept that, if you do mean that any use use of the term “locker room story” or similar terminology is an attempt to shame a speaker based on sexuality, I will accept it, even though I do not understand it.

    On the other hand, you just said “shaming”, when I asked about “slut-shaming”. I do agree and understand that is a shaming tactic. Are you sugesting all shaming tactics are bad (I would not agree, and would find such a claim hypocritical in this discussion), or that in this case, DJ Grothe used that tactic incorrectly (I would agree with that)?

  63. 63
    One Brow

    Ophelia Benson,

    I agree completely that DJ Grothe had no reason to associate what some bloggers were saying with a decline in JREF attendance, and misquoting Rebecca Watson was not appropriate. I see the use of judgements like “clumsily” to be a little too subjective, at least in this case, to say whether that characterization was objectively valid or not. Either way, DJ Grothe certainly made more than his share of mis-steps.

  64. 64
    One Brow

    Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the Pharyngula Star Chamber;

    “sexual exploits”

    I missed that one. Where does DJ Grothe talk about the sexual exp0loits of any women involved?

    “locker room talk”

    As I explain above, I don’t understand how that refers to slut-shaming. Silencing, yes.

    throwing around claims about having received emails saying that the JREF supports child sex trafficking…

    I agree that was a bizarre claim to toss into the conversation, but not sure how it would be a request to silence or slut-shame anyone, since I’m not aware of any of the posters being referenced that referred to JREF as supporting child-sex trafficking. You can’t be silenced on a subject you have not spoken and have no intention of speaking about. Not having read the emails to which DJ Grothe is referring, I don’t know why he would think there is a connection. Maybe he invented teh connection in his head, maybe a couple of emails said they read about such support in the posts or comments at site X.

    In the paragraph you quoted, I read a request for more careful and balanced messaging, even in the italicized portions. In particular, assigning the problem to clumsy messaging carries with it, at least to me, a distinction from non-clumsy messaging and a request to improve the quality of messaging to being non-clumsy. I simply don’t read a silencing tactic there, unless you are saying that DJ Grothe would say any message must be inherently clumsy (I have not read anything indicating that).

  65. 65
    One Brow

    Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the Pharyngula Star Chamber;

    I just reread the reference to “sexual exploits” (I missed it earlier). Yes, that was definitely inappropriate and an example of slut-shaming. Thank you for setting me straight on that.

  66. 66
    Lyanna

    One Brow,

    In addition to the “sexual exploits” comment, the “locker room talk” reference equates women talking about harassment with the stereotypical jocks bragging about their sexual conquests.

    I think you can see the problem there. It may or may not be “slut shaming” in the classic sense. I think it’s in that ballpark, but whatever, that’s not the point. The point is that it’s trivializing and dismissive of harassment.

  67. 67
    kaboobie

    The specific DJ quote seen as slut-shaming is highlighted by Jason over at Lousy Canuck.

    DJ comes across here not only as a slut-shamer, but a rape apologist, and to me it’s the most offensive thing he’s said in this whole affair.

  68. 68
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    One Brow:

    Are you sugesting all shaming tactics are bad (I would not agree, and would find such a claim hypocritical in this discussion)

    I find this question disingenuous. Context matters.

  69. 69
    One Brow

    Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform;

    I find this question disingenuous. Context matters.

    I will survive your analysis of my sincerity, I’m sure. There is no burden on you to answer my questions if you feel it is unnecessary. I agree context matters, but context must be inferred, and I prefer to to avoid making too many inferences.

  1. 70
    Other way around | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] was annoyed by the bossy tone and the timing*, but on consideration I decided he had a point, so I withdrew the analogy. There was a brief unproductive email exchange, in which he insisted on talking to me as if he were [...]

  2. 71
    The Atheist Movement is Full of Misogynists » Oolon's Dumping Ground

    [...] was a clear case of trying it on… http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/degodwinization/. Using the quote about Jews was not at all close to my challenge as it said nothing about the [...]

  3. 72
    Disclose at the outset » Butterflies and Wheels

    […] of following his own advice, and declaring a hidden COI. It’s also a different Orac from the one who picked a big fight with me in the summer of 2012 in the acrimonious run-up to that year&… I thought he very much had a COI then, and was being an asshole about it. That was that year, the […]

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