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A life of meaning and purpose

Talk about the Streisand effect. The brilliant minds behind the original #FTBullies must be so annoyed. Poor Paula Kirby, who latched onto it and the malevolent people behind it – she must be in despair. Her ardent efforts to get people to join her in hating on us went so spectacularly wrong!

Well, Paula, that would be because it was a stupid idea to begin with. Think about it. Seriously.

Freethought blogs just isn’t an obviously and thoroughly evil thing, unless you’re a theocrat. Even if some of the bloggers are sometimes careless or dogmatic or biased; even if some of the commenters on some of the blogs are that and more; Freethought blogs the network is still not like Nazis or the Stasi or totalitarian. Claiming it is is a stupid and malicious overstatement – in fact it’s exactly the same kind of stupid and malicious overstatement you seem to be complaining about. If I understand you correctly you think I stupidly and maliciously overstated what DJ Grothe did wrong. Maybe I did, but I still stopped well short of saying and then insisting after being challenged that he’s like the Nazis and the Stasi. (I did say that blaming women for talking about harassment was like blaming Jews for talking about persecution in 1936 Germany, and that was indeed a ridiculous overstatement – but then I withdrew it on being challenged. My intention was not to compare DJ to the Nazis, it was to compare blaming group X for talking about its own persecution with blaming group Y for talking about its own persecution; my mistake was choosing a much much much more drastic form of persecution; I withdrew it.) You didn’t stop short of comparing a blog network to the Nazis and the Stasi, and you’ve been doubling down on the comparison ever since.

And now the whole thing is an explosion of creative hilarity on Twitter, that is doing nothing to turn an indignant world against our Terrible Evil. It must burn.

For the rest of us, who enjoy the hilarity – Jason has a selection of the best tweets. Pteryxx posted one here. Here are a few of my favorites –

JoeZowghi@JoeZowghi All #FTBullies wanna do is eat your brains.  They’re not unreasonable.  I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes.

Stacy Kennedy@MsMondegreen Your MasterCard account has been deactivated. Send your card number and expiration date to #FTBullies for reinstatement.

and

#FTBullies tore off the Captain’s leg and sank the Pequod.

Tom@Doubting_Tom For all intensive purposes! The tenants of athiesm! #FTBullies

and

Romney was for #FTBullies before he was against them.

and

#FTBullies is too advanced to have been built by ancient peoples without alien help.

and

My name is #FTBullies, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

(Doubting Tom is good!)

Monte Grumwald@feralboy12 #FTBullies are the ones who said your brother was heavy.

Dan Fincke@CamelsHammers #FTBullies are Kenyan Muslim Secular Effete French Fascists Who Hate America

Will@dysomniak #FTBullies said those pastries were vegan, but I think there might have been eggs in there.

Kammy@Procrastinatrx Phase 1: Collect underpants. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Profit. #FTBullies know what Phase 2 is.

ResearchToBeDone@Research2BeDone #FTBullies changed the Higgs Boson presentation font to comic sans

It’s all been worthwhile.

Comments

  1. AsqJames says

    I don’t tweet, but for the UK…

    #FTBullies forced Barclays to manipulate LIBOR
    #FTBullies made Glenn Mulcaire hack celebrity voicemails

  2. John the Drunkard says

    Great stuff today.

    What the hell is ERV?

    Popular Front Against Neo-Acronyms

  3. Lars K. says

    I haven’t been following this at all so I might even be wrong in asking this question, but anyway:

    So a minority of people say they are being bullied by more popular people and tries to draw attention to this by calling them bullies try spread that opinion.

    The more popular people then ridicule/taunt/mock them mercilessly (and it seems mercilessly from what little I’ve been picking up on) and make sure as much people as possible join in in this.

    Is this really how interpersonal problems are best resolved and good policies/relations established?

    One side is surely right and the other wrong, but these posts seem horribly immature and vicious. However wrong the persons at the other end of this is I feel sorry for them for not being engaged from some kind of moral high-ground.

  4. Lars K. says

    Perhaps vicious is too strong a word. English isn’t my first language. Replace it with “not very nice”.

  5. says

    Lars K: They’re making fun of THEMSELVES. Not of the people trivializing bullying.

    The entire hashtag is about how awful of people we are. How we’re responsible for all of society’s ills. And what we’re drowning out is people claiming that by posting about social justice, we’re somehow bullies. Which, you have to admit, trivializes the REAL bullying that has actually killed people.

  6. Beauzeaux says

    Concern troll is concerned.

    Lars said: “I haven’t been following this at all” and then provides an analysis based on that same lack of knowledge. Please learn something — it’s all out there on the interwebs.

  7. says

    Lars, for me it’s because the people who are accusing others of being “bullies” are generally the ones who have been exhibiting actual bullying behaviour for the past year (e.g. coming up with such delightful nicknames as “Rebeccunt Twatson”).
    They way they accuse others of being bullies is roughly equal to the way American Christians claim they are persecuted. (“What?!?! Harassment policies at conventions?!?! You BULLIES!”)

  8. Lars K. says

    @Jason Thibeault

    Well I guess if all you were doing was posting about social justice I have no more concern trolling to do. Strange thing for them too react to.

    This did kind of remind me about my school days and that was why I posted. I was wrong.

    If I ever happen to enter group therapy to resolve conflicts, I hope it’s not done like this.

  9. says

    Lars, yes it is strange; very strange. That’s part of why we’re taking an absurdist approach. (Not that it was planned, but it’s taken off.)

  10. Allesandra says

    So a minority of people say they are being bullied by more popular people and tries to draw attention to this by calling them bullies try spread that opinion.
    The more popular people then ridicule/taunt/mock them mercilessly (and it seems mercilessly from what little I’ve been picking up on) and make sure as much people as possible join in in this.
    Is this really how interpersonal problems are best resolved and good policies/relations established?
    One side is surely right and the other wrong, but these posts seem horribly immature and vicious. However wrong the persons at the other end of this is I feel sorry for them for not being engaged from some kind of moral high-ground.”

    Guy, one side may be right but that’s irrelevant, they’re all ridiculing/taunting/mocking each other mercilessly now – and both sides feel hard done by, and both feel that the rudeness and other verbal crimes legitimise all their words and that they are mostly taking the moral/logical high ground that the nasty/doctrinaire opposition has bafflingly abandoned.

    There will be no interpersonal problems resolved, nor good relations established, only defeat for one of the sides, or a schism.

    Pick a side. Don’t pick poorly. It’s easy- which side has a moral philosophy is obviously deficient and retrograde and opposed to progressive values?

  11. Lars K. says

    @Allesandra

    I think you and I look at this the same way. I like the way you formulated it.

  12. RahXephon, Waahmbulance Driver for St. Entitlement's Hospital says

    I read part of Paula Kirby’s Google Doc. In it, it sounded like she was saying this:

    “Normally I don’t approve of name-calling, but I’m gonna call you names. It’s cool when I do it. I don’t think feminists really ARE like the Nazis or the Stasi, but here’s how they’re exactly like the Nazis and the Stasi.”

    Double-think much?

  13. F says

    Tom‏@Doubting_Tom For all intensive purposes! The tenants of athiesm! #FTBullies

    Double-plus ROFL. This one is completely freestanding as well, which makes it truly great.

  14. RahXephon, Waahmbulance Driver for St. Entitlement's Hospital says

    Josh, Official SpokesGay has an important announcement about our femi-alien invasion!

    Official SpokesGay ‏@SpokesGay

    JUST IN: ALIEN ARMADA CEASING FIRE. . .BEGINNING TO LIFT AND SEPARATE. #FTBullies

  15. Stacy says

    Yes, FTBullies made me, too, open a Twitter account. It’s been a lot of fun. Late last night I was watching the live webcast from CERN–and popping in to check Twitter ever few minutes (hey, I can multi-task.)

    Some of the “other side” are protesting rather lamely, but really, they got nothing. Absurdist humor FTW.

    Some of my recent favorites:

    Bastion of Sass@bastionofsass – #FTBullies told unicorns there was no big rush to get on the ark.

    Improbable Joe @ImprobableJoe – A new documentary opening soon: “Not Without My Pee-Pee: True Stories of the Victims of #FTBullies”

    Kelseigh Nieforth@Nezchan – #FTBullies watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate

  16. andreasschueler says

    Guy, one side may be right but that’s irrelevant, they’re all ridiculing/taunting/mocking each other mercilessly now – and both sides feel hard done by, and both feel that the rudeness and other verbal crimes legitimise all their words and that they are mostly taking the moral/logical high ground that the nasty/doctrinaire opposition has bafflingly abandoned.

    => Excellent analysis, I could not agree more.

    There will be no interpersonal problems resolved, nor good relations established, only defeat for one of the sides, or a schism.

    Pick a side. Don’t pick poorly. It’s easy- which side has a moral philosophy is obviously deficient and retrograde and opposed to progressive values?

    => And here I disagree…
    1. Picking a side is one thing. But what you describe here sounds rather like tribalism – and this has the danger that people who do not agree 100% with one side will nevertheless be labelled as enemies and treated accordingly.
    2. Picking a side might be easy for all of those that have read and thought about this issue long enough. But for all the lurkers that have stayed out of the sexism debates in our communities so far (or those people who just recently became curious about atheism / skepticism) – the choice might be not so easy. Not necessarily because they are bad people, or hardcore misogynists, they just might be ignorant about this issue.
    You say there will be either “defeat for one sides or a schism”. There are victories and defeats to be had on many fronts when it comes to the issue of sexism. There was a victory on the front of harassment policies. But was there a victory on the front of educating people on sexism / making people less sexist ?
    I agree 100% with what Greta has written on the issue of educating people about sexism last year:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/07/12/why-we-have-to-talk-about-this/
    When there is tribalism on all sides, and all people who are undecided yet are pressured into choosing a side right now, even when they are totally new to the debate – how could there be a victory on the front of educating people about sexism / making people less sexist ?

  17. hieropants says

    @Lars

    I don’t know, to me the issue at hand – poorly implemented or nonexistent harassment policies resulting in inadequate response and an inaccurate understanding of the scope of the problem – has already been resolved, with many conventions adopting their own policies or improving their existing ones. There’s been a backlash, which is inevitable, and in response to that backlash there’s been many thoughtful and reasoned posts both here and elsewhere explaining why such policies are necessary and why the world won’t become conformist and unfun as a result of their being implemented.

    Now we’re in the part of the social change cycle where some people are doubling down and refusing to listen to the calm, rational explanations, and there isn’t really anything you can do here but laugh at them – you already know they won’t be swayed by arguments, because if they could be they would have done so by now. I understand that you’re wary of the idea of multiple people ganging up to mock a viewpoint that is unpopular within their social circle, but it seems to me that this falls squarely under Geek Social Fallacy 1: Ostracizers Are Evil.

    Put simply, sometimes ridiculing an unpopular idea is the correct thing to do, because that idea is ridiculous.

  18. says

    Ahhhh here’s a good one –

    RahXephon‏@rahxephon231 – @PaulaSKirby My best friend is German, lived in E. Germany longer than you, and thinks your Stasi analogy is shit. Is he an #FTBullies too?

    also Rah Xephon (who appears to be Judi Dench, from the photo) –

    @Mona_Albano #FTBullies made me go vegetarian just to support Big Tofu.

  19. says

    @ 23 and 24 –

    And let’s keep a grip on what we’re talking about here – we’re talking about an assertion that a few FTB feminists, including me by name, are Nazi and Stasi and totalitarian. An assertion reiterated and then defended at length.

  20. says

    Paula’s sticking to her guns –

    Paula Kirby‏@PaulaSKirby – A huge THANK YOU to the MANY people who’ve sent me msgs of support via various routes. Great to know how many ppl are sick of #FTBullies.

    Uh huh. Pigeons, air drops, women on bicycles with loaves of bread in the basket, coded messages in deliveries of coal, semaphore, hollowed out books with “The Bobbsey Twins Go To Camp” on the cover – the usual routes used by an oppressed people living under occupation.

  21. RahXephon, Waahmbulance Driver for St. Entitlement's Hospital says

    @Ophelia

    Wow, thanks for quoting two of my tweets! The first one is true, and if we’re going to play the “I can call you totalitarian because I lived in a totalitarian state for two years” game, I think “I lived in a totalitarian state since I was born until Reunification, and no, you can’t” trumps hers, at least in my opinion.

    And let’s keep a grip on what we’re talking about here – we’re talking about an assertion that a few FTB feminists, including me by name, are Nazi and Stasi and totalitarian.

    I admit I haven’t read the entirety of Paula’s Google opus, but it’s a cheap semantic trick to say “I’m calling you a feminazi/femistasi as shorthand to compare you to traits they had, not that you ARE nazis/stasi”. To me, that’s a difference without a difference.

  22. says

    RahXephon (gee I feel silly calling someone that – will have to go with “Rah” in future) – I believe you, hence the “Ahhh” – that was a satisfying riposte.

    And yeah. I mean. If you call someone Stasi – or Khmer Rouge or Jeffrey Dahmer or Hannibal Lecter – you’re comparing them to the top famously bad thing they’re famously bad for. If that’s not what you intend to do, then use another damn comparison. I mean.

  23. RahXephon, Waahmbulance Driver for St. Entitlement's Hospital says

    @Ophelia

    Rah’s fine, it’s what everyone else calls me.

  24. hotshoe says

    Paula Kirby sucks at teh Internets.

    And I love you all. You make me laugh, in a grim time. Thanks !

  25. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Ooh, I made the list! Internet glory is mine! Thanks Ophelia!

  26. Joe Z says

    Oh my goodness! I’ve been quoted on Freethoughtblogs! I was trying desperately to come up with something as funny as what everybody else was saying. I’m so glad I could make somebody laugh.

  27. says

    You and other Freethought bloggers have given me so much to think about and made me feel so…I dunno…validated over the years. I can never repay you all, but at least I can fling around a bit of sass on your behalf on twitter.

  28. Arty Morty says

    #FTBullies: I love it!

    Just when I was starting to despair that the FTB-are-bullies meme was gaining ground, it’s reassuring to see that, no, in fact many–if not most–in the freethinking community see right through that bizarre accusation.

    But still, what a shame about Paula Kirby.

    She’s spoken so eloquently about how easily people can be convinced that even the mildest atheists are “militant” and “strident”.

    How does she not see the parallels with feminism? With even the most commonsense feminist arguments, a lot of people are still highly susceptible to suggestions of “radicalism” and “totalitarianism”.

    She’s practically the last person I’d’ve expected to fall for that.

    FWIW, I feel more educated and motivated as a feminist as a result of all this mess. But I’m very sorry (actually, more like angry) that you’ve had to endure so much bullshit, Ophelia. (And Stephanie and PZ and Jason and Greta…)

  29. Svlad Cjelli says

    Hold the presses. This is the best one:

    Ami‏@ami_angelwings

    #FTBullies took forty cakes. They took 40 cakes. That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible.

  30. dirigible says

    “There IS some substance to this.”

    Yes but it’s the way that it’s being expressed that concerns concerned people.

  31. avh1 says

    These are hilarious. And in response to the people complainign about tone – are you over at ERV and all the other MRA hellholes complaining about jokes about assaulting people and gendered insults? I don’t think you are.

  32. bluharmony says

    You’re kind of proving her point, though. Kirby says how she feels somewhere else on the internet, and the Myers squad has effectively shut up anyone who might want to join in while Brayton calls for her to be “shunned.” Granted, your tweets are funny, but Benson should be the last person complaining about us of Nazi analogies. As for threats, coercion, attempts to destroy people’s careers, literally making fun of rape victims, attacking people in the audience by calling them ignorant or rape-enablers, yeah, those are, indeed, bullying tactics that hurt real people. So while Nazis may be an overstatement, you are neither progressive nor in favor of social justice, no matter how much you might believe that to be the case. Enjoy your oppression.

  33. says

    Yeah no Kirby didn’t just “say how she feels” – which sounds so nice and innocuous, doesn’t it – she said FTB in general and Pharyngula and B&W and I (by name) in particular are Feminazi and Femistasi and totalitarian. She made a truth claim, not just an avowal of feeling.

  34. Rumtopf says

    You don’t really care about social justice because you said mean things to people who minimised the importance of social justice and even meaner things to those who actually embrace bigotry! Calling someone a sexist is just as bad as being sexist, calling someone ignorant or a rape apologist is just as bad as making fun of rape victims! Now you’re not taking the person(who called feminist writers nazis and doubled down on it) seriously by making fun of yourselves. WAY to prove her point, nazis!~

    Is the gist of that last pile of crap comment. Oh no, I must be a bully too, just too lazy for twitter.

    #FTBullies time travelled and planted EG just to have this disproportionate discussion!

  35. julian says

    Paul Kirby really likes long screeds that don’t say anything or provide a coherent argument.

    Admittedly I did quit on page 5 so maybe it got better after that.

  36. fastlane says

    Those are all pretty funny, but I think the one by Kammy is the best use of multiple internet memes in a tweet. (That should be an official category in the Webbies.)

  37. RahXephon, Waahmbulance Driver for St. Entitlement's Hospital says

    So while Nazis may be an overstatement, you are neither progressive nor in favor of social justice, no matter how much you might believe that to be the case.

    Bluharmony, you’ve made two claims here.

    1. Ophelia is not progressive.
    2. Ophelia is not in favor of social justice.

    Can you explain both and back them up with any evidence? Or is this bullshit?

    Can’t wait to hear from ya!

  38. says

    Oh, I can wait to hear from her. I don’t want to hear from her. She seems to have me confused with someone else, or a lot of other people.

  39. says

    “So while Nazis may be an overstatement”

    Clearly what is called for here is to assist the critics of Ophelia et al. by coming up with some terms that, while very vivid, are not Godwinizing, and that Kirby and her ilk can use without inspiring further ridicule harmful to their delicate fee-fees.

    So, instead of feminazi and femistasi, with their Nazi and Soviet overtones, I suggest some of the following:

    femiHUAC
    femimentors
    darth femivador
    femilliance
    femireallyrottens
    feminish inquisition

  40. Stacy says

    Russell Blackford has been tweeting:

    The bullies and bully-enablers should have realised a year ago that many of us care deeply about bullying and will not simply accept it.

    To which I replied:

    What did RW do that deserved months of scorn and sexual slurs and when did u speak out against that bullying?

    We’ll see if I get an answer (I’m not holding my breath.) Meanwhile, the tweeting has slowed down and the “real bullies” are coming out to play, misrepresenting our arguments and all the usual shit. Could use some backup.

  41. hotshoe says

    Meanwhile, the tweeting has slowed down and the “real bullies” are coming out to play, misrepresenting our arguments and all the usual shit. Could use some backup.

    Sorry, Stacy, I’m not on twitter. Nope, not even for feminism and a chance to say rude words to that IAmCuriousBlue persona.

    You could let the twitter fight lapse. Let them gloat about taking back “their turf” or whatever the fuck. The battle is being won places like here, and WiS, and every workplace which has an anti-harassment policy …

  42. julian says

    @Steve Williamson

    That blog post considers almost every form of human interaction and argument bullying. The whole damn thing is ridiculous.

  43. julian says

    @Steve Williamson

    I know that Ophelia wrote a rebuttal here and that Rebecca Watson wrote another at Skepchick. May have been more but it really doesn’t matter. Everyone is free to read it for themselves.

  44. says

    Steve Williamson, you’re confused. It was Paula Kirby who called me and other women names – Feminazi, Femistasi, totalitarian, and Sisterhood of the Oppressed. I didn’t call her any names.

    I discussed mostly her name-calling (which was indeed quite childish) instead of the arguments in her letter, because she named me and because I think they were both wrong and uncivil.

    You seem to have nothing of substance to say yourself.

  45. GMM says

    ‘Russell Blackford has been tweeting:

    “The bullies and bully-enablers should have realised a year ago that many of us care deeply about bullying and will not simply accept it.”‘

    You won’t accept it? Intolerance!
    Censorship! Nazis!! ahhhhh!!!!

    Is he for real?

    I care deeply about bullying, I was a bully magnet for my entire childhood and still have trouble with it even as an adult. I KNOW what bullying is and Ophelia is no bully. In fact she’s the polar opposite of what a bully is.
    Just give it up already Russell, no one’s buying it.

  46. says

    Ya. That’s such a crock of shit. He never said a word against the real bullying at ERV, and at first he actually commented there to make jokes about it. (“Naughty Abbie!”) He’s been promoting Abbie all along, and he never once said “I strongly oppose all this misogynist crap thrown at RW and OB and other women. I disagree with them on the issues but I oppose the bullying.” Not once.

  47. jenniferphillips says

    I just read on Jean Kazez’s blog that Jeremy Stangroom is the one who started the #FTBullies hashtag.

    I LOL’d heartily. Oh, that’s just perfect.

  48. says

    I was just there, I missed that. Must have been on another thread.

    That’s not accurate though: it was some guy (or nym) called Rich Sandersen. Hilariously, Jeremy asked him/it if he was the Richard Sanderson of Little Atoms. As if! He/it said no, just an FTB-hater, and Jeremy said “Fabulous, me too!” (I paraphrase slightly) and took up the tag with enthusiasm.

  49. jenniferphillips says

    Ah, she’s edited it since I first visited. Where it now says “Someone started a Twitter hashtag…” ‘Someone’ used to say ‘Jeremy Stangroom’. If I know how use Google Cache more I’d prove it to you :)

    Honestly, I’m just waiting for the announcement of HateOnOpheliaCON from these people.

  50. says

    I’ll have to give up trying to participate in that discussion, what with Maria going on and on and on about herself again and ERVians (or one ERVian with more than one nym) telling lie after lie after lie after lie about me. Good work, Jean: trigger yet more of that shit. Thanks a lot.

Trackbacks

  1. […] On the other hand, I am often astounded by the reaction to "feminism" (self-identified, or so identified by critics) or any discussion of sexual harassment. The reaction often seems wildly and disproportionately sensitive to criticism to a frankly disordered extent. I'm seeing that from both men and women in this debate over harassment at skeptic conventions. In fact I find the reactions more off-putting than the descriptions of harassment themselves. Take, as a recent example, this recent letter from Paula Kirby, which repeatedly calls her opponents "hysterical" (a loaded term that I would only use trollishly, belligerently, or satirically), defends terms like "feminazis" and "femistasi," refers to discussions of harassment as "totalitarian," refers to the "Sisterhood of the Oppressed" and "Approved Male Chorus," and generally acts like a 14-year-old flaming out upon being banned from a World of Warcraft subforum for comparing Orcs to various racial groups. Enraged by conduct by bloggers at Free Thought Blogs, Kirby created the hashtag #FTBullies, which turned out pretty much the way you're thinking it would. […]

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