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Remembering that we can be wrong

Jacques Rousseau has a guest post at Martin Pribble’s blog in which he talks about atheists’ shared commitment to reason and desire to be guided by the evidence rather than superstition or dogma.

…it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to suggest that we should apply the same critical mindset to propositions beyond merely the god hypothesis.

So, when we speak of social justice, equality, freedom of speech and so forth, it’s reasonable to expect some similarity in approach, even if not in conclusions reached. To put it plainly, an approach in which we listen to the evidence, in other words to each other, without pre-judging what someone is going to say, what they believe, or what ideological faction they belong to. Their arguments are assessed on their merits, rather than via knowing which websites they frequently comment on.

Nobody can deny that some participants in these conversations are not honest brokers. Some are simply unreconstructed trolls, others trolls of the sly sort, mimicking critical reflection while subtly distracting – and detracting – from the real issues that others are trying to address. Another set of “others” aren’t trolls at all – and it seems to me that the community of sceptical and/or atheist activists and bloggers sometimes have a difficult time of it in distinguishing between these sorts of contributor to the debate.

Sometimes! Difficult! More like all the time and damn near impossible. Trolls of both kinds have so cluttered everything up with their dedicated full-time trolling that curating comments can be a nightmare. This situation is not conducive to fostering a critical mindset.

…the debate on misogyny in the sceptical community has escalated to such an extent that there’s a lot that can’t be heard over the screaming. Yes, there is certainly plenty that doesn’t need to be heard because it genuinely is sexist, or excuses sexism. But simply labelling someone a “rape apologist”, for example, doesn’t magically transform someone into actually being a rape apologist.

Although it might do so non-magically, out of sheer rage and frustration. I don’t think I use that particular epithet though…

A problem here is that we could mean different things by a phrase like “rape apologist”. Coming from a position of privilege, most men might well be unaware of how that privilege biases them against seeing various threats, insults or instances of being demeaned or trivialised that women experience. This blindness might make them too tolerant (in other words, at all tolerant) of sexist language, or stereotypes around what it means when a woman dresses in a particular way.

To be clear, this blindness is bad, and needs correction. It’s certainly bad if we create, endorse, or fail to combat a climate of hostility to any poorly defined (and heterogeneous) group like “women”. And the fact that some women believe that such a climate currently exists is a problem in itself, whether or not you’re complicit in creating that climate. In fact, it’s a problem whether or not such hostility even exists – unless you want to claim it’s a complete fabrication, the perception most likely finds inspiration in some forms of behaviour or speech that we could modify at little or no cost.

Yes it’s a problem. The failure to combat the climate of hostility is a huge, huge problem. The endless coffee jokes and elevator jokes and she so ugly jokes – huge problem. Bridges crumbling and disappearing into the bottomless chasm, for the sake of just one more coffee joke. It’s sad.

And this is a key thing: it’s not PZ (or whoever’s) job to control the people who comment on their posts. But we all need to be aware that we set the tone at our websites not only by what we write, but also by how we respond to those who leave comments.

So if someone doesn’t give someone else a chance to explain what might be an honest mistake, rather than an attempt at trolling or rape apologetics, before descending on them with abuse, that abusive reaction is also antithetical to the skeptical cause, and should also be called out by the blog owner or other commenters. If it’s not called out, we quickly become gangs who have chosen a side, and chosen our authorities or leaders, and who then defend our turf by whatever means necessary – whether principled or not.

I think he’s right about that…But then another apparent troll (or just genuine dissenter) turns up, and it becomes difficult to act accordingly. Also, sometimes, several people respond to something at the same time, and it looks like piling on but isn’t – it’s people typing simultaneously and not realizing it until the comments are already posted.

Yet, we have to make distinctions between well-meaning interlocutors and trolls, and we all want to keep our websites and blogs free of trollish pestilence. So patience cannot be infinite. But when the current tensions started escalating to the point of an apparent civil war, it started to appear as if – increasingly – some members of this community started making judgements before hearing any arguments.

If all we want is to feel self-righteous, and right, that’s fine. It is indeed good to know who the enemy is. But it’s also good to change the enemy’s mind, where possible, and it’s good to discover that someone you thought of as an enemy is actually simply a confused friend. Let’s be wary of making the latter two sorts of interaction impossible.

Yes let’s.

Comments

  1. says

    I like something you said:

    Also, sometimes, several people respond to something at the same time, and it looks like piling on but isn’t – it’s people typing simultaneously and not realizing it until the comments are already posted.

    Something I wish more forums did (and I love it at the ones that do) is when, immediately after you’ve posted, it says “there have been new posts since you started typing this. Would you like to view them?” or something along those lines. I love being able to see if I should edit or even not bother with my reply.

    A great example is when I initially replied to Dylan on your “Vocal and Unabashed” post. When I started that reply, Dylan’s first post (the one I was responding to) was the last one in the comments. By the time my post was finished and posted, there had been several more from others, the vast majority shorter than the post I finally put out, which is why they got in sooner, even if I started on mine before them.

    This can definitely exacerbate a situation and create a ganging-up effect that is not at all intentional.

  2. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Nate:

    This can definitely exacerbate a situation and create a ganging-up effect that is not at all intentional.

    The appearance of ganging up on a new poster, whether they’re sincere or a troll has likely turned off many people. I wonder if there’s a way to alleviate this problem.

  3. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Nate:
    Er, that is “alleviate the problem here at FtB” (given that you mentioned other forums already have an answer, my initial response looks like I didn’t read your post)

  4. LeftSidePositive says

    1) This guy needs to learn that intent is not magic.

    2) “Rape apologist” is not an “epithet”; it is a description of behavior. Someone need not be aware that they are defending rape culture, much less consciously making excuses for rape itself, to be engaged in rape apologism. If someone says, “Well, if women on skeptical websites don’t want to receive rape threats/jokes they should just post with gender-neutral screen names…” they are engaging in classic victim blaming that IS rape apologism. Yes, the term is ugly–but only because it accurately describes what these people are doing.

    3) If one is confronted with the fact that he (and it’s usually, but not always, he) is doing something harmful, and he is more concerned with policing the tone with which you correct him and thinks having his fee-fees hurt insulates him from actually taking the criticism of his behavior to heart, this is a character flaw on his part.

    4) Willfully refusing to see that terms like “rape apologism” refer to small behaviors as well as big ones is part of the problem. We live in a culture that normalizes devaluation of women on every level, and is then shocked–SHOCKED!–that rape happens, and thus concludes that it must have been her fault. “Rape apologism” doesn’t mean that one consciously defends rape any more than “homophobia” means that one actively cowers in fear of gay people, and I expect anyone over the age of say, twelve, to be able to handle such simple abstractions.

    5) Certain arguments simply don’t need to be heard in anything more than a soundbite to be dismissed. For instance, “If she doesn’t want to be sexualized by men at a conference, why does she dress like that/pose for that calendar?” is the “Why are there still monkeys?” of feminism. There is literally no way someone could make either of those objections and POSSIBLY have a valid point with them, because these are such tired, easily-refuted bromides that they betray a gross deficit of knowledge of the most basic principles of the matter under discussion.

    6) I’m very, VERY wary of a privileged person saying that the marginalized person speaking up for themselves in the face of lies, threats, and bigotry is being “abusive” when they call out such toxic behavior in no uncertain terms. Moreover, it is a Slippery Slope Fallacy to conclude that vocally standing up for oneself (and castigating and ostracizing those who are harmful/dishonest/bigoted) is “whatever means necessary–whether principled or not.” One can easily support calling out a troll (or a Privilege Denying Douche) for being a pompous, motherfucking, insufferable bigoted asshole, but will absolutely stand firm that NO ONE, no matter how heinous their behavior, deserves gendered/racial slurs or threats of violence.

  5. says

    But as always, why is it the responsibility of the people on the correct side of the issue to police themselves, when the people on the wrong side have zero restrictions on their behavior? Why is it that the critics always pick the easy targets, namely the people who have good intentions and stand on the side of decency? I’ve seen a hundred people scold pro-feminism bloggers for being too aggressive… have any of them ever waded into an MRA cesspool and made similar arguments? Even once?

  6. LeftSidePositive says

    But if someone says something odious, is it really wrong for multiple people to stand up and say that this is not acceptable? Isn’t establishing community norms important, and aren’t many voices important in doing that? This is especially important when the person being odious has a certain level of privilege in meatspace and will all too easily brush off the objection of one or two marginalized people.

    Also, different people may have different insights on why whatever odious thing is problematic–this may help to communicate to lurkers in different ways, and help other posters recognize patterns in bigoted/derailing comments, and appreciate the assumptions underlying them.

    And it just plain bothers me that when someone says something privileged, derailing, and racist/sexist/whatever, there are all too many people insistent on focusing on protecting the feelings of the one being so insensitive to marginalized groups, rather than respecting the need of those affected directly or indirectly to speak up. Not to mention that coddling the derailer positively reinforces zir behavior.

  7. 'Tis Himself says

    It’s true that sometimes someone appears on a sexism thread with genuine questions asked in genuine ignorance and they (he) get jumped on with hob-nailed boots. Much more often the questions are meant to derail the conversation.

    Sure the terms “rape apologist”, “misogynist” and “MRA” get used with abandon here. But there are a lot of folks who show up on these threads who fit these terms.

  8. callistacat says

    @LeftSidePositive +5

    “have any of them ever waded into an MRA cesspool and made similar arguments? Even once?”

    @Improbable Joe
    Hmmm…highly doubt it. But I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

  9. says

    Well one thing is that it’s not just the commenter who sees the comments. You know how we’re always saying “we gnus aren’t just talking to the committed believers, we’re also (in fact probably mostly) talking to the people on the fence”? It’s like that. Too much shouting and piling added together can create an atmosphere that doesn’t seem thoughtful.

    It’s true about rebuking us but not the real creeps. In Rousseau’s case (and that of some others) I think that’s because the real creeps aren’t potentially part of thoughtful conversation anyway. There are other cases though where that’s a very real objection, and I pretty much don’t take wise advice from people like that. The little gang of people who still use the #FTBullies tag without irony but never utter a peep about therealcreeps – ya I’m not taking advice on morality 101 from them.

  10. says

    About the simultaneous commenting problem – I think if we just say that’s what happened, it’ll help.

    I don’t always even mind (maybe that makes me a bad person). Yesterday when Dylan issued a bunch of orders about doing his homework for him, three people answered him at once, all saying the same thing. I didn’t mind a bit.

  11. says

    Ophelia:

    Well one thing is that it’s not just the commenter who sees the comments. You know how we’re always saying “we gnus aren’t just talking to the committed believers, we’re also (in fact probably mostly) talking to the people on the fence”? It’s like that. Too much shouting and piling added together can create an atmosphere that doesn’t seem thoughtful.

    As someone who has been called out as an asshole, and who has actually behaved like an asshole both intentionally and not so much, I’m not sure that the atmosphere is a real issue long-term. People who are determined to to “right” can’t be convinced by any tone, no matter how harsh or gentle. People who would prefer to be correct rather than being “right” can and will power through the criticism and shouting and piling on, and when they learn a lesson it hits home harder when combined with all the harsh rhetoric… when I’ve been hammered, and I realized I was wrong, the fact that I got slammed made me understand how much I was wrong in a more significant way than if I had been gently scolded.

  12. LeftSidePositive says

    You know how we’re always saying “we gnus aren’t just talking to the committed believers, we’re also (in fact probably mostly) talking to the people on the fence”? It’s like that.

    Yeah, it is like that. In the sense that tone trolls *insist* that the gnus couldn’t possibly convince anyone with all their bluster, and yet the recent outspokenness of the atheist movement is gathering it members and making it really take off…meanwhile, who exactly have the accommodationists convinced?

    Too much shouting and piling added together can create an atmosphere that doesn’t seem thoughtful.

    I think this is in great measure because tone trolls have an overly privileged voice in our discourse (on just about every level–from niche blogospheres to national media). It’s important that we step up and address the cognitive biases (and massive social conditioning) that lead people to assume that the calm person is always right or more trustworthy, just like we find it necessary to combat Argument from Assertion, Argument from Popularity, and all the other classic logical fallacies.

    An excellent exploration of this is here:

    The conflation of nice and good also creates an avenue of subtle control over marginalised people. After all, what is seen as “nice” is cultural and often even class-dependent, and therefore the “manners” that matter get to be defined by the dominant ethnic group and class. For example, the “tone” argument, the favourite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger.

    If we’re going to go to great lengths to show why extrapolating from personal experience is dangerous and unreliable with an eye towards mitigating the harms this line of thinking does to enable god-belief, I posit that we should similarly expose the problems with the tone argument, and that the tone fallacy itself is something that needs to be actively opposed.

  13. tekanji says

    I’m seconding what LeftSidePositive said about calling out people when they are engaging in rape apologism. I also think that Rousseau (and those who agree with the argument he put forth… and really anyone who hasn’t seen it yet) would benefit from watching Jay Smooth’s video on how to tell people they sound racist. He talks about the “what you did/said” conversation versus the “what you are” conversation. Rousseau, in the above post, talks about “rape apologist” as if it is only a “what you are” word, while in reality it is also (and in my experience more frequently used as) a “what you did/said” word. Any conversations we have surrounding that–and other terms like misogynist, homophobe, cissexist, racist, etc–need to include that context. 

    Also:

    And this is a key thing: it’s not PZ (or whoever’s) job to control the people who comment on their posts. But we all need to be aware that we set the tone at our websites not only by what we write, but also by how we respond to those who leave comments.

    As someone who has been involved in multiple communities over the years, including running a moderately successful blog and forums, I call BS on the “it’s not the job of the community owner/leader to control the commenters on their posts”. In the literal sense it may be true (it is not their responsibility/right to control the commenters themselves), but it is absolutely their responsibility to control the content that the commenters post in their community. As Rousseau said, the leaders set the tone of the community, but he missed the connection between his first and second statement; namely that the controlling the commenter’s content (via moderation, deletion, banning, etc) is an intrinsic part of setting a community’s tone.

    Anyway, preemptive apologies for any unclear statements I made above. My iPhone has been acting up since I installed iOS 5.01 and it’s making it really difficult to write/edit this comment.

  14. says

    Well…see, this here is an interesting discussion. It would be a lot less interesting if it were all shouting and personal. Interesting is better than boring. That’s part of it. It’s not just “nicer” – it’s also about what’s less boring.

  15. Pteryxx says

    Well, nobody’s come in yelling FREE SPEECH!!1! yet; that might have something to do with the productivity. ;>

  16. pinkboi says

    Tone isn’t important. What is important is responding to what someone said, not what you imagined they said. And if there are multiple, plausible interpretations, don’t deliberately choose the dumbest possible thing for them to be saying.

  17. LeftSidePositive says

    It would be a lot less interesting if it were all shouting and personal.

    I submit that what actually makes this conversation interesting is that the people taking part in it are acting in good faith, and actually have some idea of the basics of what they’re talking about and are able to move past total 101 stuff. It’s not the shouting and recriminations that make things less interesting, it’s when some people act like willfully obtuse, privileged, strawmanning, weaselly, mendacious, misogynist, motherfucking douchebags in the first place.

    A conversation with a lying, privileged, pompous, bigoted, mansplaining douchebag is not interesting, and much less will it magically stay interesting until someone points out that ze is being a lying, privileged, pompous, bigoted, mansplaining douchebag, thereby somehow dragging down the scintillating discourse that said pompous bigoted mansplainer had previously been offering (!).

  18. karmakin says

    There’s definitely a difference between describing actions and personalizing them…actually, I’ll take it a step further. There’s a difference between describing unintentional/unaware actions, intentional/aware actions and personalizing them. (The three should really use clear differential language for each situation)

    It’s not a matter of being tone aware…we’re really talking about actual content here. There are legitimate differences between saying that someone has done something racist, is acting racist, and saying that they are a card-carrying member of the KKK. They are different things.

    That’s what I got out of the article. Are you getting the message across? Or are people left thinking something entirely different? Then you have the question of, is it just that person being dense, or is there something you could have done to made things clearer?

  19. says

    I think that Pteryxx and LeftSidePositive have the right of it, and they invalidate the point in practice that Rousseau tried to make in theory. We’re not stupid or inexperienced or naive. It is nice for an accommodationist to pretend that we’re always or even usually being unfair to people who are not as bad as we think they are. The truth is that we’re as a group generally pretty good at sussing out the dumb from the evil from the ignorant, and treating each level accordingly. Further, we tend to give people the benefit of the doubt by not automatically assuming pure evil while not giving any breaks for dumb or ignorant.

  20. Pteryxx says

    Re describing actions versus personalizing them… in the feminist threads specifically, DEpersonalizing women’s lived experiences actually is a method of attack by silencing. I’m thinking that personalizing the pushback against the oh-so-polite above-it-all commenter is a reaction against being treated like interesting specimens. “Why do you women take this so personally” etc. See EEB’s personal account in the “What you think it means” thread for a recent example.

  21. says

    I’d like to make a slightly different point about dehumanizing versus humanizing than what Pteryxx is saying. Sometimes, maybe often, I feel like the calls for polite behavior are really calls to make the conversation abstract and impersonal. In those cases, coming at someone hard and even rude brings it back to the personal, and imposes a different frame on the issue. I know Fincke ignored me when I made this point to him, because professional philosophers tend to be *expletive deleted*, but far from being dehumanizing, insulting people can be profoundly humanizing. It is saying “I am a person, and this issue is not academic to me, and you are hurting me by being ‘rational’ while ignoring the pain you are causing me.

  22. Pteryxx says

    hmm, I’m thinking that while insults definitely are personal, one can also personalize without being insulting; but that, again, is a distinction entirely elided by those who value tone over substance. *cough*Fincke*cough*

  23. B-Lar says

    @Improbable Joe:

    Perhaps because only those who are on the side of right are capable of policing themselves and have a vested interest in doing so. I am reminded of the TV show Life On Mars (So awsome) where it is pointed out that the police draw their integrity from policing themselves, from being “whiter than white”.

    Bad guys have no interest in integrity and demonstrate that for the world to see by contrast.

    And yeah, its pretty galling to only have one side criticised, but critics aren’t willing to get their hands dirty to change the world.

  24. Happiestsadist says

    I agree with LeftSidePositive here. There is really no need to coddle and accommodate, for example, rape apologist because then they’ll totally get it. Yes, someone might just be asking a genuine question. This doesn’t seem the case mostly. So someone might get a bunch of posters responding all at once, hopefully they’ll be able to figure out that hey, all these timed/dated responses in quick succession are in fact people posting in quick succession.

    That honestly feels like a “both sides are bad!11!” thing.

  25. LeftSidePositive says

    And, refusing to look at the person who is making odious claims and what that says about them basically gives them carte blanche to maintain their social privilege and pretend that there’s “just a difference of opinion.” If no one ever calls them on it, they never have to face the cognitive dissonance between their self-image and what their opinions are showing them to be, and thus motivate them to critically examine their opinions (or at least understand that they can’t voice such odious opinions and maintain the esteem of their peers).

    Let’s face it–opinions are not hair color or nationality. They don’t just attach themselves to you at random and without any involvement of your values or character. Indeed, any assessment of one’s “character” that does not take into account one’s opinions, one’s behavior towards others, and the effects of those actions on others, sounds much more like a flattering self-delusion to me. If we must pretend that every commentator is a good person (or simply refuse to say anything when it’s clear they’re not!) regardless of their opinions, “good person” becomes the equivalent of everyone winning a prize in kindergarten.

    You know, it’s not like Greta Christina would ever wake up one morning and spontaneously decide “Women who speak up about sexual harassment are engaging in irresponsible messaging!” The fact that Greta would never say this and DJ Grothe apparently would is a function of who they are and what they value. There are certain things that conscientious people just don’t say, because part of being a conscientious person is realizing what is bigoted and hurtful, not to mention just plain wrong. Acting like people’s opinions are at arm’s length from their personalities (especially when it’s only the bad opinions!) also ignores the great investment of time and education many of us have put into interrogating our opinions and making sure that we don’t have lazy, prejudiced, self-entitled opinions that don’t conform with our over-arching values or the people we want to be.

  26. Jack Lewis says

    ” but far from being dehumanizing, insulting people can be profoundly humanizing. It is saying “I am a person, and this issue is not academic to me, and you are hurting me by being ‘rational’ while ignoring the pain you are causing me.”

    Insulting people is profoundly humanizing, because somebody is causing you pain by being rational… Still if anything is specifically human wouldn’t it be the ability to think rationally?

    The notion that someone who can control his or her emotions when discussing a subject implies that they are not invested in that subject is hard to swallow too.
    By keeping calm one can at least try to get a point across to the person they are writing (assuming they want to reach anyone in the first place).
    Insults just mean that no matter whether you are right or not, the person on the receiving end will simply stop listening and nothing will have been accomplished except perhaps feeling some ego gratification of some sorts. I would think there are better avenues for this sort of thing, sports or other kinds of competitions.

  27. says

    I’d respond at length but it would essentially be a rehash of my “I’m a homophobe” comment which I can’t even find anyway.

    Essentially my position is that we need to stop thinking of “sexist” “homophobe” “bigot” and “prejudiced” as on/off switches, as binary positions, and recognize that we ALL are ALL of these things at least in some deep crevice of our brains.

    That right there is the sole cause of all of humanity’s problems – simplistic thinking. :P

  28. Brad says

    I think tekanji’s specificity is extremely important and deserves more focus than it has received. A “rape apologist” is almost certainly not one in the same way that william lane craig is a christian apologist.

    Pteryxx, you’re way off on Fincke. He’s not valuing tone over substance at all, rather he’s rightly assesses the substance of personal attacks and “come at me bro”-style diction as poisonous to discourse.

    These are even vaguely related, as calling someone out by saying “you’re a rape apologist” is unnecessarily confrontational and accusationally implicatory unless you’re talking to the WLC of rape, when it’s much better to call them out with roughly “what you just said is rape apologizing.” Tone certainly does matter.

    @27, I think generalizing those terms like that makes them less useful, and rather we should conceptualize that idea more along the lines of “racism isn’t the sole purview of racists” which saves racist-the-noun as a meaningful heavy-impact synonym for the KKK or Sheriff Joe or heaps of right-wingnuts.

  29. Dylan says

    Hi Ophelia et all

    I just want to throw in my two cents, being as I was mentioned here.

    As a new commenter I didn’t mind people “piling on” or being aggressive in their condemnation of my positions. I did feel that people were not interested in discussing things with someone coming from my position.

    The impression I had was that there was a whole list of “facts” that I was supposed to already agree with or else I was just wasting everyone’s time.

    I approach each discussion as though I am just talking to someone… it’s more conversational for me, and less about reading endless links that may or may not answer specific questions I have.

    I totally agree with the idea that you should not be writing to convince your opponent (me) but rather you should be writing to convince the jury. In that situation it is not so important whether you think I am sincere, or a troll.

  30. Pteryxx says

    Brad, my disagreement with Fincke is that he conflates personal criticism with personal attacks. Whether personal attacks are broadly poisonous to discourse, we’re discussing that point perfectly well right here.

    Personally I see no problem with calling someone a rape apologist after they’ve demonstrated bad-faith apologia in defending rape. Denying the label while engaging in the action is characteristic of unconscious or denial-based bias.

  31. Pteryxx says

    so Dylan, did you actually read the provided (*jazzquotes*) “facts” (*/jazzquotes*)? Because discussing an obvious argument from ignorance IS a waste of time; and providing source material is part of discussion.

  32. says

    @27, I think generalizing those terms like that makes them less useful, and rather we should conceptualize that idea more along the lines of “racism isn’t the sole purview of racists” which saves racist-the-noun as a meaningful heavy-impact synonym for the KKK or Sheriff Joe or heaps of right-wingnuts.

    I guess maybe I SHOULD track down my “I’m a homophobe” comment because I’ll end up repeating myself anyway.

    I disagree with your “save those words” argument not only because it’s simply incorrect, but because it would have (and arguably does have and has had the effect of giving everyone who is NOT out burning crosses on lawns a way out of self-examination.

    People already think that if they don’t HATE blacks, if they don’t HATE gays, if they don’t HATE women then they aren’t doing anything wrong and how dare anyone suggest they think about their behavior.

    Why do you think there is such an uproar by the likes of Bill O’Reilly and every right-winger (and many “liberals” when someone’s actions are called racist?

    Because they already HAVE decided that those words are only reserved for the exclusive use of the worst of the worst. That’s how they get away with essentially claiming that calling someone racist is the worst possible thing you can call anyone? They SAY that. And they use it to excuse racism. Same with sexism. To see that these words have (incorrectly) already been marginalized to the degree that it gives cover to those who are clearly extreme racists and homophobes, not just to “regular folks” who are refusing to examine their privilege.

    A good way to determine if a tactic is wrong for progressives to use is if it has already been put into use exactly in that same way by our opponents, and very effectively for them.

    Besides being incorrect, there is evidence that it doesn’t work.
    We aren’t going to fix binary thinking and lack of nuance by stripping words of all nuance and leaving only the most extreme example as the sole definition.

  33. Dylan says

    Pteryxx

    Links to source materials are appreciated, but if you can’t be bothered to at least provide a relevant excerpt, then it isn’t really all that helpful. Simply giving someone a link and telling them to do their homework isn’t much of a conversation.

  34. Pteryxx says

    Dylan, rephrasing this for you:

    “I appreciate links to source materials, but if a relevant excerpt isn’t provided, I’m not going to find it helpful. I don’t consider giving me a link and telling me to do my homework much of a conversation.”

    because I *do* follow links that are provided directly in response to requests for information, such as the request you made. When you ask for information, providing you information is an appropriate response. Don’t assume your laziness is universal.

  35. Brad says

    @33, Jafafa, You said yourself that those terms are already marginalized. Isn’t it easier to get somebody to be introspective when you don’t immediately put them on the defensive? I suggest “racish” and a very slightly expanded use of “racial” for the purpose you describe. Our disagreement seems merely in how to approach a common goal.

    @31, Pteryxx, it looks to me like his critics are the ones doing the conflating rather than Fincke himself. In fact, emphasizing the difference between “you’re a bigot” which is critical, aggressive, and will be perceived as an attack* (intend not being magic), and “that argument is bigoted and almost exclusively used by bigots” which is merely critical is the exact opposite of conflating the two.

    *This perception of attack is why, frustrating and unsatisfying as it may be to ever do it, the feelings of the privileged party in a conversation should be considered in the context of one’s goals in engaging. Granted, arguing to the benefit of the audience is usually correct.

  36. Dylan says

    Damn. I can’t figure out these blockquote tags…

    “get a proper job and get off decent peoples’ backs.” ~ Rrr

  37. Dylan says

    @16 pinkboi
    “Tone isn’t important. What is important is responding to what someone said, not what you imagined they said. And if there are multiple, plausible interpretations, don’t deliberately choose the dumbest possible thing for them to be saying.”

    This is exactly right.

  38. F says

    Some of the problems for the more or less genuine “made a mistake” new posters could be alleviated by following basic etiquette and being sensible. One is to realize that “piling on” is caused by the asynchronous communication as well as the fact that every one posting is another individual and not simply an avatar of “the group”. Another is to lurk and read previous posts and avail oneself of any resources made handy (policy links or whatever) before commenting. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were piled on after walking into a room full of people I don’t know and declaiming my complete ignorance (and very important opinion) at them. You know, instead of spending even five minutes to find out what they are actually talking about and familiarizing myself with the subject and its derivative discussions.

  39. says

    Apparently Daniel Fincke wants to assume the mantle of the Great White Educator about prejudice, privilege, and systemic bigotry. Well, okay, fine. Someone has to do it. I don’t want to and it’s good he’s at least trying. I’m skeptical about how effective he’s going to be, but I’m certainly not going to try to stop him. I do wish he’d stop using bad arguments–or SEEMING like he’s using bad arguments, then backpedaling into slightly less bad arguments–in service of his mission.

    As for Dylan, well. Sometimes you’re just wrong. You were wrong in that thread and you couldn’t admit it and that’s why you felt bad. Because it never feels good to be terribly fucking wrong.

  40. Dylan says

    (Excerpt from: Being Right Doesn’t Guarantee That You’re Not Wrong – By Jacques Rosseau)

    Here in South Africa everyone will know what I’m talking about if I were to use the phrase “playing the race card”, and hopefully you do too. In case you don’t, it refers to a tactic that’s sadly common here, and is used for avoiding uncomfortable discussions and not allowing any facts to interfere with your prejudices. If a white man such as myself says something about South African culture or politics, it is often dismissed simply on the grounds that I can’t understand what it’s like to be black.
    What this crude form of identity politics misses is that blackness or whiteness or whatever-ness is only one feature of identity. Sometimes a powerful one, to be sure, but nevertheless, I might have far more features in common with a randomly selected black South African than she does with another randomly selected black South African. The same principle applies with gender, and just as we shouldn’t use the race card, but instead look at the arguments and evidence, we should avoid using the gender card.

    This is a huge problem for feminism.

    Yay… blockquote success.
    I may be a man, but I’m slow. :)

  41. says

    You said yourself that those terms are already marginalized. Isn’t it easier to get somebody to be introspective when you don’t immediately put them on the defensive? I suggest “racish” and a very slightly expanded use of “racial” for the purpose you describe. Our disagreement seems merely in how to approach a common goal.

    Inventing new words to spare the feelings of those who (intentionally or not) propagate bigotry? No thanks.

  42. says

    In fact, emphasizing the difference between “you’re a bigot” which is critical, aggressive, and will be perceived as an attack* (intend not being magic), and “that argument is bigoted and almost exclusively used by bigots” which is merely critical is the exact opposite of conflating the two.

    I use this tactic myself, and, in my observation, which is corroborated by Jay Smooth, one of the more famous advocates of this tactic, it works less than 10% of the time. The rest of the time, your interlocutor reacts as if you’re calling them A Bigot (and therefore evil) regardless of whether you frame it as “what you said/did” or “what you are.” And that is the source of a lot of the blow-ups around here. It happens all the time: “What you SAID was sexist.” “How dare you accuse me of being A Sexist!” “I didn’t… I… I fucking give up.”

    And yet we continue framing things as “what you said/did” rather than “what you are.” Because it is CORRECT.

    So don’t fucking tell me that we don’t do that.

  43. says

    This is a huge problem for feminism.

    What was this thread about? Oh yeah, considering that you might be wrong.

    You’re wrong.

    Feminism has problems aplenty. This isn’t one of them.

    I can’t speak to race politics in South Africa but if Mr. Rousseau were talking about America, I’d say he’s wrong too. It’s just a fucking fact that white people don’t know what it’s like to be black. Whether that fact is germane to a given conversation is debatable and should be debated, but to call making that simple, factual observation “playing the race card” is inflammatory and wrong.

    I call it playing the “playing the race card” card.

  44. Dave says

    It rather depends what the context of ‘playing the race card’ is. If, for example, it’s in the context of discussing Jacob Zuma’s somewhat proprietary attitude to the office of the presidency, and willingness to engage the courts to suppress dissent, that is a rather different context to be told you ‘don’t know what it’s like’ than one in which, for example, you might have made some remark about hippetyhoppity music, large cars, gold jewellery and ‘booty’.

    You can go down the rabbit hole of paying the card card card, but circumstances do matter.

  45. Dylan says

    What this crude form of identity politics misses is that blackness or whiteness or whatever-ness is only one feature of identity.

    This is what is important… dismissing someone’s ideas as worthless because of their perceived “privilege” is not valid.

  46. julian says

    It happens all the time: “What you SAID was sexist.” “How dare you accuse me of being A Sexist!” “I didn’t… I… I fucking give up.”

    I think the difference comes in in that it’s clear when you, SallyStrange, do it you’re highlighting behavior you find contemptible. When Daniel Fincke and some others do it it comes across as just something people do.

  47. F says

    This is a huge problem for feminism.

    I think its a fairly minor issue which occasionally happens here and there. If you think it’s a huge problem for feminism, you may want to broaden your exposure to it.

  48. maureen.brian says

    Brad,

    I do not doubt you are thinking carefully about this but your final paragraph @ 39 opens up one of the many elephant traps with which this debate is beset.

    Does it not occur to you that – the basic premise being that we are all human – women, people of colour, LGBTI people, whoever, also experience the fight or flight reflex when under attack?

    In the course of this debate, not necessarily on this blog, we have seen people assert an absolute right to grope, claim that the human race will die out unless they can rape and, sadly, claim that their poor brains are tired and some lesser mortal needs to do the work for them. Work which they will then studiously ignore.

    Where we can converse politely as we are doing here we will make good progress on some aspects. There will be other times and places, though, when preventing derailment by bullies, trolls and bigots becomes the over-riding priority. You know, like in real life which, pace Professor Fincke, this is.

  49. Cello says

    FWIW, from an occasional lurker, I suppose some of the tone sentiment is personal preference. If I am reading a thread with 25 posts starting out like post 48 here, I’ll stop reading. It can end up reading like one long battle for the best snarky comment. A lot of people love the snarky contests but I have been on political and religious boards for too long and have seen them done to death. As good as sarcasm feels to be dispensing, I think it is overused relative to its usefullness.

  50. callistacat says

    Jacques Rousseau, I’d like to be given the same benefit of the doubt and not be jumped on and labeled a politically correct oppressor or bully or someone playing ‘identity politics’ or one of the ‘sisterhood of the oppressed’ by members of this community.

    That would be nice.

  51. Timon for Tea says

    I don’t think it really is too hard to keep comments civil without spending hours and hours moderating, plenty of places do it. You just need a very strict policy of no personal remarks and no impugning of motive. Give everyone a single warning and then ban them. In other words, install an anti-harassment policy.

    This is labour intensive for the first couple of days but very quickly the people that just want to throw their weight about leave.Of course, that means many fewer comments, followers and, in some cases, dollars.

    It is curious to me that none of the people (as far as I know) who are most vigorously calling for ant-harassment policies elsewhere have felt the need to write them for the places where they have the power to assert them unilaterally: in their blogs

  52. Pteryxx says

    You just need a very strict policy of no personal remarks and no impugning of motive. Give everyone a single warning and then ban them. In other words, install an anti-harassment policy.

    This is labour intensive for the first couple of days but very quickly the people that just want to throw their weight about leave.Of course, that means many fewer comments, followers and, in some cases, dollars.

    lawlirony

  53. callistacat says

    @Timon for Tea

    That doesn’t make sense. How are disagreements and even heated arguments anything like sexual harassment? Could you elaborate a little more? Do you mean abusive trolling? Because most bloggers do moderate them to some degree.

  54. CT says

    Pteryxx:

    Because discussing an obvious argument from ignorance IS a waste of time; and providing source material is part of discussion.

    Not sure if there is some back story behind this comment between you and Dylan.

    I’d like to address it’s substance however. Despite the fact that many people hang out at this blog network and comment frequently, this is not a forum in the sense of how a web forum is set up. There is no pinned post directly new people to [whateversubject] 101 (read before you post) topics. This is an open format that anyone, including people with no knowledge of the subject, should be able to post without being eviscerated for being [white/rich/straight/male] and posting in a comment thread that others deem [not for white/rich/straight/male] commentary. For me, it’s almost become a joke “okay, let me re-read, did I type anything that might be construed as indicating that I’m [white/rich/straight/male] because I don’t want to come back to 14 posts about how I shouldn’t even be talking because of my privilege”. In the sense of a 101, I’ve learned that very very well. But I choose to come back to this network despite the pile ons because I see value in a lot of commenters opinions and facts as well as the blog content. New commenters who are immediately piled on because they have the “privilege” of actually admitting they are [white/rich/straight/male] often don’t even get read for any content because all the focus will be on *STFU YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT” posts.

    If the goal of the commentariat is to have informed discussions, then maybe forum software instead of an open comment threads visible to the entire internet would be a better choice.

    thank you, you may direct your pile ons to chimako.27 on the gmail network.

  55. Timon for Tea says

    Callistacaat, I am not suggesting that all harassment is the same, but there is behaviour in many comment threads that people experience as harassment/bullying. I don’t think that is controversial and since the accusations are made, it would make sense to assume that there is an issue to deal with and implement a policy, no? That is if anti-harassment policies are a useful way of dealing with this sort of thing (which I think they are on blogs, although it would probably just be called a code of conduct). If you tell every commenter who insults another, or suggest they are arguing in bad faith that they are on a warning, the trolls quickly disappear. These people do not enjoy cool, reasonable debate. There is a cost to this, in numbers and in excitement, to some degree, but to my mind the benefits outweigh thee costs.

    Pteryxx, to clarify, I didn’t mean that motive should be outside of discussion in general, but that impugning the motives of commenters qua commenters should. In other words, the policy should insist that comments are taken at face value (and with the most generous interpretation if that is practical). This is very effective in chasing away the worst of the trolls/bullies/harassers.

  56. Kevin K says

    This is going to be taken the wrong way … but …

    Sometimes, it’s not the “friend” who is confused. He/she may have a valid point that is misconstrued, or dismissed with an invalid accusation.

    Blog writers aren’t 100% right all of the time, either (no human is). And when their ox is being gored, well, it can get pretty bloody.

  57. maureen.brian says

    CT,

    Thank you for your kind permission to contact you by email but I prefer not to do so.

    There is a back-story to Dylan. He popped up somewhere demanding to be told something. He was immediately and politely pointed at two or was it three links where he would find his answer without disrupting the main flow of a conversation. He may have asked that question in a totally honourable way and he was treated with respect. Exasperation began to set in when he began to pop up repeatedly – in that same thread – and demand that everyone stop talking and answer him. Several times he was politely referred back to the links and I seem to remember that they were repeated for his convenience. He claimed he did not have time to look them up.

    Whether Dylan is immature and unused to adult dialogue or he was practicing the noble art of JAQing off – definition is on RationalWiki – we know not and I, speaking only for myself, don’t much care.

    One important thought which may help you – we feminists tend to value economy and efficiency of labour. We are also ready to admit that many of our fellow-toilers in this field are pretty clever.

    So, if someone has already done an excellent job of summarising an argument, defining a concept, describing an event or compiling a list then, when it makes sense, we say in response to a question “Please see X” with the unspoken implication that she (or he) has already done a great job on that, better than I can do in the five minutes I have between hanging out the washing and going off to a Planning Committee.

    If you automatically see that as rudeness then I am sorry. I see it as the best possible use of resources.

  58. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    This will likely come off as snarky, so let me apologize up front if it does. it is NOT meant that way at all.

    “He didn’t mean it that way!/You’re taking it the wrong way!” is a common statement from sexism-denying or “hypersketpical” trolls.

    isn’t this piece saying essentially the same thing? be nice to those shoving the shit sandwich in your mouth because he might not have meant it “that way”.

    To be clear, I don’t disagree with Rousseau – though there are some issues with the piece, as others have already noted. I’m just having a hard time reconciling that fact I don’t disagree with the piece with the feeling that this piece isn’t saying anything we haven’t heard already.

    How far off mark am I?

  59. hoary puccoon says

    Something that hasn’t really come up here, but that I’ve seen on these threads over and over, is a commenter telling other people, “You just shouldn’t FEEL that way.”

    No matter how calmly and apparently politely you present it, dictating to other people what *you* have decided should be *their* internal emotional state is *always* bullying. 100% of the time. No exceptions. You have a right to criticize other people’s behavior, especially if it impinges on you, personally. You have no right to criticize their internal emotions.

    But the thing is, 99.999% of the time, the people doing this form of bullying are the MRAs. How many times have you read, “Rebecca *shouldn’t* have been creeped out?” “Stephanie *shouldn’t* be irritated?” And now it’s, “Nathalie *shouldn’t* be scared!”

    To criticize people sticking up for their rights because they’re angry at the unfair treatment they’ve gotten– and Jacques Rousseau comes pretty close to doing just that– isn’t being the sweet voice of reason. It’s piling on.

  60. psocoptera says

    There are a few comments up there with people complaining that they have been told that their privilege is why people don’t listen to them. In my observation, as a longtime lurker, I would say that it isn’t your privilege that is the problem, but rather your failure to thoroughly examine it as evidenced by the content of your comments.

  61. jamessweet says

    There’s a lot of comments here, so I’ll just simply add: Yeah, this is a problem. And I don’t know what the solution is.

    It is absolutely the case that at some FtB blogs, people who were honestly confused or really wanted to know more (and maybe just weren’t asking the right way) have been crucified for it. And before anybody says, “Oh boo hoo, poor privileged you with your hurt feelings,” that’s a problem because it is a less effective approach, not because of anybody’s hurt feelings.

    But how do you fix that, when there are just so many trolls, JAQ-offs, disingenuous commenters, etc.? And even if it was easy to distinguish, how do you tell someone who has been at the receiving end of freaking rape and death threats that they need to be more patient with people who just honestly don’t “get it” yet?

    So yeah. This problem is real, and it sucks. About the only thing I can do is say that there must be some hope, because some blogs are better with this than others… Crommunist is really fantastic at distinguishing between trolls and people who are just confused, and helping the latter. And I say that from experience, having been the confused party more than once, and had him gently set me straight in a way that made sense to me. I’ve also been in the genuinely “confused” role in interactions with other FtB bloggers whom I won’t mention (it’s not you, Ophelia) and had it not go as well… But again, how do you tell someone who is so legitimately fed up with all this cluelessness that in order to be maximally effective they sometimes need to be more indulgent of the clueless? I just don’t know.

  62. Pteryxx says

    Timon for Tea:

    In other words, the policy should insist that comments are taken at face value (and with the most generous interpretation if that is practical). This is very effective in chasing away the worst of the trolls/bullies/harassers.

    Except that it’s not, where social justice is concerned. Because of unconscious bias and the blinding effects of privilege, commenters can and do make bigoted statements that sound perfectly reasonable on their face, like “the victim might be lying”. Insisting on face value or generous interpretation essentially are requirements to presume good faith. But bigoted statements are not good-faith arguments; the most generous interpretation is that the person making the comment may not be aware of their own bigoted underlying assumptions. There is no way to address those assumptions without calling the comment out; and as previously noted, no such critique can be mild enough to avoid accusations of bad faith in turn. This is why a face-value policy will protect polite bigotry and silencing attempts at the expense of disadvantaged groups’ expression of both arguments and emotion, unless the moderator’s savvy to those subtle assumptions and willing to call out and ban for them.

    See also:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/02/28/dont-feed-the-trolls-is-bad-science/

    and

    http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2012/04/the-revolution-will-not-be-polite-the-issue-of-nice-versus-good/

  63. Timon for Tea says

    “Except that it’s not, where social justice is concerned. Because of unconscious bias and the blinding effects of privilege, commenters can and do make bigoted statements that sound perfectly reasonable on their face”

    That is true, but it is true of everyone including you and me, we don’t know what unconscious biases we are the victim of or how our privilege might affect our outlook, no matter how much we examine ourselves, so we are better of assuming that everyone is talking in good faith to avoid becoming prisoners of our own bigotry (perhaps the person who appears to you to be wrong headed about social justice is thee one who is seeing clearly and you are the bigot). So if someone says something you don’t like and disagree with strongly such as ‘the victim may be lying’, deal with that possibility or explain why you do not think it is possible, or ignore it and move on. If the commenter is trolling, I guarantee you that she will not stick around long if that is how you deal with her.

  64. Timor for Tea says

    Pteryxx, I am not suggesting you ignore bigoted statements, just that you engage with them rationally and take them at face value. If it turns out that a particular person simply will not reciprocate, ban them. If someone makes a statement that you disagree with, you explain your disagreement and they still don’t agree with you or change their position, then you may need to agree to disagree, but you are not tntitled to dismiss them as dishonest or bigoted, because it may be you who is wrong, irrational or bigoted.

  65. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    If someone makes a statement that you disagree with, you explain your disagreement and they still don’t agree with you or change their position, then you may need to agree to disagree, but you are not tntitled to dismiss them as dishonest or bigoted, because it may be you who is wrong, irrational or bigoted.

    you realize this sounds to targets of bigotry a lot like “eat your shit sandwich like a nice, good girl. When dudes are JAQing off all over the place, smile, be nice and don’t call them mean names. Only they are allowed to do that.”, right?

    Not saying that’s what you’re intending to say, of course. Just point out this is basically the practical application – albeit somewhat snarkified.

    You’re telling targets to be nice to those that mysteriously never get the same lecture.

  66. Timor for Tea says

    Illuminata, no, I am saying that NOBODY should be allowed to call names or be abusive, so nobody has to eat anything. There may be limits on permissible expression dictated by a particular blog and that is fine, but within that everyone gets treated the same. That way the trolling and fury will be quickly dotted and there will be no accusations of bullying. I don’t see it is so hard to do, and many blogs do it.

  67. says

    So if someone says something you don’t like and disagree with strongly such as ‘the victim may be lying’, deal with that possibility or explain why you do not think it is possible, or ignore it and move on.

    Ooh, what a perfect example. No, you don’t “explain why you do not think it is possible”. The problem with the statement is not that it’s not possible. The problem is that the statement is only used against one group of victims. You point out that bias in usage, because that’s where the problem is.

  68. says

    Timon @ 68 –

    If the commenter is trolling, I guarantee you that she will not stick around long if that is how you deal with her.

    You’re really really not in a position to guarantee that. It’s wrong; you don’t know it to be true; your “guarantee” is meaningless; etc.

  69. Pteryxx says

    (pardon, is it Timon or Timor? I don’t want to misspell your name.)

    I’m going to attempt to point out something that you’re doing right now that indicates biased thought. It’s a classic example of the sort of unintentional yet harmful mistake I’m trying to explain.

    Check this phrase:

    So if someone says something you don’t like and disagree with strongly such as ‘the victim may be lying’

    Dislike isn’t the problem with that statement. Disagreeing isn’t the problem, either (taken at face value, it’s technically correct). ‘The victim may be lying’ is problematic because it biases the conversation towards a harmful, bigoted narrative, one that causes incredible damage to victims of rape and harassment. The statement is dangerous. When that comment is made in a discussion of rape or harassment, it sends a message to survivors that they are not welcome or safe in a conversation that badly needs their voices.

    Your suggested responses, i.e. assuming good faith, addressing only the factual content, or ignoring the comment, will not undo that silencing effect. Only calling out the unspoken bias will counter that entirely subtextual message.

    This exact thing happened recently in a comment thread here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/what-you-think-it-means/

    See specifically EEB’s post here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/what-you-think-it-means/#comment-250618

    Statistics also show that many many many more rapes go unreported than falsly reported. But from the way it always get brought up you’d think it was just as common (if not more so) than rape itself. And that is so far from the truth that it would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. If these beliefs didn’t have real, terrible, damaging consequences for rape victims.

    That’s why a comment policy specifically requiring good-faith and face-value interpretations will permit marginalized voices to be driven away. Bigotry is entirely compatible with the appearance of good faith.

    (Yes I’m slow and posting anyway, thus potentially piling on. I’m making a judgement call in laying it out very clearly like this.)

  70. CT says

    My comment was not about Dylan. I just noted that there seemed to be back story.

    “we feminists” would include me, thanks for caring.

    Also, the continual comment that if I don’t like being called out on privilege I should just not speak as if I have any is just stfu-ism. Once someone is convinced that another someone has privilege, it’s pretty much a guarantee that any comment by them will be followed by 2 comments pointing out that they should just stfu because privilege. Oh and because privilege I don’t have to listen to anything you say. or, tl;dr, stfu privileged asshat.

    Should commenters point out a privileged view? Absolutely. Should commenters tell people with privileged views to just stfu because privilege? no and to do so is just asshattery.
    Should the blog owner do something about commenters who continually post that people with privilege should just stfu? There’s no easy answer to that. Sometimes those commenters are well meaning but confused about what it is they are trying to say or even not confused but convinced everyone with privilege is a bad person.

    I’m sure a lot of people who would like to respond to those commenters *don’t* because to do so means being eviscerated by everyone else for picking on them for “pointing out the obvious”. So that leaves the blog owner as the sole responsible party in what will always *look* like trolling even if the intention is not trolling.

    If the assumption is always going to be that no one should comment on a blog until they read all the pertinent 101 docs, then comments really should be turned off. If there are no assumptions about 101 docs, then the continual beating of first time commenters or even commenters who just don’t want to engage in a whole discussion just looks like trolling. For a blog owner, that could be bad since a lot of a blog’s worth comes from what is perceived to be its content.

  71. Timor for Tea says

    Ophelia you are right, none of us can guarantee anything, of course, but I just meant it in the usual colloquial sense of ‘ I am very sure’. I have seen blogs that apply this sort of policy and trolls don’t stick around.

    Stephanie, the example wasn’t t mine, I just picked it up, but I don’t really understand why it is necessarily impossible that the victim may be lying unless your mean in a grammatical sense (if they are a victim it means that they have suffered the injustice in question) but alleged victims do lie, our whole criminal legal system is predicated on that basis.

  72. Timor for Tea says

    Pteryxx, I disagree that a statement can be dangerous unless it is given by someone with the power to have it enacted. Of course it is hard for a rape victim to hear certain speculations, but they are sometimes nonetheless necessary even in that most difficult context, and I speak as someone who is very, very aware of the terrible consequences of rape. If someone is determined to cause pain, ban them, otherwise argue in good faith or explain why the topic should be dropped. That way the discussion stays level. This really does work.

    It is Timon, by the way, although Timor would be much more frightening and I kind of like it.

  73. says

    Maybe part of the problem here is treating it purely as an issue of epistemology when it isn’t.

    I can see how that would work, because epistemological issues can be so interesting. I always get interested when I spot a “yes but how can we know that?” problem, especially if it’s under the radar.

    Rape of course is peculiarly subject to that by its nature.

    That is in some sense an epistemological issue…but treating it that way is, obviously, deeply problematic.

  74. Pteryxx says

    The specific example phrase ‘the victim might be lying’ was my example. I elaborated on it in my #76.

  75. Timor for Tea says

    By the way Pteryxx (and I do see that I am over posting here, so I will can it in a moment) I don’t think multiple polite, argued comments like yours can be called ‘ piling on’. To my mind that phrase means piling on with abuse or stuff- type comments.

  76. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    but alleged victims do lie, our whole criminal legal system is predicated on that basis.

    Really? So, when your car is stolen, the first thing the cop says to you is “what were you doing in that part of town dressed like that?”

  77. Timor for Tea says

    I think rape (immediately breaking my promise) is a bad example for this sort of discussion because it is such a hard case and hard cases make bad law. I don’t see any reason why a blog should not simply place certain comments on hard subjects out of bounds, there wouldn’t be many, although my suggested policy of no personal remarks or impugning of motive would put anyone suggesting that a particular victim may be lying in a discussion out of bounds.

  78. Timor for Tea says

    Illuminata, the point is, if I call the police and say Illuminata stole my car, they and the courts will be sceptical until I can provide evidence because I may be lying ( or mistaken). It is obvious what would happen if that weren’t the case, there would be many more false accusations of car theft.

  79. says

    I disagree that a statement can be dangerous unless it is given by someone with the power to have it enacted.

    This is incorrect. Statements also have the ability to affect the general culture in which we all have to live. If that wasn’t the case, people wouldn’t be so up in arms about arguments on blogs.

    Of course it is hard for a rape victim to hear certain speculations, but they are sometimes nonetheless necessary even in that most difficult context, and I speak as someone who is very, very aware of the terrible consequences of rape.

    The comments of a blog post is not a context in which a rape victim needs to be put on trial. Also, I don’t think you are aware of the terrible consequences of rape, or at least of some of their causes. One of the largest influences on the positive or negative outcome for a rape victim is the amount of social support they receive. Uninvited speculation on whether someone may be lying about having experienced rape is not social support. It has consequences.

  80. Pteryxx says

    Pteryxx, I disagree that a statement can be dangerous unless it is given by someone with the power to have it enacted.

    Then do you disagree that floods of rape and death threats such as outspoken women receive online constitute harassment? Intimidation, silencing, and triggering are dangers too.

  81. Timor for Tea says

    Stephanie, if statements can cause harm in a way although to harmful actions ( I am not certain that is your position, but it seems to be) then there can be no reason in principle for the state not to police statements as well as actions, can there?

  82. Timon for Tea says

    My last comment was gibberished when autocorrect replaced ‘ analogous’ with ‘Although’. Apologies.

  83. Timon for Tea says

    No, nothing like ( I can’t see how you came to that conclusion). I am saying that if words can cause harm in a way that is analogous to the harm caused by actions, then there is a legitimate case for having the limits of expression defined by the state. I think you must agree with that. So when we talk about the harm caused by a statement, we are not talking about harm in its usual sense. It might help to use a different word therefore.

  84. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Timor for Tea , the point is, that the “skepticism” you might encounter when telling the police I stole your car, pales in comparison to the amount of flat out doubt, dismissal and disbelief a rape victim encounters.

    The point is, the cops are still going to take your report and do some basic police work. IF this about your stolen car.

    As some links on this thread clearly prove, the cops do not react the same way to rape victims.

  85. Timon for Tea says

    Illuminata, that is an important problem but unrelated to the question of how best to manage online discussion. I doubt we would have much to disagree about on the question of how rape should be handled by the police and courts and how that has gone and goes wrong.

  86. Timon for Tea says

    That’s true punch drunk, but psychological harm cannot be caused by statements. The kind of verbalisations that can cause such harm ( threats, abuse, assault etc) are policed by the law.

    By the way, I promised to post less on here but am not managing to resist. If it is a problems, let me know and I will back off.

  87. says

    I can’t see how you came to that conclusion

    Oh, because you argued:

    Stephanie, if statements can cause harm in a way [analogous] to harmful actions ( I am not certain that is your position, but it seems to be) then there can be no reason in principle for the state not to police statements as well as actions, can there?

    If they do cause harm, they should be illegal, according to you. Thus, if they are rightly not illegal, they don’t cause harm, according to you.

    Feel free to rephrase if you didn’t say what you wanted to say the first time.

  88. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    that is an important problem but unrelated to the question of how best to manage online discussion

    No, it really isn’t. They are all part of the same continuum. Cops are, after all, part of the same society. how many vicious misogynistic trolls wear badges IRL? (rhetorical question).

    All of this feeds into the same narrative: bitches ain’t shit and always lie.

  89. Timon for Tea says

    No, Stephanie, you have missed the point. I argued that there would be no reason IN PRINCIPLE ( sorry for caps can’t italicise) for the state not to police the allowable limits of expression, but I am assuming that you think that there is a principled case against the state dictating allowable speech. That is not to say that anything that can cause harm should be illegal, as I am sure you can see, after all, we both agree ( I assume) that the state has a legitimate role in defining the limits of action, because some actions cause uar, but that does not mean that all potentially harmful actions ( tennis, gymnastics, driving etc) should be illegal.

  90. punchdrunk says

    It’s legal for a parent to tell a child that they’re a worthless piece of shit every day. Are you arguing that that doesn’t rise to the level of ‘harm’, because it isn’t illegal?
    Not all abuse is criminal.
    There are social and cultural remedies to abuses that don’t rise to the level of criminality. The harm is still very, very real.

  91. says

    Timon, that has nothing to do with whether statements are harmful, which is the thrust of your argument here. I have no idea why, in that case, you even brought it up. So, back to why you claim statements can’t be harmful.

  92. Timon for Tea says

    Stephanie @97, I have seen no evidence to the contrary, but would be interested if there were any. However, even if statements could cause psychological harm, that might not be a good enough reason to limit free expression. For example, it might be shown to cause psychological harm for people, to read or hear statements denying the existence of god.

  93. Timon for Tea says

    Stephanie, my point was that if you believe statements can be harmful in the sense we are discussing, you cannot argue in principle against the state legislating the limits of free expression, which weakens your position. How is that wrong?

  94. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    but psychological harm cannot be caused by statements.

    Wait . . . what? You just told us that we are not “entitled” to call someone a bigot, because we might be wrong about them. But now, suddenly, statements don’t cause harm?

  95. Timon for Tea says

    Illuminata, I am not arguing against insults because I think they damage the insulted (that would make more sense from Stephanie’s position), but because it isn’t conducive to reasoned debate, which is what I think we should be after if we don’t just want to shout form either side of a barricade.

  96. says

    Timon, I’ve already given you an example of harmful statements, in the case or rape victims. You ignored it, preferring instead to talk about an irrelevancy.

  97. Beatrice says

    Timon,

    you are not only ignoring the direct psychological harm that statements can cause to rape victims, but also the harm in that they are contributing to the overall atmosphere of silencing rape victims and supporting the culture where rapists are given all the excuses in the world and their victims mostly scorn and doubt.

  98. Timon for Tea says

    Stephanie, no, I don’t think you did give any examples, but made certain generalisations which I don’t completely understand. I cannot think of a statement that would cause harm ( as opposed to upset or distress) to a rape victim, not that causing distress isn’t significant enough. But if you think we are being led into irrelevancies by this, I don’t disagree, there may not be much more to be said on it.

  99. Pteryxx says

    Timon, note: “we are being led into irrelevancies by this” is your rephrasing of “You ignored it, preferring instead to talk about an irrelevancy”. You are responsible for which aspects of an argument you choose to address.

  100. says

    I don’t think you did give any examples, but made certain generalisations which I don’t completely understand.

    Yes, I did. If you don’t understand the example, stop trying to argue for the opposite point and ask questions until you do understand it. That’s your basic responsibility as someone arguing for a particular perspective. If you can’t do that, there is no point in arguing with you. I’ll simply point, say, “Willfully ignorant”, and move on.

    Up to you how you proceed from here. Are you going to remain willfully ignorant?

  101. Timon for Tea says

    Stephanie, you didn’t give an example, I have re- read your comment and I am sure I am right about that. You simply said that statements could be harmful to rape victims which just reiterates the point in question.

    Let’s not play games with name calling in a thread about how to keep discussion civil and productive. I know the temptation but itnis pretty easy to avoid.

    The question of rape is a side issue in this topic, though, so it makes sense to avoid it, both because it is off topic and because it is, as I said earlier, an especially hard case and hard cases often need exceptional treatment.

  102. Beatrice says

    Let’s not play games with name calling in a thread about how to keep discussion civil and productive. I know the temptation but itnis pretty easy to avoid.

    No, let’s instead give plenty examples of how a thread can be successfully derailed into arguing how words just upset rape victims but can’t really harm them instead. Congratulations, you just showed how you can be unproductive, derailing and I believe JAQing off without a single uncivil word.

  103. says

    Timon, we were already discussing a statement about rape victims lying. I pointed out that it is applied disproportionally to rape victims. I tied that behavior to outcomes in rape victims.

    Not only did I give you an example, but punchdrunk gave you another: childhood verbal abuse.

    You now have two examples, provided again in a single comment for your convenience. Start dealing with them.

  104. Timon for Tea says

    Stephanie, you haven’t yet, as far as I can tell given an example of a statement that would cause harm. I still think this is an unhelpful side- track, but if we have to keep at it, maybe we should start there. I know you believe and have repeated that statements about rape victims can have damaging effects, but I cannot see how (outside of the abusive behaviours I mentioned) and you still haven’t explained. I think from your last comment you are confusing statements causing harm and the behaviour of institutions such as the police that disbelieve rape victims. Again, though, I don’t really want to talk about rape. I am very conscious of the damage that this crime can do, more than most.

    The examples punch drunk gave were of abusive behaviour towars a child of a similar kind to my example of shouting abuse in the street. This behaviour is already illegal and it should be. I don’t think it helps with our general discussion.

  105. says

    Timon, you’re spouting bullshit. You are utterly unfit for debate. Whether that is because you’re dishonest of because you’re stupid is left as an exercise to the reader. You are, however, an excellent example of why we often don’t bother, which is entirely on point in this discussion.

  106. hoary puccoon says

    Beatrice @112–

    You totally called it. What a nasty, little derailing troll this Timon is. He is a perfect example of what’s wrong with Rousseau’s analysis.

    It is, as I believe Pteryxx said on Pharyngula, “FBI or STFU.”

  107. Pteryxx says

    I gave the specific example of a harmful statement, namely ‘the victim might be lying’ and I specified in #76 exactly what the resulting harm was.

    Check this phrase:

    So if someone says something you don’t like and disagree with strongly such as ‘the victim may be lying’

    Dislike isn’t the problem with that statement. Disagreeing isn’t the problem, either (taken at face value, it’s technically correct). ‘The victim may be lying’ is problematic because it biases the conversation towards a harmful, bigoted narrative, one that causes incredible damage to victims of rape and harassment. The statement is dangerous. When that comment is made in a discussion of rape or harassment, it sends a message to survivors that they are not welcome or safe in a conversation that badly needs their voices.

    Your suggested responses, i.e. assuming good faith, addressing only the factual content, or ignoring the comment, will not undo that silencing effect. Only calling out the unspoken bias will counter that entirely subtextual message.

    Since now you’re eliding that any examples have been given, Timon, I’ll repeat again what I said in #87:

    Then do you disagree that floods of rape and death threats such as outspoken women receive online constitute harassment? Intimidation, silencing, and triggering are dangers too.

    Intimidation, silencing, and triggering are harmful. They are damaging to so-called reasoned discourse, and damaging to the psychological recovery of survivors. Overt threats, credible or not, aren’t the only means of intimidation, silencing, or triggering; reasonable-seeming statements such as ‘the victim may be lying’ also cause these harms. I provided you a link to a rape survivor explicitly stating that this commonly presented argument has silenced her in the past and hurts her now.

    Here’s another account of the harm of being presumed to be lying:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/06/06/arent-you-making-it-up-why-women-dont-report-harassment/

    And rape and harassment are not rare or exceptional. They’re common. Harassment in particular contributes significantly to the chilly climate effect that excludes women from representation in workplaces, social spaces, and discussions such as this one.

    I also consider the statement “statements cannot cause harm” to be an example of harmful, chilling discourse cloaked as a reasonable-sounding argument on its face.

    So Timon, at what point do you think I should conclude that you are not engaging the evidence in good faith?

  108. Timon for Tea says

    Stephanie, I don’t think I am talking bullshit, but even if I am flying into insults is not going to help the discussion, which is ironic because that is what this thread is about. Perhaps you should examine your own need to hurl insults and use violent language before you accuse others of dishonesty or stupidity? Just a thought.

    I wish this discussion hadn’t ended up about rape, there should be some kind of godwins law about that. I realise that for most of you rape is just an interesting theoretical subject but for some of us it is a bit closer to home and it would be good if that were kept in mind.

    I would also point out that if the principles for discussion I mentioned were kept to none of the abuses discussed on here would be allowed. But then it wouldn’t be so comfortable for foot- stumpers like Stephanie either. Perhaps she has moe in common with the trolls she decies than she realises.

  109. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I don’t think I am talking bullshit, but even if I am flying into insults is not going to help the discussion, which is ironic because that is what this thread is about. Perhaps you should examine your own need to hurl insults and use violent language before you accuse others of dishonesty or stupidity? Just a thought.

    And right here is the proof of why Rosseau’s point is invalid. A hundred posts of speaking civilly, answering the JAQ-off questions, posting links, etc. And he’s still pretending to not get it and now, tone trolling. It’s like talking to creationists.

    This is precisely why people get jumped on even when they might not be trolls. Because, no matter how much you fucking try to get through to them, the moment you lose your temper because they’re just for fucking thickskulled, dismissive and dishonest, they don’t say the word “bitch”, so YOU’RE the bad guy.

    Fuck it, I say. There are blogs to cater to the painfully clueless. Point them there and be done with them.

    I realise that for most of you rape is just an interesting theoretical subject but for some of us it is a bit closer to home and it would be good if that were kept in mind.

    He says, to rape victims. The mask slips off and a raging asshole is underneath. Come over from the slimepit, did you?

  110. Pteryxx says

    If speaking bluntly to these types makes them go away 50-some comments sooner, I’d call that a net gain for reasoned discourse. The first 50-some comments’ worth of discussion covered much broader and more useful territory than the last 50.

  111. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Pteryxx – I have never visited the Pharyngula feminism wiki page, but I’m not wondering if FTB shouldn’t do something similar. Call it Troll Control. When the JAQing off begins, point them to the link. If they still refuse to read and want to JAQ-off some more, then we can safely call it a troll and get rid of it.

    if, on the other hand, they demonstrate the ability to read and comprehend and then have questions, that’s the elusive Not-A-Troll-So-Be-Nice commenter that Rosseau, et al are always worried about. (but never enough to do anything more than tell the targets to be nice to bigots, I notice).

  112. smhll says

    From comment #59

    New commenters who are immediately piled on because they have the “privilege” of actually admitting they are [white/rich/straight/male] often don’t even get read for any content because all the focus will be on *STFU YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT” posts.

    This is not an accurate characterization of how I have seen the word “privilege” used in the comments sections on various blogs in the FtB network. I would be interested to see links. Without links. I have heard this opinion expressed before, but never with supporting evidence.

  113. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    And not just about feminism – about race issues, trans issues, LBTQI issues, disability issues, etc etc.

  114. says

    Perhaps you should examine your own need to hurl insults and use violent language before you accuse others of dishonesty or stupidity? Just a thought.

    Violent language? What violent language?

    I don’t need to hurl insults. It’s done here for effect. We are, after all, demonstrating how we get from Rosseau’s Point A (naive questioner) to Point B (get out of my face, and stop wasting my time).

    Also, rape is nothing like a merely academic subject for me. You wanted to have the points where you were wrong pointed out, so I did that. You’ve done a great job of demonstrating how well it works.

  115. julian says

    I realise that for most of you rape is just an interesting theoretical subject but for some of us it is a bit closer to home and it would be good if that were kept in mind.

    ???

    Do you know anything about the people you’re talking to right now?

  116. 'Tis Himself says

    Timon for Tea #119

    Stephanie, I don’t think I am talking bullshit, but even if I am flying into insults is not going to help the discussion, which is ironic because that is what this thread is about. Perhaps you should examine your own need to hurl insults and use violent language before you accuse others of dishonesty or stupidity? Just a thought.

    This is a classic example of why some people use abusive language. You were given several examples of damaging language and yet you kept pretending (and yes, I believe it was a pretense) that these examples didn’t exist. You are not arguing in true faith. After a while, long after it became obvious you were trolling, the word “bullshit” was used to describe your trolling. Now you’re tone trolling.

    There are times when insults are productive. This is such a time. Referring to your bullshit as bullshit is completely warranted.

  117. callistacat says

    “I realise that for most of you rape is just an interesting theoretical subject but for some of us it is a bit closer to home and it would be good if that were kept in mind.” -Timon

    @Timon isn’t this *exactly* what Stephanie and Pteryxx were trying to point out? Which you disagreed with:

    “I know you believe and have repeated that statements about rape victims can have damaging effects, but I cannot see how (outside of the abusive behaviours I mentioned) and you still haven’t explained.” -Timon

    See first quote.

  118. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Timon:

    That’s true punch drunk, but psychological harm cannot be caused by statements.

    Degree in psychology with years of research into the matter, I take it?
    I’m sorry, but you’re wrong*.
    You’re making an assumption based on your life experience. That’s fine. Other people have different experiences and react in different ways. *I* know of people who are psychologically harmed by statements. Additionally, you don’t get to decide what constitutes psychological harm for someone else.

    *young boys and girls being told from a young age that they’re going to spend eternity in hell because they’re gay does cause psychological damage. If you’re not gay and from a heavily religious background, you’d likely not know that.

  119. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Timon:

    Stephanie, my point was that if you believe statements can be harmful in the sense we are discussing, you cannot argue in principle against the state legislating the limits of free expression, which weakens your position. How is that wrong?

    I think many of the commenters here feel that statements can be harmful (in the sense being discussed), but simultaneously feel that no limitations should be placed on freedom of expression. It doesn’t weaken our position. It’s gradual, but educating people about issues such as sexism and homophobia *has* caused some individuals to rethink their positions and adopt more progressive views, which results in them NOT making statements that are harmful.

  120. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Timon:

    I know you believe and have repeated that statements about rape victims can have damaging effects, but I cannot see how (outside of the abusive behaviours I mentioned) and you still haven’t explained.

    For some reason I’m wondering what your race and sex is. The above comment reeks of privilege.
    Just because *you* haven’t experienced the damaging effects of statements made against you does not mean no one else has.
    Stop dismissing people when they say that statements do cause damage.
    Oh, and congratulations on threadjaQing. You’ve turned this into “All About Timon”.

  121. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Timon:

    I am very conscious of the damage that this crime can do, more than most.

    You’re conscious of the damage rape can do, yet you dismiss people who say that statements about rape can be harmful. You’re only conscious of the physical consequences of rape then?

    The examples punch drunk gave were of abusive behaviour towars a child of a similar kind to my example of shouting abuse in the street. This behaviour is already illegal and it should be. I don’t think it helps with our general discussion.

    It’s illegal for a parent to beat their child for having a limp wrist?
    It’s illegal for a parent to drum into their childs’ head that they’re going to hell if they are gay?
    It’s illegal for a parent to tell their female child that her role in life is to play babymaker?

  122. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    ::SIGH::
    I think I just wasted my time with those posts. Should have read to the end of the thread.
    Timon, in case you read this:
    There are many people who follow the various blogs at FtB who have been sexually assaulted. You would do well not to condescend to them.
    I’ll add that whining about tone isn’t going to make anyone come around to your way of thinking.
    (I’ve resisted the strong urge to use harsh language, but your inability to argue in good faith combined with your continued dismissal of the experiences of others pisses me off)

  123. mildlymagnificent says

    Tony “There are many people who follow the various blogs at FtB who have been sexually assaulted.”

    This bloke(?) claims to understand *something* about the harm of rape. Given that, you’d expect such a person to know that any conversation, on FtB or anywhere else, involving more than a handful of women *must* include at least one rape survivor just on statistics alone.

    I don’t buy any of it.

  124. julian says

    I don’t buy any of it.

    That doesn’t seem fair to me. Whatever xe’s dealt with, there’s no guaranteeing they’d have a thorough or good knowledge of how to deal with sexual assault. And it seems somewhat reckless to me to push someone into substantiating something like that when there’s no reason to think they’re lying.

  125. Pteryxx says

    julian: Timon didn’t claim to have been a victim, unless you mean the ambiguous “some of us” comment; in any case I read “I don’t buy any of it” as referencing the claim to understand the harm of rape, which doesn’t necessarily follow from having been raped anyway. Understanding the harm, definitely can be challenged based on Timon’s own statements here. If xe does come forward with xir own experience, then we ought to be supportive of it.

  126. Godless Heathen says

    any conversation, on FtB or anywhere else, involving more than a handful of three women *must* include at least one rape survivor just on statistics alone.

    Based on the statistic that 1 in 4 women will experience rape in their lifetimes (I think that’s a lifetime stat).

  127. Pteryxx says

    Godless Heathen, stats nitpick: that just means 1 in 4 on average, not 1 in 4 for any particular bunch of four women.

    Basic stats lesson: the simplest way to set up the math for ‘at least one of a set’ is to calculate the odds for the opposite case, ‘none of a set’. Here, that would be four individuals each with a 75% chance:

    (3/4)(3/4)(3/4)(3/4), or (3/4)^4 (“to the fourth power”).

    (3/4)^4 = 0.316, so there’s about a 32% chance that a given group of four women has *no* rape survivors in it… which means a 68% chance that the group does. (And in a group of only a dozen women, there’s better than a 95% chance of at least one survivor.)

    So yeah… for any given group, it’s not *certain* but the odds are way, way, WAY too high to be dismissive about rape.

    (thanks to Horde for vetting my calculations)

  128. PatrickG says

    @ Stephanie Zvan:

    I liked your comment (re: agency) about Pribble’s piece so much that I used it in a comment on his piece, with a link to this discussion.

    Then I realized I probably should have asked permission before using your words from a comment forum here… The checkbox marked “attribute” was the only one floating in my head. If I’ve overstepped, my sincere apologies.

  129. PatrickG says

    @ Stephanie Zvan:

    Well, I finally noticed a “Delete” button, so I’ve reposted without your direct quote, and in my own words.

    Would appreciate you telling me your policy on your words on the internet, if you’re still following this discussion. I wouldn’t hesitate to quote from your own blog (with attribution, of course!), but for some reason I can’t quite define, your posts in other people’s forums seem offlimit.

    If anybody’s bored, I’m definitely up for etiquette lessons. :)

  130. says

    Patrick – oh I think there’s a standard (albeit tacit) policy on that, which is that it’s fine. Certainly we all do it, without a qualm. It’s good to have our wisdom shared! I urge you to go ahead and quote Stephanie.

  131. PatrickG says

    Ophelia – Thanks for the response. I’m still at the worried-I’ll-spill-wine-on-the-carpet stage of being welcome in this house. :)

  132. Dylan says

    It is unbefitting any skeptic to go throwing around the old “one in four women are raped” statistic. Obviously rape is an unimaginably terrible thing for any person to suffer, and no matter what the statistic is… it’s too high…. but this “one in four” stat must surely warrant at least some modicum of healthy skepticism.

  133. Godless Heathen says

    @Pteryxx-

    You’re right. And I know that (although I didn’t know the math for calculating the exact probability, thanks:-)). The way I framed it is a common way of driving home the point, so I used it.

    My point was that the group doesn’t have to be “more than a handful” (whatever handful means) for there to be a large chance that at least one of the women has been raped.

    So, yeah. Let me rephrase my response: Any conversation involving more than zero women is somewhat likely to consist of at least one rape survivor and that probability gets higher the larger the group.

  134. Dylan says

    @132 Tony •King of the Hellmouth•

    Using children as the example of how words can do real psychological harm is problematic when you are attempting to demonstrate how words can do real psychological harm to adults on an internet forum.

  135. Pteryxx says

    np, Godless Heathen; I wasn’t trying to trample your point. Just, feminists get accused of lying and exaggerating often enough without saying “a group of four women WILL have at least one survivor” or similar. 70-95% is more than enough to say “very likely”, “more often than not” or even “almost always” for a group that’d still fit around a large dinner table.

  136. Pteryxx says

    Dylan, I don’t suppose you’ve done any actual homework before posting to cast doubt on that statistic. Care to back up your assertion? Or are you just doing the easy part of skepticism?

  137. mildlymagnificent says

    “the easy part of skepticism?”

    That’s the skepticism that weighs down your thinking with the clanking chains of not-enough-data-vetted-by-me added to the crushing burden of perpetual paralysing doubt about everything-I-didn’t-think-of-all-by-myself.

  138. Pteryxx says

    mildlymagnificent: nah, going by Dylan’s contempt-laden language, that was a silencing attempt. “unbefitting to any skeptic”, “the old stat”, “must SURELY warrant at least SOME MODicum of HEALTHY skepticism”. Oh but “OBVIOUSLY” rape is terrible therefore good faith etc.

    Y’know folks, there’s a factual word for a bad or outdated statistic: “disproven”. “Inaccurate” works too. Unfortunately, both of those are fact claims in themselves, subject to evidential demands; which’d be why such words rarely come up when objecting to rape statistics.

  139. Godless Heathen says

    Ahhh, the No True Skeptic fallacy. (Did I use that right? I’ve never said that before.)

    Meh. I don’t call myself a skeptic. I engage in critical thinking, but refuse to call myself a skeptic for, what I think, are obvious reasons (this response being a case in point).

    (Trigger warning-I feel I need to add this at this point.)

    Also, the 1 in 4 stat comes from a Ms. Magazine study conducted in the ’90s which asked women if they had ever been the victims of behaviors that meet the legal definition of rape. It doesn’t use the word rape, because the response rate tends to be lower, for various reasons.

    Here’s a more recent study: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html

    According to this, nearly 1 in 5 (about 18%) of women have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes.

    Here’s a blog post about it on Feministing: http://feministing.com/2011/12/15/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-the-u-s-has-been-sexually-assaulted/

    This study also found a lifetime rate of 18%: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf

    I don’t have time right now to read through any of these studies in-depth (I have a life and all), but it seems that the actual rate might be a little lower than the Ms. study found. (Or, I might be misremembering the Ms. study.)

    At any rate, these facts don’t change anything. It’s still a very high number (anything higher than zero is too high) and it still has horrible effects on survivors, their friends and families, women as a group, and society as a whole.

    So, why the fuck are we arguing about it?

  140. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Dylan:

    Using children as the example of how words can do real psychological harm is problematic when you are attempting to demonstrate how words can do real psychological harm to adults on an internet forum.

    Why is that?
    Words and statements can do harm in certain circumstances but not others? Who gets to decide when words and statements are harmful or not?

    Is verbal sexual harassment in the workplace less problematic for you than child abuse via religious belief?

  141. LeftSidePositive says

    @Godless Heathen, 152:

    So, why the fuck are we arguing about it?

    Because we’ve been too civil to point out up ’til now that Dylan is an insufferable, callous, pseudo-skeptical, disingenuous, privilege-denying asshole. We would have missed out on this thoughtful (*cough*) and nuanced (*bleargh*) discussion on whether or not he should be spoonfed according to his wishes, and whether or not we should simply magick away well-established statistics that don’t suit his worldview, and apparently those were a really enriching conversations for people. Either that, or some seemed to think that he would refrain from being such a douchebag if we didn’t call him on it (because apparently our words can radically change people’s character and entire value system if we should criticize them the wrong way!).

  142. Dylan says

    @Tony •King of the Hellmouth•

    Is verbal sexual harassment in the workplace less problematic for you than child abuse via religious belief?

    Yes I would say it is less problematic. Children are obviously more vulnerable to psychological abuse due to their developmental stage. They are also entirely dependant on the parent for their well-being and survival.

    This seems quite elementary to me… I’m not at all sure why you are trying to say that an adult is no less psychologically vulnerable than a child.

    I would also say that sexual harassment in the workplace is not analogous to having something said to you on an internet forum.

    Your examples are all situations where there are clear power imbalances, whereas on an internet forum we do not have these dynamics.

  143. LeftSidePositive says

    Dylan, no one was talking about absolutely equivalent scenarios, so you and that strawman can go fuck your respective selves right now.

    Moreover, you are apparently too ignorant to understand that while power differentials are an important component of harassment in many cases, they are not a necessary condition. You are further ignorant of the meaning of the concept of privilege, wherein in our society men are generally more valued, more listened to, and more believed, so yes there ARE power differentials on a societal level that may be manifest in any social gathering, including an internet forum. So, in conclusion I strongly suggest you read up and try to correct your gross knowledge deficits, myopic worldview, and generally tedious self-serving wishful thinking masquerading as skepticism, and stop fucking wasting our time.

  144. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Dylan:

    Your examples are all situations where there are clear power imbalances, whereas on an internet forum we do not have these dynamics.

    There’s a *necessary* power imbalance in workplace sexual harassment?
    Interesting.
    All those times I saw one server sexually harass another server must have been my imagination.
    Or that time a bartender sexually harassed another bartender.

    By the way, I’m unable to find where Timon limited the scope of this discussion of the harm caused by statements to online discourse.
    More to the point, I wonder what would be hir [Timon} reason for limiting the scope of the discussion?
    (speculation: Statements made online cannot be psychologically harmful, yet IRL they can be?)

  145. Pteryxx says

    Yeah, Dylan only does the easy work – doubt doubt doubt bias bias JAQ.

    There’s plenty of fresh info specifically on the damaging effects of online sexual harassment. Which isn’t subject to any of his doubtjections and straw arguments; so he won’t bother to read any of it or lift a finger to do any searching.

    Look what I found on the first page of search results for ‘online sexual harassment’!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/us/sexual-harassment-in-online-gaming-stirs-anger.html

    But the issues raised by the Cross Assault episode gained more attention with Anita Sarkeesian’s campaign in May to raise $6,000 on Kickstarter to document how women are portrayed in video games. Her YouTube and Facebook pages were instantly flooded with hate-filled comments. People tried to hack her online accounts. She received violent personal threats.

    Ms. Sarkeesian responded by documenting the harassment, posting online the doctored, pornographic images of herself that her detractors had created. Supporters of her efforts, aghast, donated more than $150,000, further angering her critics. A man from Ontario created an Internet game where players could “punch” her, layering bruises and cuts on her image until the screen turns red.

    [...]

    Women report greater levels of harassment in more competitive games involving strangers. Some abandon anonymous play for safer communities or “clans” where good behavior is the norm.

    In other game communities, however, sexual threats, taunts and come-ons are common, as is criticism that women’s presence is “distracting” or that they are simply trying to seek attention. Some have been offered money or virtual “gold” for online sex. Some have been stalked online and in person.

  146. punchdrunk says

    How long do we have to pretend these people give one fuck about the well-being of others?
    It’s a game to them. They don’t care if people are harmed. They seem to enjoy it, as long as it’s other people who suffer the consequences. As long as they can entertain themselves, that’s all that matters.
    Could we quit jumping through their hoops? Since we can’t call them sociopathic shitstains, we’re not getting anything out of these conversations, not even entertainment, while they get to engage in mental masturbation. Probably actual masturbation, if they manage to score points by getting a rise out of a survivor.
    These are just plain terrible people. Dishonest, callous, selfish, sadistic, egotistical. They’re completely disengaged from their own humanity.
    Worse than that, they see this disengagement as a *good thing*.

  147. says

    It is unbefitting any skeptic to go throwing around the old “one in four women are raped” statistic. Obviously rape is an unimaginably terrible thing for any person to suffer, and no matter what the statistic is… it’s too high…. but this “one in four” stat must surely warrant at least some modicum of healthy skepticism.

    Yes, a REAL skeptic would know that the 1 in 4 statistic is attributed to women who are in college, whereas last year’s exhaustive CDC study put the actual figure at 1 in 5. My goodness. Now that felt healthy.

    Oh, and Dylan? You are a horrible person. You’re also a bad skeptic. You’re also a bigot. You’re a waste of space and skin.

    The above has been a public service announcement. Men who exhibit attitudes similar to Dylan’s are contributing to sexism and inequality. They don’t deserve anyone’s time of day.

  148. says

    That discrepancy between overall lifetime risk of rape vs. risk of rape when living on a college campus has left me wondering: does taking advantage of higher education really put a woman at higher risk of experiencing sexual assault? That seems like a particularly egregious example of perpetuation of injustice to me. Women attempt to take advantage of the opportunities they have to secure financial independence, and in turn they are punished with sexual assault, which makes them less able to take advantage of those opportunities.

  149. Pteryxx says

    SallyStrange: you’d have to compare the college population with the same age population that doesn’t attend college. I suspect contributing factors are that young women in college often are away from home and their local support systems for the first time, combined with the predatory campus rape party culture fostered by groups of guys who are *also* unmonitored for the first time.

  150. Godless Heathen says

    SallyStrange,

    Thanks for the clarification! I knew the 1 in 4 stat came from somewhere.

    I’m also interested in the college vs. non-college thing. I have access to an academic database through work, I’ll look into it during my free time today.

  151. Rempetis says

    This is one of the main problems that i’ve noticed in the sceptical/atheist community in general, on all “sides” of it, and it is expressed very well by Jacques Rousseau. On the freethoughtblogs and skepchicks side there are several things that could be tried out. I personally think that a few ground rules should be set and everyone should learn the rules. A basic/easy ground rule would have to be that noone should be allowed to swear to other people.

    Here’s an example that i noticed while reading the comments a few minutes ago:

    He says, to rape victims. The mask slips off and a raging asshole is underneath. Come over from the slimepit, did you?

    I disagree with “Timor for Tea” on rape etc, though it must be said that this whole discussion started out nicely but somehow ended up being about something else entirely. Still, i really don’t like Illuminata expressing his/hers opinion on if Timor is a “raging asshole underneath”. I really don’t. This is NOT how civil discourse works, at least not in my books. If he’s a raging asshole and that has become a problem then it should be something that is moderated not said by some commenter!

    Personally i would have thought that this rule would be self evident, entering a new online community i do suppose that this rule is in place even if i haven’t read it in the actual rules. It really surprises me that this isn’t the case here.

  152. LeftSidePositive says

    A basic/easy ground rule would have to be that noone should be allowed to swear to other people.

    Fuck off, tone troll.

    Here’s an example that i noticed while reading the comments a few minutes ago:

    He says, to rape victims. The mask slips off and a raging asshole is underneath. Come over from the slimepit, did you?

    Of course. Because that guy IS A RAGING ASSHOLE. Not saying it does not change that fact, and it just makes those who are affected by his assholery suffer in silence. So please, go fuck yourself for trying to silence people who need to stand up to this kind of behavior, and who are personally affected by it. Go fuck yourself for trying to forbid us from expressing ourselves to the fullest, and go fuck yourself for trying to make it as easy as possible for privileged assholes to meet no significant resistance for their odious views.

    I disagree with “Timor for Tea” on rape etc, though it must be said that this whole discussion started out nicely but somehow ended up being about something else entirely.

    This isn’t a “somehow.” Dylan and Timor did everything in their fucking power to derail this conversation. It isn’t because we called them on it. Actually, we tried really REALLY hard to engage them civilly, and they got WORSE.

    Still, i really don’t like Illuminata expressing his/hers opinion on if Timor is a “raging asshole underneath”. I really don’t.

    TOO FUCKING BAD FOR YOU. The fact that you don’t like it being said does not change the fact that it is true, and adults don’t tiptoe around the truth to present a Potemkin comment section just for your fee-fees.

    This is NOT how civil discourse works, at least not in my books.

    This is not your blog, so fuck off. You also have a ridiculously superficial and childish understanding of what “civil” means, and I strongly suggest you read the link above about the difference between being nice and being good.

    If he’s a raging asshole and that has become a problem then it should be something that is moderated not said by some commenter!

    But we all need to have open discussions about what makes behavior unacceptable and why. Moreover, moderators cannot read absolutely every single thing in real time, and you are trying to deprive the commentariat of their voice to express how they have been marginalized by Dylan and Timor’s rape apologism.

    Personally i would have thought that this rule would be self evident, entering a new online community i do suppose that this rule is in place even if i haven’t read it in the actual rules.

    Why the fuck would you think this?!

    It really surprises me that this isn’t the case here.

    Well then I guess this space isn’t the best for your fragile, fainting-flower sensibilities, much less your pompous self-entitlement. Not every space on the Internet is written just for you. Deal with it. People with legitimate grievances about how they are treated do not owe you a tone that you like.

    Moreover, if you come on a thread where people are recklessly casting doubt on well-established rape statistics (with an obvious ulterior motive!), claiming that statements cannot possibly cause harm (all while trying to defend privileged people from statements that might make THEM uncomfortable!), derailing, and insisting that everyone else do their education for them, and your first priority is to whinge about the tone of those who object to this treatment, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM, so kindly fuck off.

  153. says

    Time out!

    I’m not going to have a rule against swearing, because I value a certain amount of swearing myself. But there is such a thing as overdoing it.

    One, a single “fuck off” is enough to make the point (and should be used rarely anyway). More than one ratchets up the barroom brawl atmosphere too much.

    And “fuck off” is one thing, but “go fuck yourself” is another. Sharply telling someone to go away is a level down from gfy. I’d like us to avoid gfy. Make it witty advice about doing something extremely boring, instead. “Go spend the afternoon in a Christian Science reading room.”

  154. LeftSidePositive says

    What, exactly, is wrong with “go fuck yourself”? It’s a suggestion for autonomous behavior, and in no way a threat.

  155. Rempetis says

    I’m not going to have a rule against swearing, because I value a certain amount of swearing myself. But there is such a thing as overdoing it.

    It’s your right to make up the rules that you want ophelia, i’m just expressing my opinion on the subject. That said, LeftSidePositive’s post was more than offensive so i’ll stop here because i know that this conversation is meaningless.

  156. LeftSidePositive says

    170: yeah, and acting like you get to dictate the terms by which people react to ill-treatment by privileged people is NOT offensive?! Acting like your personal comfort level is more important than others’ self-expression about THEIR OWN LIVES is not offensive?! I assure you, your post was a great deal more offensive than mine.

  157. says

    Rempetis, yes, I know it’s my right to make the rules, and I know you were expressing your opinion.

    LSP – what’s wrong with it – it’s too much. I didn’t say it was a threat, but it’s still too much. I don’t like the whole genre of “go [do something violent or sexual to yourself]” as a written retort. Said jokingly in conversation it’s one thing, but typed in anger in blog comments it’s another.

    I’m probably trying to do the impossible here. I don’t want to rule out swearing, so I’m not, but I don’t want people using it every third word, either.

    A case in point occurs to me. Greta said “they can fuck off” in one of her talks at Women in Secularism. But she said it only once, as a punchline to an argument. It was edgy but effective. If she’d said it every other sentence, it would have been neither.

  158. LeftSidePositive says

    Ophelia, what you’re describing is nothing more than a matter of personal taste. Furthermore, I think there is a place to demonstrate the full, visceral ugliness of someone’s position, and how hurtful and outrageous they are being. We waste so much time pretending that odious positions have merit as a cheat-code to seem “reasonable,” but this has the very serious side effect that these odious positions get bolstered as seeming to be legitimately debatable, when they are simply beyond the pale and need to be exposed as such for any further progress to take place.

    It is also an important (and in my case, very much intentional) act of defiance toward those who try to silence people speaking out against injustice by perseverating on tone. Not in the least because I have seen through long experience that the tone of the activist will ALWAYS be too strident, no matter how politely one puts it (this is not to put down those who feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a polite way, of course, but it is to those who overvalue politeness as a virtue). We need to stand up and show that this kind schoolmarminess over tone is not going to be an effective tool to gain silence, nor are we going to waste our time tempering our message to people who perpetually act like their allegiance is juuuust out of reach, until we’ve watered-down everything we care about (e.g., Obama & “moderate” Republicans).

    Furthermore, I think an attitude of “Well, just a little swearing is okay…” actually very much plays into the hands of those who want to police the tone of discussion as a means of ignoring its content, and continues to privilege those who are not personally affected by the injustices under discussion. I refer you again to my comment at #12 about how concern over tone is privilege-entrenching behavior.

  159. says

    Okay, it’s a matter of personal taste – but then so is this blog. Also, this is my blog.

    But in any case, it’s not true that it’s nothing more than a matter of personal taste. Hot button language raises the temperature, that’s part of the point of it. What you mean by “demonstrate the full, visceral ugliness of someone’s position” is “fully express my rage at someone’s position” by way of trying to demonstrate how ugly it is.

    The trouble with that is that it doesn’t. Just raging doesn’t demonstrate the validity of the rage. I know it feels as if it does – I fall into that trap all the time – but in fact it doesn’t. People can rage for shitty reasons just as readily as for good ones.

    Another, rather ironic point – I loathe the word “schoolmarm” and its cognates used as an extra-insulting way of saying overscrupulous. I’ve had it used of things I’ve said before, and it caused me to swear (in order to demonstrate the full, visceral etc etc etc) – and that got me permanently banned from commenting at the Talking Philosophy blog. It’s a little bit funny that you didn’t notice the sexist aspect of that word.

    And it’s not an attitude of “a little swearing is okay.” This isn’t a merely theoretical discussion. This is my blog.

  160. says

    And another point, because apparently I’ve been too subtle. Your comment @ 167 was way over the top for what it responded to.

    I don’t want that kind of thing.

    My blog, my rules.

  161. LeftSidePositive says

    Of course it’s your blog, and of course you may run it however you like. You may forbid commenters from using the word “mauve,” and that is your absolute right. But, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. You will notice I have not once framed this discussion in terms of “can,” but have instead offered by reasons for what I suggest is most optimal and most fair. You are free to agree or disagree, and I am free to roll my eyes at your priorities, and life goes on.

    Just raging doesn’t demonstrate the validity of the rage.

    This is why I have a very clear pattern: Rage, and fully describe the reason for the rage. Let’s show some examples, shall we?

    Rage: So please, go fuck yourself Reason for the Rage: for trying to silence people who need to stand up to this kind of behavior, and who are personally affected by it. Rage: Go fuck yourself Reason for the Rage: for trying to forbid us from expressing ourselves to the fullest, Rage: and go fuck yourself Reason for the Rage: for trying to make it as easy as possible for privileged assholes to meet no significant resistance for their odious views.

    and

    Rage: TOO FUCKING BAD FOR YOU. Reason for the Rage: The fact that you don’t like it being said does not change the fact that it is true, and adults don’t tiptoe around the truth to present a Potemkin comment section just for your fee-fees.

    and

    Rage: This is not your blog, so fuck off. Reason for the Rage: You also have a ridiculously superficial and childish understanding of what “civil” means, and I strongly suggest you read the link above about the difference between being nice and being good.

    See, is that so hard?!

    Re: “schoolmarm,” very well, point taken, I will keep that in mind.

    As for my comment at #167 being over the top, I think that is ridiculously short-sighted. Of course you are free to be short-sighted on your blog, and I may critique it, or if you don’t want critiques here I will accept that and critique it elsewhere. However, using tone to silence people, and using tone to pull a “both sides do it” and thus ignore the harm that others are doing by entrenching privileged attitudes (especially in apologism for harassment or ignoring the prevalence of rape!) are both very insidious and harmful tactics and they are a blatant demonstration of privilege and insensitivity to people who are actually in the uncomfortable position of having their validity (and in some cases even humanity) challenged. Of course you are free to prioritize your personal taste in swearing above the genuine reactions of people who are upset by marginalizing behavior, and I will respect that on your blog, but in all honesty I can’t say I admire those priorities.

  162. says

    FFS – do you seriously think I’m “pulling a ‘both sides do it'”? Do you seriously think I’m using tone to silence people? Do you seriously think I’m ignoring the harm that others are doing by entrenching privileged attitudes? Do you seriously think I’m giving a blatant demonstration of privilege and insensitivity to people who are actually in the uncomfortable position of having their validity (and in some cases even humanity) challenged? Really? Do you think I have the luxury of being immune to having my validity and even humanity challenged? It was only two days ago that some random stranger on Twitter called me non-human, for fuck’s sake!

  163. LeftSidePositive says

    Not you, Rempetis at #166–hence why it is wrong to conclude that my response to it was “way over the top.” I apologize that I didn’t make that clear.

  164. LeftSidePositive says

    I apologize if I didn’t make that clear.

    Can I change this to “I apologize that I didn’t make that clear”? I don’t mean to be evasive, and yeah I switched the referents back and forth way too much in that paragraph. My bad.

  165. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Still, i really don’t like Illuminata expressing his/hers opinion on if Timor is a “raging asshole underneath”. I really don’t. This is NOT how civil discourse works, at least not in my books.

    You’re absolutely right. Civil discourse is telling rape victims that they treat the subject merely academically. Civil discourse is telling rape victims to be nice to those that insult by telling them they treat the subject merely academically. Civil discourse is finding all sorts of ways to prevent the discussion of the actual topis and instead derail with mealy-mouthed insults directed to rape victims and maintaining your civil discourse by telling rape victims to suck it up and deal with it, because getting angry at being insulted by some jackass troll isn’t ‘civil’.

    Funny how civility is ALWAYS about shutting women up. But never, ever upsetting the precious trolls.

  166. PatrickG says

    That was an excellent example of how to hamstring someone with words while remaining civil*!

    Where can I send your internet beer, Illuminata?

    * Except for that use of jackass. Perhaps that renders the whole thing uncivil.

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