Aug 02 2012

The jerk filter

Zinnia reports a slightly rude introduction to life at Freethought Blogs. She didn’t realize, when she joined, that there would be people bouncing up every few minutes to squawk “FTB!!” in feigned alarm/concern/disgust. (We’re going to have to make it a policy to warn people about this before inviting them to join.) She doesn’t mind, though; it’s a good jerk-filter. There’s that random person on Facebook, and then there’s…

the national executive director of CFI Canada. Who announced on Twitter a couple of days ago

reading freethought blogs just gives me a headache. I have yet to find a single post in it’s [sic] entire history which was even remotely readable

I pointed out to him that FTB is about 35 blogs, and he admitted “In fairness, I haven’t read everything by every author” – but then added that he didn’t have “a good impression” all the same. Brilliant. Make a sweeping rejection of an entire large blog network on the basis of a sample, and then defend it on the basis of an “impression.” Totally makes sense. So if you dislike a novel by Austen and one by Conrad and one by Anita Desai, it’s reasonable to disparage Penguin Books, because hey, it publishes all three.

It must be catching, because DJ Grothe did the same thing yesterday.

Freethought Blogs, anyone? “@alaindebotton: The best cure for one’s bad tendencies is to see them in action in another person.”

Kylie Sturgess pointed out that she’s on FTB, and DJ replied

Of course I mean the bigger and more polemic blogs. Sorry for the confusion. I don’t consider you an ideologue/polemicist.

Oh of course – so it’s quite all right to disparage the whole network because “of course” you mean “the bigger and more polemic blogs” – plus it’s quite all right to disparage “the bigger and more polemic blogs” as opposed to just spelling out exactly what you mean and what you object to. Go ahead, don’t be shy – just use your platform to trash other people but keep it vague for the sake of deniability.

I keep wondering why the people who were and are in such a rage at Rebecca for misusing her position to rebuke someone lower down the chain…are so silent on the way DJ uses his position as president of a major organization to rebuke bloggers.

Kylie protested again, as well she might, and DJ replied again.

 I was guilty of generalizing, but not stereotyping per se. Your blog network is identified w/ its prominent bloggers most :(

Therefore it’s quite all right to damage bystanders in the effort to smear FTB’s “prominent bloggers.”

Can’t we all just get along? Obviously not.


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  1. 1

    So who are we talking here?

    PZ obviously, you, Stephanie Zvan, Greta Christina… who else? Jason Thibeault likes to get stuck in, so probably him. Crommunist seems to avoid most of the fights, at least on his own blog, so maybe not him? Ditto Zinnia and Natalie Reed? I have them as social justice bloggers here, in my head, but I didn’t think they were some of the heavy movers and shakers.

    Seriously, there’s only a loose correlation at best between “polemical” and prominent on the network, afaik.

    Could you guys do some kind of traffic measurement and come up with a metric to calculate “degree of polemicism”, and use those to figure out who’s meant?

  2. 2
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Someone’s really going to have to stop and explain to me how these people get to be in charge of anything bigger than a lemonade stand.

  3. 3

    In fairness, Canada is only a little bit bigger than a lemonade stand, in a metaphorical sense.

  4. 4

    Its nice to be reminded why I don’t support CFI Canada…

  5. 5

    DJ Grothe is why I would never consider supporting JREF.

  6. 6

    And to think I stopped watching daytime television because of all the inane soap operas.

    Oh well. Page View Capitalism (PVC) in action.

  7. 7
    Steven Bollinger

    “So if you dislike a novel by Austen and one by Conrad and one by Anita Desai, it’s reasonable to disparage Penguin Books, because hey, it publishes all three.”

    No-one who dislikes Austen and Conrad and Desai has ever had a reasonable thought.

  8. 8

    Glad to see that DJ is still thinking critically and communicating accurately. Doin’ a hell of a job there, buddy!

  9. 9
    'Tis Himself

    And to think I stopped watching daytime television because of all the inane soap operas.

    Welcome to another episode of As the Stomach Churns. As you remember, yesterday Ophelia Benson introduced us to a woman Olympic weightlifter who didn’t give a rat’s ass if some guy thought she was sexy or not….

  10. 10
    Raging Bee

    Of course I mean the bigger and more polemic blogs.

    If he’d named specific blogs, he wouldn’t sound like such a jackass. How hard is it to scroll back to the top of a post and read the damn title?

    Also, how hard is it to look to the right hand side of an FTB post and read the list of FTBlogs? All the names are easy-to-use links, and the list has a title, “FREETHOUGHT BLOGS” so you know what it’s a list of.

    What the fuck is DJ drinking? He sounds even dumber now than when he was talking about a sexual-harassment policy.

  11. 11
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Of course I mean the bigger and more polemic blogs.

    LOl of course Grothe is a sniveling coward.

  12. 12

    Well, now my social anxiety can rest easy: I won’t be forcing myself to get involved with CFI Canada anytime soon. I’ll just have to wait until I stumble onto some other Canadian atheist/skeptic/social justice groups to face my crippling anxieties. Dodged that bullet.

  13. 13

    If you want to test out your irony meters, check out Grothe tweeting to Josh the spokes gay about the importance of being completely truthful and kind. That one had me facepalming.

  14. 14
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh yes, Jackie, I was just about to. Here’s the twitter exchange:

    Me(commenting on DJ retweeting some crap from Alain de Botton):Unbelievable, Grothe.

    Me (responding to DJ telling Kylie he doesn’t consider her an ideologue): How about a “controversialist?”

    Grothe: I for one appreciate how you in particular are toning down your stuff. Serves important discussion better.

    Me: Honesty serves it even better. Ho hum.

    Grothe: Of course I don’t see it as either/or. (You probably don’t either.) The truth at all costs, in kindness.

    Me: That you can say such things with a straight face after how you treated the women in this discussion this year is the living end.

  15. 15

    @ Josh *slow clap*

  16. 16
    Ed Brayton

    I wonder if I’m included in the officially disapproved-of blogs. By traffic numbers and incoming links, I’m the second most “prominent” blogger on the network. But I’ve pretty much stayed out of most of the big internecine battles (which does not mean I’m neutral on the issues involved). I’m guessing that would make me “non-polemical” and therefore okay. I’m also guessing that what DJ really means is not the “bigger and more polemical blogs” or “more prominent blogs” but just “the blogs I tend to disagree with.” And that’s fine, disagree all you want. Fight it out. But stop lumping everyone here together as one big Them for you to oppose (not addressed to Ophelia, obviously, but to the over-generalizing critics).

    For the record, I’ve never had anything but cordial and friendly interactions with DJ over the years. He’s been on my radio show and we’ve shared interesting conversations on many subjects. But I think he behaved really badly in all that controversy over TAM and sexual harassment. The accusation that those who were raising these important issues were responsible for the drop in female attendance at TAM was disturbing and lazy thinking.

  17. 17

    its scarcely the first time Payton has made me wish I wasn’t associated with CFI Canada…and I’ve tried to tell him so. I was planning on quitting when my membership expired, but they automatically renewed it gratis.

    what was extra insulting is that Ian Cromwell, aka Crommunist has been an active volunteer for CFI’s Vancouver chapter for a long time…when Cromwell challenged him on Twitter, Payton couldn’t really defend himself.. I have my suspicions about his motives, but they’re only suspicions and not worthy of open comment.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    I was wondering the same thing, Ed – specifically whether he meant you.

    I too had had only cordial interactions with DJ – until a few days after the Women in Secularism conference. [massive bemused shrug]

  19. 19

    Is Crommunist one of the Fainting Couch 5 (or 6)? He’s certainly come down on their side consistently through out all this and I can’t imagine the work he’s done would do much to protect him. It certainly didn’t do much for the rest.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    Probably! Crommunist replied to Payton, and Payton replied to him, with lots of personalized aspersions on his blog, so…yes, it would appear so. He doesn’t hate us n’stuff.

  21. 21

    It won’t surprise you to learn that both the National Executive Director and the Director of CFI Toronto (the largest and most visible chapter of CFI Canada) are active MRAs: http://pendulumeffect.libsyn.com/

  22. 22
    Tom Foss

    On July 29, DJ tweeted: “Otherwise we reject claims out of ideology, which the opposite of skepticism.”

    Rejecting claims out of ideology = Opposite of skepticism.

    Rejecting bloggers and blog networks out of ideology = Perfectly acceptable!

  23. 23

    Aw, DJ even put a frowny face! Just like a 14 year-old sending a text.

    Or a disingenuous prat trying to remove his foot from his mouth.

  24. 24

    Why DJ! Such irresponsible messaging! Saying that Freethought Blogs is not an agreeable place! Worse than, say, the rest of the internet? Spreading the idea that people won’t be safe and comfortable at Freethought Blogs, but not being precise about which one?

  25. 25

    For the record, I’ve never had anything but cordial and friendly interactions with DJ over the years.

    Of course. You don’t have an icky vagina.

  26. 26
    Comradde PhysioProffe

    My blogge is the most polemicalistest blogge of ALL!!!!!!!!!!

  27. 27
    John Morales


    Aw, DJ even put a frowny face! Just like a 14 year-old sending a text.

    Or a disingenuous prat trying to remove his foot from his mouth.

    Or someone using an emoticon to express an emotion.

    (Welcome to the internet! :))

  28. 28
    Rogi Riverstone

    I would love to be considered a good enough writer for FTB some day. I mean, I AM a good enough writer, but FTB doesn’t know this. Now, though, if someone offered me the opportunity…well, I have a few MRAs attack my YouTube channels from time to time. And it hurts. And it scares me. FTB is a LOT larger venue than my microscopic YouTube channels. Sometimes, I don’t even post response videos to stuff, b/c I’m afraid the fall out from attracting any attention to my work will unbalance me. I’m alone, in poverty. I can’t afford a stalker.

  29. 29

    DJ is obviously talking about Physioproffe. The man just hates risotto, is all.

  30. 30

    physioprof, Y U UPSET DJ BY BEING SO VICIOUSLY POLEMICAL!?!!!!?!?!???!!!!!

    When is FtB going to get rid of that controversialist and finally be free of all this hate directed its way?

  31. 31
    Svlad Cjelli

    Alain de Botton? Why, Grothe?

  32. 32

    I don’t actually mind the fact that people are forming their opinions based on impressions. After all, I’ve never sat down and watched an entire week’s programming on Fox News, but I’ve seen plenty of their more prominent presenters over the years (O’Reilly, Hannity, formerly Beck), and I think that as they’re the most visible and prominent ones, it’s fair to form an impression of the network based on their output. (Needless to say, that impression needs to be open to revision based on new data.)

    However, what I’ve noticed from the more, how can I say, political FTB critics is that their objections are remarkably flimsy, and they tend to retreat into tone trolling, backpedalling, and martyrdom when asked for specifics. This Michael Payton character demonstratess that quite nicely. What an embarrassment.

    In any case the CFI mailer I got yesterday and hadn’t opened yet is going straight into the trash, because while I can readily accept disagreement and criticism of a blog network that I read, I really have no time for it when it’s the kind of nonsense put forward by Michael Payton.

  33. 33

    Kylie protested again, as well she might, and DJ replied again.
    “I was guilty of generalizing, but not stereotyping per se. Your blog network is identified w/ its prominent bloggers most.”

    So he’s saying Kylie *isn’t* a prominent blogger here and thereby insults her that way as well? Smooth – not! :-(

  34. 34

    I kinda like emoticons myself. ;-)

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    Rogi – solidarity, sister! Not entirely alone.

    Stevo – yes. Public relations at its finest!

  36. 36
    Ophelia Benson

    Ewan – wait – your CFI mailer – is that CFI Canada? If not, fish it out of the trash! CFI Canada is not the same as CFI; they’re separate organizations. I didn’t know that myself until I did a talk for CFI Vancouver last year and they explained it to me.

    CFI is good. It’s not Payton-like, and it didn’t put Payton where he is.

  37. 37

    It’s CFI ‘Murrka, so I have indeed rescued it from the recycling tray. Suggested slogan: “Don’t blame us – blame Canada.” :)

  38. 38
    Ophelia Benson

    Whew! :D

  39. 39

    CFI-Canada is a separate entity from CFI, and there’s also a difference between CFI-Canada and the local chapters. I’m a volunteer with CFI-Ottawa, and we do ultimately report to CFI-Canada, but we also have our own leadership, organize our own events, and have our own rules regarding what is “cool” and “totally not cool.” For what it’s worth, most of the CFI-Ottawa leadership not only enjoys Freethought Blogs, but also doesn’t believe in making generalized dismissals of entire groups of atheists/secularists.

  40. 40
    Lou Doench

    @ewanmacdonald Exactly! Whenever you try and dig deeper into the arguments of the people with the #FtBullies mindset you find that their case is paper thin, full of vague generalizations about PZ’s attitude and lazy “Freefromthought Blogs”insults. Thunderf00t’s actual behavior is never brought into the discussion for instance, just the grave offense of FtB “censoring” him, usually attributed to PZ. Which is odd because I’m pretty sure that it’s Ed’s call on such matters.

  41. 41
    Lou Doench

    BTW, I’ve been on vacation and am now working my way backwards… ;)

  1. 42
    In their own words « Dubito Ergo Sum

    [...] because they heard that FreethoughtBlogs is purported to condone groupthink, and comments in response to various blog posts about FTB that seem to suggest PZ or others at FTB promote the silencing of [...]

  2. 43
    Drawing a line under hypocrisy, dishonesty and incredibly poor writing. | The Science of Sarcasm

    […] Conversely, even modest disagreement was greeted with snide derision. The sad thing is that Freethought Blogs refer to themselves in humor jest as ‘the hive mind’ and as ‘free thought bullies’, when in reality both are actually fairly accurate descriptions. So why is any of that important? So a A week or so ago a guy called Michael Payton, who works for CFI Canada (Center for Inquiry), put up a tweet about finding FTB unreadable. Now it turns out, ironically, that Michael is on FTBs‘ side on the issue of harassment policies at conferences (well mostly). (Run on sentence) However, that didn’t matter if he was going to speak ill of Freethought Blogs and. (Still the same run on sentence) This precipitated an angry torrent of twitters tweets from at least one FTBer and led another to write an entire blog post about it (promoted by PZ Myers of course) […]

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