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Sep 03 2012

Whose spit, which venom?

I wasn’t going to say anything about this (because it’s too goofy), but other people are, so I will after all, because it’s there – the Comment is Free piece on Atheism+.

First, before we even get to the article – there’s the subhead, and the url. The subhead says

A new movement, Atheism+, has prompted non-believers to spit venom at one another rather than at true believers

And the url obligingly includes the words “spit” and “venom” – and yet Peter McGrath did not use the word “spit” in the article. Venom, yes, but spit, no. So the editor gave the article an extra dose of nasty, just for the fun of it. Andrew Brown at work?

The article itself.

A+ was born when Freethought blogger Jen McCreight (the mind behind Boobquake) made a passionate call for a “third wave” of atheism, one that extends atheist activism into progressive politics and calls for a part of the movement to be one where women can exist free from the harassment that has plagued women publicly involved in the atheist movement.

The founders of Atheism+ say clearly that “divisiveness” is not their aim, but looking through the blogs and voluminous comments in the two weeks since A+ was mooted, trenches have been dug, beliefs stated, positions staked out and abuse thrown. A dissenting tweeter is “full of shit”, while, according to one supporter, daring to disagree with Atheism+’s definition of progressive issues and not picking their side makes you an “asshole and a douchebag”.

One, bad writing. “Looking through the blogs…trenches have been dug.” Bad, bad writing. If you’re going to omit a subject to the verb, you need to be careful not to mix the subjects. The trenches weren’t looking through the blogs.

Two…what? One sentence on Atheism+ (called “A+” to imply that it’s like “Brights”?) and then immediately on to dissecting comments on blogs? That’s the important thing? And the only comments dissected are from supporters of Atheism+?

He mentions the harassment that has plagued women publicly involved in the atheist movement, but that’s all he does – he just mentions it, but then rushes on to give actual examples of commentary from people opposing the harassment. Why?

He quotes PZ being schismatic, but neglects to quote what he is being schismatic about. He quotes Carrier, but still neglects to quote what he is reacting to.

If it were racial harassment, would he be quite so perfunctory, do you think? I doubt it. Racism is serious. Sexism? Not so much.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Pteryxx

    But but journalism! neutrality! both sides!

    While quoting PZ and Carrier, but not Greta or you, while Jen’s “the founder of Boobquake”. And all about vitriol, but one word about harassment. Lovely.

  2. 2
    Rrr

    Whose guardian?

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh it’s fine to not quote me; I’m not central to this story. Plus I’ve said I’m not sure I consider it a movement, so that makes me really peripheral to the article.

  4. 4
    maureen.brian

    I’m worried that he seems to think – not unlike the Khmer Rouge believing that changing the timeline changes the facts – that all this began the day that Thunderf00t arrived at FtB.

    Not up to the Guardian’s expected standard.

  5. 5
    yessenia

    I’m perpetually baffled by dudes who dismiss feminism and ate shocked when women take it personally. We’re not driving the schism!

  6. 6
    Aratina Cage

    How convenient of Peter McGrath to pass right over the abuses that Atheism+ is being crafted in response to. The worst (or funniest) part of it had to be when he compared some atheists to an ancient pope and then acted as if that pope had been a better person than the atheists because the pope did not call people mean things. Yes, McGrath appears to be another one of those people who think we ought to be nicey-nice to people throwing misogynistic slurs at our friends.

  7. 7
    Rrr

    Still, trenches … that’s man deep. On the other shovel, I thought “mooted” meant something like “made obsolete”, until consulting my old Webster’s, where “moot” is listed as a transitive verb with a secondary meaning of “discuss”, from the obsolete “moot”, discussion from Old English môt, assembly. This guy digs digging. And is blessed with a dicktionary.

    Then again, I don’t write for a living. At least not in English, which is not my first language (or at least not primarily in English). And not so much of a living, at that. End of lesson.

  8. 8
    callistacat

    Notice how most people who don’t agree with or dislike A+ (or Free Thought Blogs) always seem to call their disagreement “dissent” or “daring” to disagree. They always use language that casts them as poor victims of an oppressive regime. Like Natalie Reed said: “(they) mythologize themselves as valiant Robin Hoods who dare to speak truth to power and stand up for the little guy against the tyrannical… …. Jews? Blacks? Trans people? Atheists? Women?”
    So sick of it.

  9. 9
    Pteryxx

    I’m worried that he seems to think – not unlike the Khmer Rouge believing that changing the timeline changes the facts – that all this began the day that Thunderf00t arrived at FtB.

    Good point… Boobquake is relevant history worth mentioning, but Elevatorgate isn’t, nor is Harassmentgate or whatever the proper term might be.

  10. 10
    latsot

    I made the mistake of looking at the comments :(

  11. 11
    Lou Doench

    @callistacat, You are spot on, and its rightly infuriating. It’s the same with the persistent sturm and drang surrounding the #FtBullies meme. On the one hand we have the concerns of women being harassed on the internet dismissed as overreacting to meaningless trolls, then on the other hand us FtB bloggers and commenters are ruthless bullies who won’t listen to reasonable questions. They get to take every imagined slight personally whilst we must “suck it up” because its “just the internet”

    Screw that, I’m a stay at home parent, I LIVE on the internet.

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