Honorary members perhaps


I’ve seen some strange exclamations about the “hunting down” of Justin Vacula, from a couple of people not…what shall I call it…not paid-up members of the Slime Institute. Exclamations that “vengeance is haunting Salem” and it really really was “a witch hunt” and the hunters (or is it witches?) are “vicious, hateful ideologues.”

But there’s a problem there, given the non-membership. The problem is that the people in question have never said a word about the much more sustained, much more vengeful, much more vicious, much more hateful, much more ideological “hunting down” of for instance Rebecca Watson. Or Surly Amy. Or (not to put too fine a point on it) me. Not a word. On the contrary, they have supported some of it, by praising the hunters, by circulating their photoshopped caricatures of us, by echoing many of their stupider accusations.

Has anybody called Vacula any sexist names? Has anybody been monitoring every single thing he says for a year and a half in order to jump all over it? Has anybody circulated malicious caricatures of him? Not that I’ve seen.

So no. I call bullshit.

Comments

  1. fastlane says

    Double standards? I don’t see no steenkin’ double standards.

    Nuttin to see here, move along….

  2. screechymonkey says

    The comparison to “witch hunts” is pretty pathetic.

    Although Vacula has whined about “lies,” he has not identified any so far as I know. People have disputed whether the things he has done were wrong, or whether they’re sufficiently wrong to disqualify him from leadership, but there’s no dispute that he wrote the posts and tweets that are being complained of.

    And if we’re going to redefine “witch hunt” to include any criticism that a person is unfit for a particular office, then very atheist who has ever complained about anti-atheist or homophobic comments by a politician has engaged in a “witch hunt.” Really, almost every election campaign would be a “witch hunt” by that standard.

    A lot of skeptical activism would have to go, too. Asking television networks and news organizations to stop giving credulous airtime to the likes of Deepak Chopra would be a “witch hunt.”

    Oh, and by this new definition, circulating a petition to have Rebecca Watson removed from a podcast because you think her “radical feminist” views make her a bad skeptic would be a witch hunt.

  3. Stacy says

    Has anybody called Vacula any sexist names? Has anybody been monitoring every single thing he says for a year and a half in order to jump all over it? Has anybody circulated malicious caricatures of him? Not that I’ve seen.

    But that stuff doesn’t count. That’s just trolls trolling silly women. You have to expect that sort of thing when you’re in the public eye. Why are you bitches ladies so darn thin-skinned?

    Criticizing a man for some specific actions and attitudes? That’s serious harassment, that is. Why can’t you just let people be, you big bully?

    /snark off

    I’m so tired of this shit. Sexist denigration is background noise to most people; unnoticed or unremarkable. You’re the bully for kicking up a fuss about it.

    (Not saying anything anyone here doesn’t know. Just venting.)

  4. says

    Thank you, John, for continuing to remind us how important it is to keep on seeking your opinion in all matters. We keep on forgetting to do this, I’m not sure why. Oh wait, now I remember…

  5. julian says

    I hope I’m not being a pest, but I want your readers to see my perspective on this:

    How hard is it for you people to admit Vacula acted viciously. That what he did was wrong and that he should apologize or try to make amends with the person he wronged?

  6. julian says

    Sorry that was a lot colder and crueler than I wanted it to be. I’m just sick of Amy being the bad guy in so many of these narratives. She isn’t. She hasn’t done anything to warrant the abuse she’s getting nor are any of the accusations against her I’ve read true.

    Sigh.

    Back to lurking. Again, sorry for coming in half cocked.

  7. says

    The closest thing to a real attack on Vacula has been to link him to the MRAs on a Voice for Men. This usually gets either the response that guilt by association isn’t a fair charge and/or that AVfM isn’t anti-women. There is never the recognition from him or his supporters that he shouldn’t have posted there.

  8. hjhornbeck says

    Thanks for posting that, Loftus. I hope you realize, though, that I have yet to see a blogger on FtB say that Vacula is a horrible person and needs to be drummed out of the movement. Thibeault in particular was conciliatory. I for one recognize that Vacula has done some good, and have praised it.

    At the same time, I can’t help but note you seem to be sweeping his flaws under the carpet. In your post, you “judge that he has learned from his mistakes.” On what basis? His resignation makes a blanket apology for unspecified mistakes, and given how he vilifies that open, specific petition as “personal vendettas and whispering campaigns” or “a campaign of lies, character attacks, and distortions,” I think it’s more likely he hasn’t learned a thing. I haven’t seen anything that would change my assessment in the last day.

    We’re being careful not to villify Vacula. For your part, I hope you’re not trying to white-wash him.

  9. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I hope I’m not being a pest

    Oh, stop it. You don’t have to pretend, John. Your narcissism and self-regard are legendary. You do care very much about whether people perceive you to be a pest. Mainly, you’re concerned that they Pay Attention To Credentialed You.

  10. footface says

    @8: I think the rebuttal you’ll hear from him isn’t about guilt by association or a defense of AVfM, but the fact (?) that he didn’t post there; a post of his was “reprinted” there. That’s the gist of what I saw yesterday when I went there after reading (here) that he had resigned.

  11. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    I just have to note that I’ve seen loftus post that same link to his blog post at least three times on three different blogs so far.
    and I also have yet to see a blog post on FtB claiming Vacula has no value left to the movement. I also strongly disagree that he has learned from his mistakes-at least, it’s not at all evident from his resignation letter. Which has more not-apologies than the Mitt lies in this week’s debate.

  12. hjhornbeck says

    footface @ 11:

    I think the rebuttal you’ll hear from him isn’t about guilt by association or a defense of AVfM, but the fact (?) that he didn’t post there; a post of his was “reprinted” there.

    Which I find rich. Vacula owns the copyright to his post. If AVfM posted it without authorization, Vacula could have asked for it to be removed. He didn’t, and even after this scandal he still hasn’t. Instead, he’s listed as an “author” on their site, and the preamble to his post states:

    Portions of Vacula’s original blog post, with added commentary concerning the DMCA claim, is included here.

    Vacula wrote a post for AVfM. Period.

  13. ewanmacdonald says

    John, you state in your article that you judge that Justin Vacula has learned from his mistakes. Fair enough – you’re entitled to this opinion. But presumably you posted this article on your blog, then promoted it on this one, with the idea that people would find your perspective valuable. Absent any actual evidence from your side, and with Vacula’s cringeworthy non-apology apology to work with, why on earth should anyone else judge that he’s learned from his mistakes? This is not a rhetorical question: on what are you basing this judgement, that you think it deserves posting all over the place? Because “I personally think so” isn’t going to cut it, I’m afraid.

  14. says

    (@ 13 – he could have done more than ask for it to be removed – he could have demanded. There’s no “fair use” that allows reposting a whole article.)

  15. ewanmacdonald says

    Loftus’ readership cuts to the heart of the issue. When someone takes issue with a commentor’s idea that Vacula hasn’t caused any actual harm by raising the anxiety caused to Surly Amy, a response from Ryan Grant Long starts as follows:

    With all due respect Jean Kazez, anxiety is personal and not exactly measurable for these purposes, and while Justin made mistakes, many of them were also retaliations after he was targeted by off-base accusations and DMCA actions. Nobody involved in the drama is innocent, and Justin’s detractors have done plenty to cause anxiety to others.

    Ha! Collateral damage.

    And, of course, the mantra of every Vaculite out there, follows right afterwards:

    I wish people would put personal feelings and disputes aside, step back, and see that these Internet wars aren’t helping to further the goals of any social movement. Neither secularism nor feminism are benefited by petty personal disputes made public on blogs.

    Got a problem? It’s petty, it’s about womanly feelings, forget about it! Get back in line and join us on our ceaseless march towards a goal we’ll tell you to aim for!

    These people will not stop until they’ve compelled everyone even loosely connected with the movement to sing from their hymn sheet.

  16. says

    Yes, there are a lot of…interesting comments there.

    Jean does a good job of trying to remind people of some basic facts, but they’re not receptive.

  17. ewanmacdonald says

    Well, of course not. You can’t gauge anxiety on a spike chart, so it doesn’t matter, and anyway, it’s divisive, and stops us from achieving what really matters, i.e. people doing as they’re told.

    I fucking love Loftus’ recourse to his ministry, and the commenter talking about “compassion.” Compassion? There is no compassion here – there is, in fact, blind faith in the idea that Justin Vacula has changed for the better, despite a blog post’s worth of bluster to the contrary. Meanwhile when people actually have been wronged, suddenly it’s time to break up the Junior Hyperskeptical Activity Set and pretend that we give a fuck.

    In other news, I notice a distinct lack of outrage directed at the organisation Secular Women, despite their being so divisive as to decline Vacula’s membership. It’s almost as if some of his defenders have another motive or something!

  18. jenniferphillips says

    Re: the “AVFM reprinted Justin’s article” guilt-by-association page of the playbook.

    Justin stated (on the Slymepit) that he was “working on a guest post for A Voice For Men”. I won’t post a link without Ophelia’s permission, but it’s on the Periodic Table of Swearing thread timestamped Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:32 pm, if anyone cares to go and look.

    So, no, it wasn’t posted without his foreknowledge and consent. And for what it’s worth, some pit denizens in that very thread were questioning whether or not it was wise for him to publish there. There was a concern that it might look bad on his record, you see.

  19. screechymonkey says

    ewanmacdonald@16, it’s also worth noting that a lot of the secular causes that we’re supposed to be marching together for are about preventing “personal anxiety” or similar emotions.

    We want “prayer banners” removed from public schools, and Ten Commandments monuments kept out of courthouses because we think it’s not right (or constitutional) for a government to make people feel that they’re a lesser class of citizen because of their beliefs or lack thereof.

    We decry the abuse directed at someone like Jessica Ahlqvist because it causes personal anxiety.

    So it’s rather peculiar to hear all of a sudden that “personal anxiety” is some trivial thing that shouldn’t get in the way of a larger agenda.

  20. says

    After attacking Ophelia on the slimepit, as was par for his course, Vacula then wrote, “I am working on a guest post for A Voice for Men”

    Anyone that tries to say this AV4M simply “mirrored” his post is either misinformed or outright lying. Justin wrote this specifically for this site.

    Even some of the slimepit denizens tried to talk him out of doing this.

  21. says

    Uh…

    Re: Periodic Table of Swearing

    by justinvacula » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:32 pm

    Sorry for the lack of activity. My laptop is broken and I have now ordered a new one. I am using a really, really, really shitty computer now. My mobile phone also limits me. I hope to catch up on things soon. I see Stephanie’s post and may respond. Now, though, I am working on a guest post for AVoiceForMen on this shit computer.

    Ok can we please never again hear the mendacious claim that AVFM reposted it without permission?

  22. hjhornbeck says

    Huh. While waiting for jenniferphillips to post her link, I couldn’t help but track it down myself… and in the process, dug up a reply Vacula made to someone who followed that up with “Er… is that a good idea?”

    I don’t identify as an MRA or necessarily agree with all of their views. A Guest post give my views, not theirs. Their audience is interested and I would like to make more people aware of this issue (especially if it actually does go to court as Zvan alludes to, but I doubt it will and hope it does not because that’s just flat out ridiculous.)

    … I’m terribly confused. Vacula says he doesn’t support MRAs, but then why would he seek out a notorious MRA website to broadcast his views? There’s no shortage of other sites willing to give him a platform. Why couldn’t he have just been interviewed by AVfM instead? He even could have sat back and let the Streisand Effect play out. By posting to that site, he makes it look like he endorses their views. By refusing to disavow them, then or now, he’s continuing that perception.

    The more I look into Vacula, the more I believe his claims that he doesn’t act in malice. He instead tends to act without thinking, and refuses to apologize when those actions go wrong.

  23. says

    Jeeezus! They’re always so much crazier than I can imagine. That one page – posts firing in literally one a minute at times. All, all, all about a few bloggers. It’s as if we’re the fucking Talmud and they’re “scholars.”

    And they have cute little personalized quotations at the bottom of each post, and badger something quotes me –

    Like Richard, I consider that article the most disgusting thing I’ve seen at the Guardian in some time, but I can say that without using sexist epithets. I don’t know why you pricks can’t manage that.

    Geddit?

    Except the irony was intentional, duh!

    Jeeezus.

  24. jenniferphillips says

    I noticed that quote of yours from the RDF site and literally LOLed that it was being served up as an earnest example of your terrible, awful hypocrisy. Ha! You are just like the Talmud. And also Alan Sokal.

  25. says

    And people like Russell need to stop encouraging him. Vacula’s got 390 posts in that sewer. “Martyr” “witch hunt” “vicious, hateful ideologues” my ass.

  26. jenniferphillips says

    Yeah, I find myself wondering what the extent of the behavior is that people like Blackford (and Stangroom too, I guess) will overlook in the interest of opposing you. Is there a point at which the ugly, mendacious vitriol will tip the scales against the hours of mirth they apparently derive from sharing in the ersatz persecution complex and retweeting witty puns involving your name?

    Do I really want to know the answer to this?

  27. Stacy says

    Vacula says he doesn’t support MRAs, but then why would he seek out a notorious MRA website to broadcast his views?

    Who else would care to hear all about his obsessive animus toward a woman or women?

  28. Dunc says

    “I don’t self-identify as a White Supremacist, I’m just working on a guest post for Stormfront.”

  29. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    I don’t identify as an MRA or necessarily agree with all of their views. A Guest post give my views, not theirs. Their audience is interested and…

    If a hate-site were interested in a post I was writing, I would re-think what the fuck I was saying.

  30. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    Dunc,

    “I don’t self-identify as a White Supremacist, I’m just working on a guest post for Stormfront.”

    “I don’t necessarily agree with all of Stormfront’s views, but their audience is interested in what I have to say.”

  31. williamshart says

    I know little about Justin Vacula. I visited several of his blog posts and podcasts and found nothing offensive about him. Neither a great thinker, nor a great writer he seemed rather innocuous in his generally informed, thoughtful approach to garden-variety Free Inquiry topics. I was particularly impressed by a pertinent podcast he hosted with guest Karla Porter addressing allegations of sexual harassment at FT conferences. Both Vacula and Porter did a good job of covering the ground from their largely shared perspectives in a cogent, congenial and civil manner. It would be helpful if you could provide links to what Vacula has actually written or spoken that so offends some feminists within the skeptic community. Alternatively you may simply quote 4 or 5 short excerpts from his writings/speaking that most egregiously -most unambiguously- villify, demean or slander women in your estimation.

  32. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    It would be helpful if you could provide links to what Vacula has actually written or spoken that so offends some feminists within the skeptic community. Alternatively you may simply quote 4 or 5 short excerpts from his writings/speaking that most egregiously -most unambiguously- villify, demean or slander women in your estimation.

    OR, alternatively, you could do your own fucking homework.

  33. says

    @ 37 – I’ve done that in other posts, as have other people. This particular post isn’t a primer on the subject.

    About that podcast you heard – that talked partly about me and my decision not to go to TAM, right? Yes no doubt they sounded congenial, but Vacula misrepresented me by reading the most benign bits of the emails he could find instead of the bit that talked about the possibility that I would be shot at TAM. Congeniality can be misleading.

    I pointed out the misrepresentation to him and he refused to correct it. That’s dishonest.

  34. jenniferphillips says

    Has anyone yet coined a term to describe the phenomenon of dropping into a discussion with “I’ve never heard of x before now, but here is my Very Important Opinion Of It!”? Surely there must be some clever thing to call that behavior, given the facepalming frequency with which it occurs.

  35. jenniferphillips says

    the ‘nym behind comment #37 inspires me to call this a “shart”: the ignorant/arrogant assumption that one can slip something by unnoticed, which results in an embarrassing mess.

  36. julian says

    Has anyone yet coined a term to describe the phenomenon of dropping into a discussion with “I’ve never heard of x before now, but here is my Very Important Opinion Of It!”?

    He didn’t offer an opinion on it. He offered his observations on Vacula. I’m not linking but WilliamShart is free to visit other sites that link to Vacula’s problematic behavior.

  37. jenniferphillips says

    I visited several of his blog posts and podcasts and found nothing offensive about him. Neither a great thinker, nor a great writer he seemed rather innocuous in his generally informed, thoughtful approach to garden-variety Free Inquiry topics. I was particularly impressed by a pertinent podcast he hosted with guest Karla Porter addressing allegations of sexual harassment at FT conferences. Both Vacula and Porter did a good job of covering the ground from their largely shared perspectives in a cogent, congenial and civil manner.

    sounds like a fairly detailed opinion of Justin Vacula. Ill-informed, obviously, but an opinion nonetheless.

  38. julian says

    It’s his 1)reading of Vacula’s arguing/thinking based off the little he’s read by him 2)his impression of a podcast Vacula did with Porter. Neither is an appraisal of Vacula.

    Like when Ashley Miller wrote about Nikci Minaj, WilliamShart’s comment is about the impression he has so far from the limited knowledge he has. There’s no definitive view on Vacula or where Vacula stands. It’s just first impression, trying to see what others see wrong and unable to find it, asking for links to problematic and sexist behavior.

  39. jenniferphillips says

    I don’t consider that an ‘impression’ must be ‘definitive’ in order to qualify as an opinion–how else are opinions formed, if not by the acquisition of impressions?–but semantics aside, I agree with your assessment. I still think it fits the pattern of jumping into a complex issue with an extremely limited set of facts to offer a poorly developed counterargument. In this particular case it’s blunted a little by the JAQing off xe does in the last paragraph–sort of a hybrid that starts off as one thing and becomes another. Much like a Shar…well, you get the idea.

  40. williamshart says

    I thank Ophelia for her attempt to offer a respectful reply and Julian for his rational defense. I politely asked for four or five short citations of what Justin Vacula actually wrote or said. Two or three or even one might have been sufficient. I never asked for a primer or, for that matter, an encyclopedia on the subject.

    I suspect that the stampede I caused, generating 25% of the comments (on a base of 36)and sending up a choking dust cloud served to obscure the “complex” yet ugly reality of an internecine struggle for power among a handfull of oversized atheist egos in a teacup.

    Woo_Monster: I took your impertinent advice and did my own “fucking” homework. I did discover Justin Vacula’s problem: He is misunderstood. Ophelia Benson is also misunderstood; Jennifer is misunderstood; Woo_Monster is misunderstood. Everyone who visits this blog is misunderstood. But ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that I am misunderstood more than the rest of you combined. I “demand” a collective apology from the lot of you.

    By the way Jennifer, my name is William S. Hart, the greatest cowboy movie actor of all time. I’m still BIG..it’s the pictures that got small. Adios and Happy Trails.

  41. julian says

    I did discover Justin Vacula’s problem: He is misunderstood.

    No he isn’t.

    He’s a proud supporter of A Voice for Men, an MRA site with openly hateful views towards feminists, “manginas”, a site that argues misogynist is akin to using nigger, that refers to FtB’s Crommunist as House Nigga, that advocates women abused in relationships are often asking for it.

    He’s posted, along with pictures, the home address and contact information of a person he was involved in a dispute and possible legal fight. When explaining himself he lied about why he did it and how he came about that information saying he’d found it on her website.

    Justin Vacula is not misunderstood. We understand him just fine.

  42. says

    Oy. What a condescending jerk – who then rips off the mask to reveal a just plain troll.

    I didn’t make an “attempt” and there was no respect involved.

  43. williamshart says

    For the record: I frame my worldview within the limits of empirical verification under the strict methodology which justifies “Scientific Naturalism.” I have arrived at the belief that God(s), supernatural entities, agencies, forces, or transcendent levels of being or consciousness, however linguistically expressed, do NOT exist based on overwhelming evidence. My belief is founded on science, reason and a critical examination, with the crucial help of great secular thinkers, of the natural/social world I ceaselessly observe around me. I “belong” here as much as any of you.

    I must tell you, however, that the the rudeness and crudeness, the character assassination I have encountered on this site boggles the mind and opens up serious doubts about the capacity for rational thinking and commitment to civil discourse.

    Ophelia Benson, a decent, accomplished public intellectual, who has much to offer, says: “Oy. What a condescending jerk-who then rips off the mask to reveal just a plain troll. I didn’t make an ‘attempt’ and there was no respect involved.” (P.S. I deplore the email death threats you received about attending TAM, and feel compassion for the distress, pain and outrage you experienced. I hope you reported these vile communications to the police and that the perpetrators could be traced and prosecuted.)

    Julian says: “Justin Vacula is not misunderstood. We understand him just fine.” My “misunderstood” passage was intended implicitly to convey an egocentric dilemma that sometimes poisons the human condition. We are confident that “we” understand others just fine while “others” perversely persist in misunderstanding us. (P.S. In defending himself throughout the controversy, Vacula has explicitly stated the “he is misunderstood” by his opponents. I did not make the case on his behalf.)

    My responses to Ophelia and Julian do not emanate from condescension but from a recognition that I must constantly struggle against insecurities, self-doubts and ill-intentioned impulses which too frequently, in spite of my efforts, dominate my own flawed ego. My observations of my fellow-homo sapiens lead me to believe such dysfunctional traits are embedded in the evolved human condition. Therefore I can only hope that everyone on this blog can strive in the future to project more “respect” and “understanding.” Speaking metaphorically of course, may the better angels of our nature prevail.

  44. says

    Mr Hart – well in that case you went about it the wrong way. Your first post was unreasonable in asking for information that you could have just found for yourself, including by reading preceding posts here. Your second was bordering on rude.

    I apologize for calling you a troll if you’re really not trolling, but your style does reek of attempted condescension. If you don’t intend that, then maybe you could try to figure out why it comes across that way.

  45. williamshart says

    Ophelia it makes me happy to apologize for the understandable, justified perception that my second response, especially the last paragraphs came across to you as rude. It also makes me happy that you said, consistent with your better nature, that “I apologize for calling you a troll if you’re not really trolling.” It’s apologies all the way around. I will take your suggestion to adopt a more civil style respectful of the diverse perspectives on this blog. We can all benefit from your wise counsel to change our “style,” in terms of tone, diction, slander and self-righteousness.

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