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Shunning among the atheists

Ron Lindsay has an interesting post about the fad for shunning fellow atheists and skeptics.

I am motivated to write about this topic for a couple of reasons. First, Russell Blackford has recently announced via Twitter that he will not attend any conference at which Rebecca Watson or PZ Myers is speaking.  Second, in the last few months, a number of individuals have advised me that CFI and its affiliates should never invite certain persons as speakers.  This advice has often been accompanied with a statement such as “If X speaks, I will not attend the conference.”  There was a flurry of such advice around CSICon, the Nashville conference of our affiliate CSI, presumably because our speaker list reminded people of objections they had to this or that individual.

In any event, the list of individuals that CFI has been advised not to have any dealings with is long.  In no particular order it includes: Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Ophelia Benson, Harriet Hall, Russell Blackford, Edwina Rogers, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, and Sharon Hill.  I am sure I am forgetting several more.

I’m so proud.

Of course, there are persons who combine controversial opinions with outrageous, intolerable behavior or express their opinions in such a fashion that they do not allow for a meaningful exchange of views (e.g., their “views” consist largely of a string of racist epithets).  Similarly, there are persons who repeatedly make demonstrably false claims, whose every word out of their mouths, including “and” and “the” (to paraphrase Mary McCarthy), are lies.  Such persons would not be invited to speak at CFI events.

Without scrutinizing every statement that has ever been made by the individuals listed above, I am confident that none of these individuals falls into the “unacceptable” category.  We will continue to invite them to CFI events when warranted.

Actually I do combine my controversial opinions with outrageous, intolerable behavior, but I keep the behavior secret. Only the members of the Outrageous Intolerable Club know about it, and they would never spill.

Let me also respectfully suggest to my long-distance friend Russell that his position that he will not attend conferences where Watson or Myers is speaking does not rest on a sound argument. One has to be very charitable when trying to interpret a tweet, but Russell appears to believe his position is justified, in part, because an organization “supports” an individual by having them speak at a conference.  Not so.

And as Russell knows from his own experience of speaking for us, “support” cannot mean financial support because typically we do no more than cover expenses. Occasionally we offer honoraria, but the amounts involved are so small as to constitute mere tokens of appreciation.

I think the “support” idea comes from the – what to call them – the organized haters of the composite monster that haunts their dreams, made up of a few Freethought bloggers and Skepchicks, and now something they call AtheismPlus. They started ranting early about not “supporting” Rebecca (or, rather, Twatson or Becky, because that’s how they roll) by paying to go to conferences. They have a delusion that she gets paid big bucks for speaking, and that we all do. We get paid ZILCH, just as Ron says. That idea gets recycled a lot, and I suspect that’s why Russell echoed it. That’s odd, in a way, since he would know, as the organized haters don’t, that speakers don’t get paid.

If Russell believes that Myers and Watson trade in bad arguments, or perhaps no arguments at all, but just unsupported assertions and accusations, then the best remedy for that is the time-honored one of pointing out the flaws in their claims. Or, if one thinks enough effort has been spent on rebuttal, simply ignoring them. Shunning and boycotting are extreme responses best reserved for truly exceptional cases.  I would hate to see the atheist and skeptic communities dissolve into a snarl of dueling fatwas.

Quite so. And not just shunning; not just public shunning; but addressing the public shunning directly to one of the organizers of the Australian Skeptic event. That’s a great deal too fatwa-like.

Don’t worry though; I’m not feeling smug. Ron linked to a post of Jerry Coyne’s from two years ago –

A couple of years ago Jerry Coyne claimed that CFI had declared war on atheists. No, really. Moreover, he specifically mentioned me as someone who had gone out of his way to criticize CFI’s atheist supporters. No statement by me was provided as evidence. And I assure you this this declaration of war on atheists was news both to me and Tom Flynn, who never suspected we might declare war on ourselves.

– and I had a look and oh what do you know, there I am being very obnoxious to…Melody. That’ll larn me. (Or not, because I’m a brat.) As Ron says –

(Remember when accommodationism and not sexism was the big issue in the atheist community? Ah, the good old days.)

Yes. Lots of allegiances shifted between those two days.

 

Comments

  1. LeftSidePositive says

    Actually, I think openly refusing to attend a conference if a certain speaker is there, or opining that someone should be removed from a post, is completely value-neutral, and I consider it an appropriate means of expressing disapproval and of voting with one’s dollars. Organizations need to be responsible for whom they support–and giving people an audience, endorsement, and credibility is extremely effective support, even if no money is involved–and organizations should care about the quality of the speakers they are promoting, not only as entertainment but as worthwhile thinkers and community members. Therefore, I really can’t support this attitude of “only speak up if it’s really extreme!” because it means that a certain amount of rot is going to set in regarding microaggressions and pressuring people not to complain when they are badly treated or when illogical or prejudiced views or badly-researched topics are presented.

    So, by all means shun. Shunning is/may be a good thing, and is part of the necessary responsibility a community must have to maintain standards of behavior. The question is WHY the shunning is going on. If someone is shunning a speaker for misogynistic, bigoted reasons, then criticize them for being misogynistic and bigoted, not for the shunning. Conversely, if someone is shunning a speaker for being an enabler of harassment, they deserve our support and whining about “unity” and tut-tutting about shunning is really just saying that the concerns of those who are affected by the poor behavior of the speaker aren’t really important enough.

  2. says

    Sorry. I don’t mind boycotts or shunning in principle. Not only can they be good tools to encourage others to modify behaviour, but they have the side effect of allowing us to avoid exposing ourselves to abuse.

    Notice that Lindsay seems to be okay with the idea of shunning people who habitually spout racist epithets, but wants the sexists and the feminists to just get along and argue their positions on an ethereal plane.

    What there should be is a statement of principles and standards that speakers should meet, and no one who doesn’t adhere to those principles should be asked to be a speaker. If you don’t agree with the principles, you can voluntarily choose not to attend.

    For me, one of those standards is to support the equality of women (even Western ones). To someone else, it might be a commitment to evidenced-based medicine. To another, it could be the freedom to express unabashed criticism of religion. With no explicit policy, all we have to go on to make our decisions is the actual slate of speakers at any given event, selected arbitrarily by event organizers.

  3. Bobbler says

    Sounds like some freethought speakers need to have it out in a debate ..
    Maybe we could play it like a wrestling match.

  4. says

    Yes. I don’t agree with all of what Ron says. (So I’ll shun him! No, he’ll shun me! No, we’ll shun each other, which will cancel out and become total solidarity!) I do think it’s ok, and sometimes necessary, to choose some and not others, and to avoid some and not others.

    I for instance thought the Leeds Skeptics in the Pub shouldn’t invite Steven Moxon to give his “women are inferior” spiel. I think people who do spiels about how other categories of people are inferior are not a good fit for skeptical groups.

    But I think crappy reasons are crappy.

    I’m not sure Ron meant to exclude people who do nothing but spout sexist epithets from the list of ok-to-exclude. Maybe he did, maybe he decided that would be more contentious than the racist version – which if so illustrates exactly what we complain of – but I’m not sure of that.

  5. melody says

    Miriam, CFI has a harassment policy and if a speaker or attendee is proven to have harassed someone, they will not be allowed to speak or attend another conference.

  6. melody says

    If you have specific questions for Ron, leave them in the comment section of the blog. I hope he will answer them. Like Ophelia said, the blog isn’t perfect.

  7. Aratina Cage says

    I had a look and oh what do you know, there I am being very obnoxious to…Melody. That’ll larn me. (Or not, because I’m a brat.)

    That was fun to look back on. :P I say, keep being the brat you are–because you’ve yet to be the kind of brat who refuses to self reflect or to be mistaken. Some might call that being a freethought warrior.

    On shunning (a.k.a. boycotting), it is a valid method of protest and, if you are vocal about it and it is effective, a great way to get your message out there about something you think is wrong with whoever or whatever.

  8. Aran says

    As a side note, the problem “given a set of atheists who may or may not be shunning each other, find a non-conflicting subset of size k of speakers for your conference” is known to be computationally expensive. Therefore I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  9. says

    I’ve noticed for a long time that a conservative mindset seems to go along with some sort of obsession with a kind of “purity”. It’s not just conservatives, like a lot of things it often sort of wraps around to extreme lefties as well, but the conservative/libertarian bent of it is just less marginalized these days and closer to mainstream.
    In discussions with libertarians I’ve often found that if I point to a source for argument, the lib will often reply back pointing out something silly the source said or supported in the past on a totally unrelated subject, as if that other opinion somehow “taints” every argument the source might make forever and always on any subject. Protests like “what about the actual argument, not the name attached” fall on deaf ears. It’s essentially a negative “argument from authority”, where the source of the argument is more important than the argument itself.

    It seems to me that this arises from some essential cognitive bias which is stronger in some people than others and it seems to have some correlation with conservatism and libertarianism.

    I was reminded of this recently when Ben Stein was stirring up the hornets on Fox News by saying higher taxes would be a good thing. I am skeptical of everything that comes out of Ben Stein’s mouth, he has a horrible track record on so many subjects, but for this one statement on this one subject, I happen to agree with Ben Stein. I may cringe to say it, which indicates that the bias is operating me and makes me reluctant to accept anything Stein says is true, but I let what I see as the facts win out over my cringe. (Well, there’s also the fun of watching the Fox ideologues dealing with the cognitive dissonance.)

    This atheist shunning seems to be essentially this bias operating. Only the “pure” should be allowed, and those who have the “taint” of feminist views must be shunned.

    I’d been looking around for any good reading related to this, if anyone out there has been studying the operation of purity/taint in the cognitive realm.

  10. says

    Ah, yes, I remember the last time I was at a conference with Russell Blackford. I beat him about the breast and shoulders with my silver handled sword cane, set fire to the podium while he was standing on it, and bedazzled all the ladies and gentlemen present with my charm and wit, so gloriously outshining him that he had to slink away like a wounded cur. It’s no wonder he no longer wishes to share a conference schedule with me.

    And #2, how dare you advocate censorship! I’m sure Ron Lindsay was planning to invite the Amazing Atheist to the next cfi meeting, just to demonstrate his tolerance and refusal to shun anyone.

  11. says

    It is obviously down to the individual and probably not something I need to worry about too much, although I’d not go to any SITP event if Steve Moxon/Paul Elam type were there.

    On a forum that ERV/Abbie Smith comments on it was mentioned that literally everyone on FtBs would refuse to go to a conference that she attended. I was sceptical of this assertion but it was also peppered with comments from ERV about her HIV research. I must admit I did think it comical thinking of her finding a cure for HIV at which point all of FtBs has to stay at home — prominent atheist-sceptic cures HIV, that is going to be a big conference schedule! Would be a win on two fronts from my pov, obviously HIV cured, yay! But also when there is a conference it goes very quiet here and being in the UK it is not likely I’ll be going to them any time soon. So more blogs to read, yay! Shunning, the upside.

  12. iknklast says

    For me, one of those standards is to support the equality of women (even Western ones). To someone else, it might be a commitment to evidenced-based medicine. To another, it could be the freedom to express unabashed criticism of religions

    Can’t we have all of the above? ;-)

  13. Aratina Cage says

    Aaaand, the slimey wolves have been set loose on Lindsay’s post. Already got one there, probably Hoggle, who is mixing up the letters in “cunt” to use as a pseudonym.

  14. dgrasett says

    All of this is called voting with your feet (or wallet) and is not really a new idea.
    And I have done that. I am going to Ottawa.
    I want to join Ophelia’s new club!
    By the way, why do I hear echoes of “Girls can’t join our club. Girls are yucky.” So many men haven’t grown past six years old.

  15. Aratina Cage says

    @ool0n

    I must admit I did think it comical thinking of her finding a cure for HIV

    She and/or her supporters (can’t remember which exactly or if both) have pulled that one out of their magic rabbit trick hat from the beginning. And, you know, being at the forefront of a major medical or scientific discovery has not shielded anyone from being a kook or a crank on some issue. It really has nothing to do with the problem at hand concerning Abbie Smith’s interactions with the atheist community.

    Ool0n, if anything, what is most annoying about what you do is how you keep bringing up slimepit talking points as if they are revelations to us. They are not. They may be news to you, but we’ve heard them all before by at least a year’s time now.

  16. says

    I had a look and oh what do you know, there I am being very obnoxious to…Melody. That’ll larn me. (Or not, because I’m a brat.)

    Hm… I think I stand by my comments on that thread. (OK, perhaps I was a bit too hostile, but that Mooney forum discussion was still stickin’ in my craw.)

    But I like Melody, whatever my criticisms of the organization, though I doubt she likes me much (or knows I exist :)).

  17. says

    As a side note, the problem “given a set of atheists who may or may not be shunning each other, find a non-conflicting subset of size k of speakers for your conference” is known to be computationally expensive. Therefore I hope it doesn’t come to that.

    I imagine an opportunity for software developers (could even make it an add-on for Raiser’s Edge)…

    :)

  18. Bjarte Foshaug says

    The more shunning the better, I say. As far as I’m concerned the schism is already complete and irreversible, and it’s a good thing (There is no possible benefit of having a movement that can outweigh the cost of having to share it with the likes of Dear Muslima, Blackford, Vacula, Kirby, Stangroom, Grothe, Paden, Thunderfoot etc.). The sooner people accept that and stop thinking of “both sides” as part of the same “movement” the better. If boycotting events where the “other side” is represented, can accelerate the bridge burning process, I’m all for it.

  19. Aratina Cage says

    “social notworks.”

    :) Twitter kind of does that by allowing us to block people. Would be neat to see a graph of who blocks who out of the atheist community on Twitter.

  20. F says

    They started ranting early

    Yes, the misuse of an open-source programming ideal: Rant early, rant often. They haz it.

  21. Aratina Cage says

    Le sigh. I see that a man whose first name is a synonym for “toilet” among other things is now yelling at you on the Lindsay post for having the audacity to tell a certain someone to stop belittling Rebecca Watson by using a diminutive of her name in the comments.

  22. F says

    There’s an agreeable Paula Kirby in that thread. That’s a bit tangential, but something I noticed which stuck with me.

  23. says

    @Aratina, Not news to you might be to me, so is ERV a global shunee? Sort of seems daft given she is hardly likely to give a talk about modifying people names for insult and profit…

  24. Aratina Cage says

    “You people are a clique, and one that makes attacks on hated outgroups a core part of your mission” says an RW hater, unironically.

  25. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oh Oolon, shut up. Your pretend naivete is obvious. Why do you drag the shit in here all the time?

  26. says

    @Ophelia, ahh ok well threats are a different matter. I do seem to remember some issue with Greta ‘damaging’ her speaking income. So clearly not her fault she is not welcome.

  27. says

    @SC, I did think there is no Slymewrongula, are you implying there is one? Otherwise how can I educate myself, lazily or otherwise, about FtB bloggers opinions on ERV without a mind-reading device? Its a common #FTBullies meme that even if ERV saved mankind from HIV the FtB’ers wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.

  28. Aratina Cage says

    Where, oh where, is Professor Dawkins, author of best-selling book The God Delusion thanks in no small part to its controversial nature, to put his foot down on this kind of nonsense: “Manufacturing controversies sells lots of trinkets, eh?” No. Just no! These are not “manufactured” controversies. The controversies are real. The arguments are based on real happenings. None of it is made up to sell things. If you want manufactured controversy, look to Fox News or any other part of the Murdoch media empire or Rush Limbaugh, etc, but don’t come over here saying that to us and expecting any of us to think well of you, Mr. Dank.

  29. says

    @Ophelia, ahh ok well threats are a different matter. I do seem to remember some issue with Greta ‘damaging’ her speaking income. So clearly not her fault she is not welcome.

    See post, quoted material in #34, and subsequent comments.

    (I’d forgotten that was an exchange with Stedman. Odddddd.)

    ***

    how can I educate myself, lazily or otherwise, about FtB bloggers opinions on ERV without a mind-reading device?

    Oh…I don’t know…maybe read all of the threads on all of these blogs from a year and a half ago on? I believe I suggested just that path quite some time ago, and that you be silent until you’ve completed that research.

  30. Rodney Nelson says

    I see nothing wrong with shunning. There’s someone I work with who I dislike intensely. I only speak to him for purely business reasons. He has said hello to me and I’ve not replied. If he was giving a speech at a convention then I wouldn’t attend. I don’t feel in the least bit apologetic about my feelings toward this man.

  31. Aratina Cage says

    Speaketh teh Vacula: “I don’t see apologies as unilateral matters – especially when multiple parties are at fault.”

    Such a wonderful, well-spoken person. Did he ever follow through on his resignation?

  32. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I’m sorry, Ron Lindsay has some shit to answer for. Cross-posted from the CFI thread:

    Damn it Ron. You have women employees who probably feel a little intimidated and can’t say this as directly as they’d want to (did you think of that?) so I will.

    You have a commenter on here who’s styling him/herself “cn-tu,” an obvious means of typing “cunt.” You can’t bother yourself to notice that and do something about it?

    If I were your employee and someone logged in as “fg-tto,” in the midst of a conversation about homophobia and bigoted abuse, I’d feel betrayed by my boss allowing it to stand and saying nothing about it. Frankly I’d be thinking of filing a formal grievance.

    You’ve seen enough of this to know what’s going on. Buck the hell up and stick up for your employees.

  33. LeftSidePositive says

    Oolon:

    1) Firstly I think it’s transparently ridiculous that Abbie Smith even has a reasonable chance of saving mankind from HIV, and I think this has a great deal to do with how Slymepitters glorify their own (and shows what’s in it for women who uphold patriarchal expectations!). If nothing else, research is very rarely done by a lone wolf anymore, so this attitude that we would be indebted to a particular person for a particular discovery is pretty outdated.

    2) I will render aid to anyone who is on fire, regardless of what reprehensible human beings they are. However, providing medical aid is a different standard from actually respecting someone as a contributor to society and a role model. Moreover, refusing to invite someone to a conference is not a dereliction of our social duty to them (as Slymepitters’ persecution posturing seems to imply) because no one is ipso facto entitled to be invited to speak, in the way that someone does deserve aid for imminent loss of life or limb.

    3) Being invited to speak at a skeptic/atheist convention is not only a means of conveying scientific information. It is also conferring respect and legitimacy to the person as a member of the community and as a leader. This is especially true for a convention for the general public’s interest, where everyone is there for enjoyment, not to advance the state of scientific knowledge (in contrast, in a purely scientific meeting, it may be obligatory to allow someone to present the factual results of their research without regard to their other opinions or behavior, whereas even at such a meeting a keynote or other featured/endowed lecture would be a reflection of the person’s whole body of work as a scientist and community member).

    4) Just because someone may be totally brilliant scientifically does not mean ze is a good, kind, thoughtful, or even rational person. And in keeping with #3, it’s not acceptable to those adversely affected by the character flaws of a speaker to overlook their marginalization for the sake of a major scientific discovery. Just like the Catholic Church does not get to overlook all its abuses simply because it does a lot of charity, any scientific discoveries done by Abbie Smith do not excuse her vicious enabling of harassment.

  34. godlesspanther says

    Those who declare themselves too old for imaginary friends are still playing “cooties.”

  35. says

    godlesspanther says:

    Those who declare themselves too old for imaginary friends are still playing “cooties.”

    You noticed that too!
    It’s a fricking soap opera aometimes. It seems to me that shunning is a particular feature between various ‘factions’ of atheism practice these days.
    islandstrust, +1

  36. Rob says

    So where does PZ’s declaration fit into all of this?

    I don’t know. Why don’t you go and ask him?

  37. Dave Ricks says

    When I hate someone on the Internet, that’s exactly why I should see them at a conference — in person — to humanize them, and transform my demonization of them into my disagreement with them.

    Then I can clearly articulate my disagreement with them — if I want to — instead of years (!!) of abstract, oblique, vague references to some #bad-people-behaving-badly.

    And the secular movement can move forward, which is the point larger than me.

  38. LeftSidePositive says

    Dave Ricks:

    When someone sends rape and death threats, I don’t need to see them in person to humanize them. I need them to stop using rape and death threats or get the hell out of the movement–no exceptions. No, I’m not going to disagree about whether or not it is wrong to sexually harass me. No, I’m not going to disagree about whether women speaking out about harassment are being “irresponsible” or “engaging in distasteful locker room banter” about “regretted sexual exploits.” These are not issues on which there are two valid sides. Moreover, if you don’t realize these issues and injustices have been clearly articulated many, many, MANY times, you have simply not been paying attention, and it takes a certain form of willful ignorance to pretend our objections to the behavior of a segment of the atheist community have been abstract, oblique, or vague.

    And, no, I’m not going to listen to blather about points “larger than me” to elide the fact that I and people like me are being mistreated. The movement will move forward when the people who think this sort of thing is acceptable are shown the door.

  39. xmaseveeve says

    OP,

    ‘One has to be very charitable when trying to interpret a tweet’.

    Unless one is Lord McAlpine.

  40. Aratina Cage says

    Aren’t you all a special bunch, islandtrust, mikmik, and Dave Ricks. Sorry if someone doesn’t want to be around or be associated with a person who has accused them of all manner of things they haven’t done. So sorry if you just can’t get past the geek social fallacy of accepting everyone no matter how bad their behavior. So, so sorry if you would rather meet, in person, people who have been hatefully, violently even, attacking you and your genitalia online for over a year. How about you three go on and try to live out your fantasies by yourselves and leave the rest of us to cope with the actual events in more realistic ways?

  41. Dave Ricks says

    LeftSidePositive and Aratina especially, I respect you very much, and I apologize, I wish I had addressed and worded my comment differently.  I meant my comment against the hashtags of #bad-people-behaving-badly, not against you.  And I was hoping the people propping up those hashtags could take a larger view toward growing the secular movement.

  42. Aratina Cage says

    I really am sorry then, Dave Ricks, without any sarcasm. I didn’t know the hashtag #bad-people-behaving-badly was real and thought you had made it up on the spot to apply to FTB bloggers and readers. Now I’m afraid to look as I can only guess who is running it on Twitter.

    Looking back on your comment with this new information in mind, I’m not sure I could demonize someone so aggressively as we see coming from the slimepit. I certainly could mistakenly believe something false about a person as I did of you in my last comment and act wrongly on it like I did, but I would not bend over backwards to justify whatever hatred I felt in light of evidence that I was wrong, at least not for long. If I really felt I could not apologize to the affected after learning I was wrong about them, I might ignore that person or consciously avoid them. In short, I’d move on one way or the other. That isn’t something the slimepit seems capable of doing. We’ve had a full year now to let them run this little unintended experiment of theirs to prove that point. I feel like it’s hopeless now to expect anything more of them.

  43. says

    It’s a fricking soap opera aometimes. It seems to me that shunning is a particular feature between various ‘factions’ of atheism practice these days.

    How about you three go on and try to live out your fantasies by yourselves and leave the rest of us to cope with the actual events in more realistic ways?

    Such vitriol!

    You’d think I was the one participating in, or supporting this behavior that you experienced – “people who have been hatefully, violently even, attacking you and your genitalia online for over a year.”

    All I did was voice my opinion. Imagine that!

    I am not proposing anything about specific situations that are extreme and/or unconscionably egregious. I was talking about this general overreacting and infighting, and automatically demonizing people, like you just did.
    I didn’t see this mentioned as an example. I never said to condone that kind of crap, either. I never even spoke directly to the idea of a boycott.

    I was talking generality, which doesn’t apply to specific situations.

    What I am talking about is the general militant behavior towards one another and picking sides in a dispute because some people have differing opinions. I am talking about scapegoating and bullying and ganging up behavior and overreacting to opinions, and then writing off anyone associated with them, even on unrelated matters. Things developing into feuds.

    Anyways, extreme example do not constitute fair arguments, and reminds me of the argument for allowing torture because what if an terrorist knew where a dirty bomb was and wouldn’t give the information:

    APPEALING TO EXTREMES:
    A fallacy very similar to slippery slope, which involves taking an argumentative claim or assertion to its extreme, even though the arguer does not advocate the extreme interpretation. The difference between the two fallacies is that appealing to extremes does not necessarily involve a sequence of causal connections.

    Okay? I wasn’t advocating anyone to do anything. I expressed an opinion that applied to so much that seems to develop into feuds.

  44. says

    I wish I also expressed, Aratina Cage, that I feel bad that you have experienced that kind of demeaning and belittling treatment. I’m sorry.

    You are a person, not an opinion on the internet.

  45. jose says

    I’m sorry, I thought the camp advocating the establishment of clear harassment policies at cons won? Marcotte blogged recently about one of those atheist cons she went to that had implemented one and it was a big success and everybody had crazy fun.

    That’s evidence. They work. They don’t ruin fun. They don’t ruin attendance. They don’t require triplicate consent forms. They only have positive, practical effects. What’s not to love about them?

    That’s most of what this is all about, isn’t it?

  46. says

    So where does PZ’s declaration fit into all of this?

    It puts very minor limitations on PZ’s speaking engagements. It certainly doesn’t require any organizers to refrain from inviting Abbie. Conferences have succeeded and will continue to succeed without PZ’s participation.

    And really, I’m not sure why you’re asking. I basically just repeated what he said in the statement.

  47. says

    @LeftSidePositive, I agree overall but not sure I agree with

    Being invited to speak at a skeptic/atheist convention is … conferring respect and legitimacy to the person as a member of the community and as a leader

    Or at least Ron Lindsey who knows a hell of a lot more about conferences than I ever will doesn’t seem to agree. He says he doesn’t play along with the shunning game and will let anyone speak… So in regard to requests for shunning he says –

    This is advice which I decline to follow. Let me explain why.

    Which he then goes on to do… Explain why. Well that is great but where is the how? How do you ignore such requests? Practically I do not see that this is possible, you have Bob n Pob lined up to speak at ‘the CFI conference X’, Mr Shun’ee is also lined up to speak who Bob n Pob have publicly shunned. So who does Ron choose, and how?

    As soon as someone makes their view known – such as the one SC helpfully linked to above – it is impossible to not get involved. Surely? A choice is made by either by not inviting Mr Shun’ee or inviting him with the foreknowledge that Bob n Pob will drop out.

    I also think this is pretty laughable –

    As I have said before, we should not cut ourselves off from fellow atheists and skeptics who agree with us on core principles. Disagreements should be resolved through dialogue, not denunciation.

    Ha! Anyone expressing that view should be forced to ‘debate’ with the Slymepit on a subject close to their heart, such as being free to call women cunts or that weak victims should fuck off the internet. Then lets see how reasonable Ron is feeling :-)

  48. says

    First, Russell Blackford has recently announced via Twitter that he will not attend any conference at which Rebecca Watson or PZ Myers is speaking.

    Surely that’s the death rattle for the atheist and skeptic movement. Franc “scat porn” Hoggle and his fellow slymepitter Russell Blackford never to be seen again at atheist conferences! The horror.

    Now, who will the Australian atheist foundation invite for their next conference, Myers or Blackford? Deveny or Jefferies? I can’t wait to find out.

  49. No Light says

    Only the members of the Outrageous Intolerable Club know about it, and they would never spill.

    You know that DVD I made. of the OIC’s ThereisnoChrist-mas Party last year? I think I left it on the bus.

    I mean, I edited out the bit where you parodied a Mass by using Mountain Dew and goldfish crackers instead of wine and wafers, and I left out the bit where you ate fish and chips in front of a thousand hungry calico kittens, mainly because PETA would’ve kicked off.

    But, I left in that hilarious bit where you told that class of nursery school kids that Santa wasn’t real, and you getting those Labradors drunk and then playing the “Throwing a nonexistent ball” game, laughing hysterically all the while.

    Oh, and that thing where you tried to prove your “Pandas aren’t real, they’ve people in costumes” theory, by erm… denuding one by covering it with Nair (did your eyebrow grow back after that stray splodge hit it?)

    So you may want to retreat to that bunker you had built. Disguising it as a convent was a masterstroke btw, and those Vatican II style nun-cardis and bulletproof are really in right now.

    Fellow OIC members – don’t worry, your faces are blurred out. Josh – I took the liberty of blurring out that tattoo as well, because that could get awkward.

  50. Aratina Cage says

    Mikmik:

    Such vitriol! … All I did was voice my opinion.

    Your opinion was ridiculous given the circumstances, and I tried to tell you why. This isn’t a soap opera; it’s real. There are good reasons as to why people are laying down ground rules for their own personal participation at conferences–rules that exclude the participation of specific people. For some, it’s the fear of violence from certain individuals after constant cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying or a wish to protect oneself from a one-time threat of having one’s personal boundaries violated. For others, it is solidarity with those being harmed by such aggressors. Nobody is obligated to put themselves in situations where they could be harmed or demeaned (in some cases for quite a long after the event) or where they have to interact with abusers, attackers, or bullies.

  51. ewanmacdonald says

    There are some people involved in atheism whom I’d happily ‘shun’ – the likes of Justin Vacula, for instance. That said, I don’t think any reputable conference would have these people as speakers in the first place for the reasons that Lindsay gives (dishonesty, general odiousness) so I think I’m on safe ground.

  52. fastlane says

    Only the members of the Outrageous Intolerable Club know about it, and they would never spill.

    I’ve gotten in the Outrageous Club, and the INtolerable Club, but apparently, the Outrageous Intolerable Club has standards.

    Whoda thunk it? ;)

  53. ~G~ says

    Sharon is wondering the same thing here. http://idoubtit.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/do-you-have-a-problem-with-me-or-my-work-tell-me/
    In the comments people suspect the same thing I initially did, that it has to do with her following a twitter account or accounts that bully skepchicks and associated persons. Sharon did not unfollow the account(s) after being critiqued for it. If I recall it happened around the time of the Vacula address posting thing, so there was a larger context to be considered as there always is.

  54. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Sharon’s remark about not wanting to “whine about being a victim. . .” sigh. It’s all so familiar.

  55. islandstrust says

    Obviously no one has patience for clueless questions anymore, so my apologies.

    Um, Stephanie, I was mostly asking Ophelia and the commenters on this thread. What repetition of yours are you referring to?

    I basically just repeated what he said in the statement.

    I can’t wait to have slyme-scented commenters giving me the +1 on what’s been perceived as some sort of statement, instead of a dumb-ass question.

  56. julian says

    (There is no possible benefit of having a movement that can outweigh the cost of having to share it with the likes of Dear Muslima, Blackford, Vacula, Kirby, Stangroom, Grothe, Paden, Thunderfoot etc.)

    I don’t agree. First of all, this is not an iireversible rift. If this has shown us anything about people’s shifting priorities it’ that not only do new situations cause us to reevaluate our views but certain people do as well. This may be a bad example of this but look at Blackford shifting from someone who opposes sexist speech and slurs to someone who’ll condone whn aimed at someone he dislikes.

    While that’s definitely not an admirable trait, it does show how quickly someone can change. There’s no reason to rule out that those sympathetic to some of the concerns we share won’t “cross the schism” anymore than there’s a guarantee those of us sympathetic to their views won’t do the same.

    Secondly, and most importantly, not all the people you list are equally bad, equally unreasonable or equally likely to remain as they are. Grothe, for example, is still committed to anti-harassment policies (even if his execution leaves a lot to be desired) and he is definitely not someone who’s comfortable with the level of abuse hurled at his opponents and critics (judging by his tweets).

    It’s a mistake to treat all critics the same and to lump in critics with abusive people (like ERV)

  57. julian says

    re sharon

    well… I have a new blogger to avoid. Irritating, wishy washy and whiny twit from the looks of it.

  58. julian says

    Sharon’s remark about not wanting to “whine about being a victim. . .” sigh. It’s all so familiar.

    Pretty off topic (ok, incredibly so) but I’ve starting to wonder what recourse not whining about being a victim leaves anyone. How do you talk about being abused, harassed or taken advantage of when “whining” is entirely off the table and how do you go about getting the situation “fixed”.

    You can’t seek legal action in every case or even in most cases even if the harassment is illegal. Court fees, time, lawyers, most people don’t have the means to pursue trials however much they may want to. Then there’s the problem of looking to any larger or governing body to settle the dispute being a form of whining. One that aggravates people every bit as much as overhearing about it on the train.

    You’re left with personal 1 on 1 interaction and that’s… well that’s probably going to leave a lot of people shit out of luck.

  59. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @Julian, I beg to differ. The possibility of “crossing the schism” doesn’t negate the reality of the schism, just like the occasional (de)conversion doesn’t make religious believers and atheist “part of the same movement” in any non-trivial sense. I hope as many as possible of the people on the other side do cross the schism, but until they do, they are definitely not part of my “in-group”.

    The other point I was trying to make (and what I was getting at in the line you quoted) is that not only is there such a schism, but it’s a good thing. I don’t care how good any of these people are at debunking Bigfoot or God. Nothing is worth this, and insisting that everybody shut up about it is to help it continue.

  60. julian says

    @Bjarte Foshaug

    I did not say or mean to imply there was no schism or that the difference was a meaningless one. I was responding to the finality of your statement that seemed to say there was no possibility of reconciliation or shifting in opinion. You even go so far, and do so in your more recent comment too, say there’s nothing to be gained from these people.

    And that’s not true. There is stuff to be gained from some of the people you list. You write them all as being like ERV or the scum that frequents ThunderF00ts forums mocking people for their rapes. That is not Grothe or Blackford. They may have shown a willingness to ignore (or tolerate in Blackford’s case) that form of abuse when directed at Watson but they have been vocal in their opposition to it on principle (admittedly when it’s other women concerned).

    I’m saying that makes the “good” or necessarily deserving anyone’s trust but to argue, as you seem to, that they are responsible for the worst of the misogynistic insults we’ve seen is wrong.

  61. Bjarte Foshaug says

    You even go so far, and do so in your more recent comment too, say there’s nothing to be gained from these people…

    …that can outweigh the amount of harm they are doing, and by that I stand. I am not necessarily implying that all the people I mentioned are equally bad (although judging by everything I have seen from Blackford since this whole hideous affair erupted, he is just about as bad as it gets), but that’s irrelevant. All that matters to me is: Is their net contribution to humanity still better than nothing? Not as I see it.

  62. julian says

    All that matters to me is: Is their net contribution to humanity still better than nothing? Not as I see it.

    Then you’re standards are absurd, you’re so filled with dislike for them you can’t fairly evaluate their work or you have a very narrow view of what the world is.

    I’m sorry, I really don’t want to be rude but Russel Blackford has a lot to contribute to humanity, let alone skepticism. Ditto for DJ Grothe and even someone as cruel as Paula Kirby. And your statement is way too extreme. Not extreme as in taking a radical political position but extreme as in way beyond anything you can effectively argue towards.

    What rubric are you using to measure these people? That’s such black and white thinking, I can’t believe you’re arguing for it and stand by it.

  63. Bjarte Foshaug says

    How do you “effectively argue towards” any value judgment? I am simply stating that – all things considered – I place a greater negative value on their hateful, malevolent, bullying, evil behavior than any positive value they might have as “skeptics”. I am not the first person to point this out, but I seriously doubt that this would be controversial at all if the subject of the conversation was racism rather than misogyny. If you think that’s “absurd”, or “too extreme” or “black and white thinking”, you can rest assured that I won’t be bothering your “community” or “movement” with my membership any time soon.

  64. callistacat says

    @Bjarte Foshaug

    I was just listening to an interview with Christopher Hitchens where he talked about losing friends due to his position on the war in Iraq. He was suprised by it and said he himself would never end a friendship based on political disagreements, and that the only thing he could think of that would be drastic enough to end a friendship was if that friend turned out to be a racist.

  65. julian says

    I am not the first person to point this out, but I seriously doubt that this would be controversial at all if the subject of the conversation was racism rather than misogyny.

    Even if the conversation were racism we’d still have to look at how racist their actions were, how much damage they’ve caused and what good they can or will do.

    And we’d have to scale their racism to match their misogyny (or acceptance of misogynistic speech and behavior). Never does the work or potential aid of Russel Blackford or DJ Grothe come out to be less than the damage they’ve done.

    But fine, I’ll drop it. I’m just restating my point.

  66. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I was just listening to an interview with Christopher Hitchens where he talked about losing friends due to his position on the war in Iraq. He was suprised by it and said he himself would never end a friendship based on political disagreements, and that the only thing he could think of that would be drastic enough to end a friendship was if that friend turned out to be a racist.

    Yes, I think I have heard that interview. As I tweeted yesterday, I long for the day when sexism is no more tolerated than racism is now. Another point I have been trying to make for some time is the disingeniousness of framing what [EXPLETIVE DELETED] like Blackford are doing as “only disagreeing”. From what I have seen, not a single one of them have yet made any actual arguments on principled grounds, at least if you discount outright lies and distortions, like framing prohibitions against “booth babes” at conferences as “talibanesque” dress codes. Finally, as I wrote on Stephanie Zvan’s blog, not all “disagreements” or “differences of opinion” are created equal, and only an absolute piece of shit can disagree that every woman has a right to set boundaries for herself without having to put up with the same crap as Rebecca, Ophelia, Jen, Stephanie, Amy, Melody, Greta etc. etc…

  67. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Never does the work or potential aid of Russel Blackford or DJ Grothe come out to be less than the damage they’ve done.

    And this is where you and I make different value judgments. As far as I’m concerned, their net contribution to the skeptical/atheist “movement” has been to turn it into something no longer worth having, and as long as they continue to be part of it, it will never be better than nothing in any possible universe. Natalie Reed said it better than I ever could:

    The Atheist Movement doesn’t have a monopoly on atheism. Anyone can simply come to the conclusion that religion is kind of silly and dangerous. The Movement doesn’t have a monopoly on secularism. Anyone can pitch in and help fight to keep religion from influencing legislation. The Movement doesn’t have a monopoly on skepticism. It barely practices it. Anyone can learn to value critical thought, doubt, hesitation, humility, honesty and questioning their perceptions and biases. And none of us need their permission. We don’t need DJ Grothe or Richard Dawkins or Justin Fucking Vacula’s seals of approval to do any of this.

    I have no illusions that losing my support is going to cause anybody to lose much sleep, but it’s not just me, and even as simple an operation as “subtract one” amounts to significant losses if repeated enough times. As Greta Christina put it, no movement can be welcoming to both women and misogynists at the same time. If keeping scum like Blackford is more important to you than basic human decency, then by all means, have your “movement” to yourself.

  68. julian says

    If keeping scum like Blackford is more important to you than basic human decency, then by all means, have your “movement” to yourself.

    Scum?

    He’s pigheaded. Being incredibly thick and outright spiteful to some people doesn’t make you “scum” and it certainly doesn’t mean you should be expelled from any and all communities you’ve been a part of.

    Natalie Reed said it better than I ever could

    And that’s entirely besides the point. That’s an argument for continuing to identify as something or holding onto a set of ideals. For example, staying a feminist despite the transphobic messages of some groups.

    It doesn’t mean take someone who’s wrong or cruel or even racist and completely dismiss them and what they’re capable of providing.

    P.S. I know I said I’d drop it but I seriously cannot understand this attitude. They are not so horrible that their existence is a net loss for the species. Tat’s complete and utter bullshit.

  69. callistacat says

    If you can’t stand behind your argument, say something vague like “Gosh, all I had was a difference of opinion!” Or “Censorship!!”

    “I long for the day when sexism is no more tolerated than racism is now.”

    I’ve been waiting for that my entire life. :\
    Maybe in 200 years or so..
    Chris Rock said the reason men oppress women is because “we can kick your ass”. I agree. A man of color can potentially kick your ass back, but it’s almost a sure thing that a woman of any race or color can’t. I think that is a big reason sexism is taken less seriously (by bleeding-hearted liberals and freethinkers, at least).

  70. says

    Mikmik:

    Such vitriol! … All I did was voice my opinion.

    Your opinion was ridiculous given the circumstances, and I tried to tell you why. This isn’t a soap opera; it’s real. There are good reasons as to why people are laying down ground rules for their own personal participation at conferences–rules that exclude the participation of specific people. For some, it’s the fear of violence from certain individuals after constant cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying or a wish to protect oneself from a one-time threat of having one’s personal boundaries violated. For others, it is solidarity with those being harmed by such aggressors. Nobody is obligated to put themselves in situations where they could be harmed or demeaned (in some cases for quite a long after the event) or where they have to interact with abusers, attackers, or bullies.

    Sigh, you didn’t explain it to, you said go back to my juvenile fantasy world.
    I also don’t expect anyone to be around someone that has violated, but I do expect this behavior to be dealt with by the people present or running the show, which I have heard different stories, and accusing someone of this illegal sexual assault is a serious matter.

    What I don’t get is your bait and switch, and your insulting brush off, and then saying that you told me ‘x’ and what is wrong with me.
    Firsts I am not addressing extreme examples, the OP is about banding together and forming factions, as in people that disagree with PZ Meyers and RW, NOT what you ‘tell me’ are juvenile fantasies, which I DO NOT understand you saying this to me, and two others.

    I was talking about the topic in the article, or topic of this particular blog post:

    Let me also respectfully suggest to my long-distance friend Russell that his position that he will not attend conferences where Watson or Myers is speaking does not rest on a sound argument. One has to be very charitable when trying to interpret a tweet, but Russell appears to believe his position is justified, in part, because an organization “supports” an individual by having them speak at a conference. Not so.

    That is what I am calling a soap opera, because it is a ridiculous and shallow opinion to hold. Ophilia said this:

    I think the “support” idea comes from the – what to call them – the organized haters of the composite monster that haunts their dreams, made up of a few Freethought bloggers and Skepchicks, and now something they call AtheismPlus. They started ranting early about not “supporting” Rebecca (or, rather, Twatson or Becky, because that’s how they roll) by paying to go to conferences. They have a delusion that she gets paid big bucks for speaking, and that we all do. We get paid ZILCH, just as Ron says. That idea gets recycled a lot, and I suspect that’s why Russell echoed it. That’s odd, in a way, since he would know, as the organized haters don’t, that speakers don’t get paid.

    I am agreeing with this above quote. How is that related to your extreme example? I wasn’t talking about that, yours is a particularly egregious example, and I think the vast majority of attendies would not put up with it, most particularly, PZ, RW, A+, etc.

    Boycotting PZ et al is a trend that fractious, and childish, and that is the ‘soap opera’ the boycotters create.
    Those people are what I talk about, the choosing of ‘sides’, and writing RW et al off. Banding into their little groups and forming alliances based on innuendo and ‘taking offense’ to PZ et al, just because they speak out – giving their opinion, so to speak – is a very stupid idea from the outset.

    It is these kinds of ‘factions’ that are tawdry and insipid, and causes me no end of frustration. This:

    Your opinion was ridiculous given the circumstances, and I tried to tell you why. This isn’t a soap opera; it’s real. There are good reasons as to why people are laying down ground rules for their own personal participation at conferences–rules that exclude the participation of specific people

    I have no problem with, I didn’t think that was the topic, I merely wanted to express my feelings about the ‘he said, she said’ division that form, and are hysterical reactions, followed by anecdotal examples that are used to paint A+, etc, as provincial, and therefor worth shunning en masse.

    I was agreeing with the other 2 commentators, a brief statement(rare for me, obviously >–< )and was not directed at specific instances of unacceptable behavior, like yours.

    The thing that rapidly developed between you and myself is exactly the MO I am trying to address, because this type of posturing(my opinion), which I have been very guilty of myself, is petty, but becomes a snowball rolling down the proverbial slope, and soon turns into a bid deal – about nothing, basically… That is what I call soap opera. It is real, also, and it seems to be SOP over opinions that I think is very, very, important issue.
    I THINK THIS, and I was reacting (such vitriol) to basically being told that I 'didn't get it' and the implication that my opinion wasn't valid.

    That is what I do not like whatsoever, and I think is the problem with atheism these days, and I think most of it is black and white, all or nothing, thinking that is a very damning indictment of supposedly skeptical people.

    It is not skepticism, it is politics and pointing fingers, and it has no place in, and is in fact anathema to, a group claiming to be skeptics at heart.

    I think this is real, I think it is important, and I do feel it is perfectly valid to express my opinions about thew topic, and I want to try to draw attention to how much it permeates so many ‘discussions’ around atheism. That is my intention. I’m not very clear(ya think!) at expressing this sometimes, but that is not justification for writing my and others opinions, or generalizing and pigeon-holing them. That is all I was trying to do with my original few words that I posted. It was being written off that I called the vitriolic response, and wasn’t MY misunderstanding, alone, that was a problem, it was yours also. This, I believe, is the single most important point behind so many of the disagreements around here: it is the offering of opinion and judgement, in place of reason and personal accountability.

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