Nov 18 2012

We have always been at war with the insect peoples

And it continues. Remember the crazed reactions to Rebecca’s article in Slate? In particular the one where Russell Blackford took the trouble to tweet a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in order to call Rebecca a liar? This one?

He’s at it again, or still. He’s still doing what he can to harm Rebecca.

 Why? I don’t know. I do not know.

He might say it’s because of Stef McGraw, but that doesn’t make sense. Stef McGraw doesn’t consider Rebecca the world’s most evil monster bully. Remember?

Photo Photo by Brian S. Engler.

 There are a lot of crazy people out there who want to destroy Rebecca. And there’s Russell Blackford, who also wants to destroy Rebecca. I don’t understand that.


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  1. 1

    I don’t have a problem with the general concept of refusing to attend a convention that gives a platform to someone you find reprehensible. Boycotting is a longstanding and sometimes honorable tradition.

    But it’s something that should be reserved for people who are very very far beyond the pale. I really don’t get Blackford’s thinking here.

    There are certainly people on the “slymepit” side whose speeches I would skip, but I don’t know that there’s any of them whose presence as a speaker would cause me to boycott an entire convention. (It’s a different matter if they’re in charge of a convention or the organization running it.)

  2. 2

    So, this just means that as long as RW or PZ is at a convention, I don’t need to worry about running into Russel Blackford? Double bonus!


  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    screechy – no, I’m not objecting to the principle, at least I don’t think I am. (I’m not sure I have a worked-out view of the matter.) I’m objecting to the particulars. Of all the bullies in all the world that Russell could be ranting about on Twitter, he picks Rebecca? That makes zero sense to me.

  4. 4
    Argle Bargle

    Russell Blackford was once an intelligent, informed commentator on numerous topics. But he’s become fixated on how awful he thinks Rebecca Watson is. Maybe one day he’ll climb out of his bunker and realize there’s more in the world than Rebecca and PZ.

  5. 5
    Eamon Knight

    @4: Indeed. I read him faithfully for quite a while (OK, I skipped the graphic novel posts; not my cup of tea), but he really jumped the shark over this.

  6. 6

    OMG Rebecca Watson advocates the use of firearms!

  7. 7
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Gee, look at that Russell Blackford, once again, fails to back up his claims with any proof. We’re just supposed to take his word for it that Rebecca is a liar.


    Oh, and Ophelia, you just know you’re going to get snide comments about not letting go of the drama. You know, because you started it, not Russell (in case anyone out there has doubts–>no, Ophelia did not start the shit. Nor did Jen. Nor did Rebecca. Nor did Greta. Nor did PZ.) :: rolls eyes at hyperskeptics and Slymepit denizens premptively::

  8. 8

    I’ve read Kirby. I read Grothe’s silliness, and I’ve also heard from people who’ve worked with him.

    In particular, have you spoken with Dawkins?

    As a matter of fact, I have. About Rebecca Watson. His response was childish and bitter.

    I’ve also read the, erm, justifications (and various other leavings) left by ‘pitters and others who attack Rebecca Watson.

    And I’m on Watson’s side. Whowouldathunkit.

  9. 9

    Come to think of it, it’s rather odd that Blackford’s “evidence” for the proposition that “Rebecca lied!” is “talk to Dawkins, Kirby, and Grothe.”

    What is it that she supposedly lied about? If it’s what actually happened with Elevator Guy, then Dawkins, Kirby, and Grothe can’t shed any light on it because as far as I’ve heard, none of them was there.

    If it’s “lies” about Dawkins, Kirby, and Grothe — well, as far as I know, everything they’ve been criticized for saying on the subject was said on the internet or in recorded speeches/panels. It’s not a [s]he said/Rebecca said situation: Dawkins really did write “Dear Muslima,” Kirby really did call people the Stasi, Grothe really did claim there was no harassment at TAM, etc.

  10. 10
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    I’m loath to describe someone’s bitterness toward another being based on envy – “You’re just jealous!” is almost always used as an excuse to ignore reasonable criticism – but I suspect it is the reason in Blackford’s case; I suspect he feels that he deserves the fame that Rebecca Watson has, and now that circumstances have arisen that allow him to convince himself that his criticism of her is for good reasons rather than bad, he’s taking every opportunity to attack her.

    A pity, really; he’s on of Australia’s more prominent atheist thinkers/speakers, and I used to look forward to bumping into him at events. Now, however, I wouldn’t want to be with twenty yards of him.

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    Sorry, I got the two screenshots back to front. Fixed now.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 10 – I got the chance to address that issue when I did the talk at CFI-LA – not about Russell, of course, but about Rebecca’s supposedly unmerited fame and why she keeps being invited to speak. It came up in a question, although I don’t remember exactly how. I had a good time addressing it.

    I envy some of Rebecca’s speaking gigs too! Hell yes. I would have loved to go to that one in Germany, where Taslima and PZ also were.

    But here’s a news flash: Rebecca doesn’t get invited to these things because everybody’s stupid. She gets invited because she’s good at it!

    Hey, y’all remember being at university? Remember how some of the lectures were boring? Remember how not all academics are good at not being boring?

    Yes, people get pissed off because Rebecca’s not a scientist. True, she’s not a scientist.

    But that’s not all there is to it.

  13. 13

    Oh, dear. The thought of life without the pleasure of the company of Blackford and his kindred spirits is so depressing. How will convention-goers be able to have any kind of meaningful experience if a convention doesn’t include Blackford? A truly unspeakably bleak and alarming future awaits.

    Got to say I’m surprised that Blackford actually named names in these tweets. In the accusatory tweets I’ve bothered to read from Blackford, seems to me that he usually tweets some passive-aggressive crap about nameless “bullies” or “people.” I find that nameless finger-pointing incredibly cowardly and annoying.

  14. 14

    One of the less attractive bits of human nature – once you’ve been unpleasant to someone then either you admit to yourself that you behaved badly, or you convince yourself that they deserved it, and therefore deserve more. It takes a big person to admit to themself that they goofed, and a bigger one to do it publicly.

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 12 – I know; I’m surprised too. Amazed, really. The passive-aggressive stuff was annoying, but this actively and openly trying to damage Rebecca…

    It just amazes me.

  16. 16

    Rebecca’s situation is peculiar because most other atheists have “day jobs” besides the blogs and cons. Like PZ and Hemant teach, Dawkins makes films and books, Taslima writes, Maryam does political activism, Silverman and Gaylor run their organizations, etc.

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Well some of those are funny kinds of “day jobs” – political activism doesn’t pay a salary, for instance, and neither does writing. I think quite a few of us scrape by on partial day jobs, or freelancing, or a mix of the two. I’m one.

  18. 18

    I was a regular at Russell’s blog and enjoyed reading his other writings and bought the book he and Udo edited and Ophelia contributed. Apart from the comic stuff, which bores me senseless, but each to their own. I would never have dreamed he’d be this undignified and just plain vicious. I’m probably committing the genetic fallacy here, because e probably is still worth reading on non-Watson related issues, BT I haven’t looked him up pretty much since elevator gate broke and he posted nasty jabs on Facebook and when I tried to counter his posts with a comment, he deleted it, said we didn’t know what elevator guy was thinking (as if intentions were magic) in a private message. He seems to have doubled down since then. Oh well we’re all human. He can nastily dismiss people like Watson, and I can take no notice of him and not have to worry about awkwardly crossing his path if I attend the next atheist conference with PZ speaking.

  19. 19

    I don’t get Russell’s anger/hatred toward Rebecca. It’s sad, because I rather like his writings.

  20. 20

    Ophelia Benson:

    The passive-aggressive stuff was annoying, but this actively and openly trying to damage Rebecca…

    …In the past he’s accused her of making up the elevator incident. (Albeit using “we need more evidence” rhetoric, rather than a explicit accusation.)

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    A tip for people who want to disagree – you’ll have to do it in terms that don’t sound like a bot. If it’s just accusations and bullshit we’ve seen 40 million times before, it won’t do.

  22. 22

    Anti-RebeccaWatsonism is now some peoples’ religion. They won’t give it up because its all that gives their lives any sense of purpose.

  23. 23
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes but you wouldn’t expect to find Russell among them. Not in a million years.

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    I get it – this is what he was fuming about –


    The annual convention of the Australian Skeptics will be held in Melbourne this year, 2012.


    A national and international star studded array of presenters include James “The Amazing” Randi, DJ Grothe (President of the James Randi Foundation), Brian Thompson (Outreach Coordinator of JREF), Rebecca Watson (SGU blogger), Lawrence “Unbelievable” Leung (as seen on TV!), Dr. Rachael Dunlop, Richard Saunders, Lynne Kelly, Dr. Krissy Wilson, Dr. Ken Harvey (Choice Magazine Consumer of the Year Award), Adam vanLangenberg, Dr Cameron Martin (from Friends of Science in Medicine), Meredith Doig, Stephen Mayne (media commentator and shareholder activist), plus many others.

  25. 25
    Aratina Cage

    Well, at least Blackford isn’t being a disrespectful ass and calling PZ “Paul” still. So there’s that, however small it is.

  26. 26
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Judging by everything I have seen from Blackford since this whole hideous affair erupted, I wouldn’t expect anything but the absolute worst from that asshole. Re. the lack of specific allegations, I guess they must know on some level that there’s nothing they can accuse Rebecca of without making the misogyny explicit. There’s simply no non-misogynistic way of saying that women should be accepted only on the condition that their personal boundaries never get in the way of entitled male assholes’ desire to seek pleasure on women’s expense.

  27. 27
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I love your gravatar!

  28. 28
    Eric O

    I still can’t believe that this is the same Russel Blackford whose blog I used to read on a regular basis. It’s hard not to feel a little bit betrayed when an otherwise respectable writer turns out to have a nasty side like this. Now I feel icky when I read anything by him, even on subjects where we agree.

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    I know. :/

    And take that and blow it up and you get one of the huge, disconcerting, ground-shifting, worrying problems with the whole thing. Yes there really are people who otherwise seem like colleagues and comrades, thoughtful and reasonable, who really are perfectly comfortable with an atmosphere of frothing misogyny.

    They wouldn’t be perfectly comfortable with an atmosphere of frothing racism or xenophobia. They wouldn’t. If their friends and allies were constantly ranting about “fucking wetbacks” then that would be a major problem, but the equivalent ranting about “fucking cunts” isn’t.

  30. 30

    plus many others.

    He didn’t wanna be the “plus one”?

  31. 31

    I wonder what a phd philosopher with a masters in bioethics might say about the goodness of web 2.0 reputation bashing… ?

    I suppose we’d be encouraged to develop more nuanced thinking than our initial black-and-white reaction to this ethical “dilemma” of whether or not (or how charitably) we publicly berate RB for publicly berating RW.

    Perhaps as ethical agents we all engage in moralizing rhetoric at our own risk. And if some of us don’t buy that, then so be it.


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