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Dec 27 2012

Ed launches an atheist cult

Ed has a post on Al’s ragey video. He doesn’t find it completely persuasive. Usually he likes to be Switzerland when others are fighting, but this time, no.

It seems that, according to Al, I have unwittingly launched an “atheist cult” of “radical extremists” who are “giving a bad name” to “real feminists.” PZ, Jen, Ophelia, Stephanie, Rebecca and others, Al says, “appear to have an incredibly unhealthy vendetta against men in general, and as it appears, the entire Caucasian race as well.” This is not a straw man, it’s an entire straw universe, a bizarro world remarkably similar to the one inhabited by the religious right, where any challenge to their privilege is terrible persecution from “feminazis” and other unsavory types.

While listening to this, it seemed rather familiar. I’d heard such rhetoric many times and I’m sure you have to. But it probably came from Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson or some other religious righter that Al no doubt considers to be a neanderthal. When they say those things, we point and laugh with derision. When they claim that those evil liberal social justice activists really just hate white people, we know that they are completely, incontrovertibly, undeniably full of shit. What exactly is the difference between their positions and Al’s position here? None that I can see. It’s the same tired and, frankly, idiotic claim that those who fight against white male privilege must hate white males and seek to do them harm.

Then there’s the part where Al tried to patronize Ed:

I feel really bad for Ed Brayton. He’s actually a really decent guy and someone I’ve known for a while. He’s put an incredible amount of effort, time and personal expense into creating and developing Freethought Blogs. It’s gotta be incredibly frustrating to him to see his baby at the center of all this controversy.

Well yes, but not in the sense that he thinks it’s all the fault of the pesky women who keep drawing ragey harassers to the scene. Or as Ed put it -

I feel like I’m being used as a prop in his morality play and I have no desire whatsoever to be called one of the good guys if others that I care about and mostly agree with are being portrayed as the bad guys. So let me make a few things as clear as I can possibly make them here.

He does that. Go and read.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    Is it an atheist sex cult? Because I would totally be fine with joining up.

  2. 2
    Landon

    That comment thread blew up fast! What amazes me are the people who come in and bleat the same incoherent nonsense about FTB being a “cult” without ever addressing the point that if you have a bunch of people who think that certain principles are important, you will OF COURSE be engaged – critically, even! – if you come around and disparage the importance of those principles. What are you guys supposed to do? Say, “well, look, we think feminism and social justice are important and actually contiguous with the skeptical program, but if you think it’s pap, that’s fine, too”? Seriously? Oh, but if you have the temerity to stand on your principles, you’re a cult. Sure.

    I swear, I’m taking a page from PZ from now on – anytime someone says Brayton, or you, or Myers, or any of y’all is a “fascist” or “enforces agreement” or anything like that, I’m going to insist on specific citations of statements and claims that support that opinion, as well as specific grounds under which that person would accept his or her imputation is incorrect.

  3. 3
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Brayton could have written a great post if only he had dropped the obligatory stabs at Dworkin and 2nd wave feminism. To bring up a particular feminist’s level of “sex positivity” is at best irrelevant, and at worst seems to imply that the harassers would have a legitimate point if their targets really did have some issues with pornography and prostitution. They would not.

  4. 4
    Hamilton Jacobi

    Reading what Al says to defend himself over there just blows my mind. He gives every appearance of actually believing what he is saying, and being puzzled when others view it as gibberish. How is this possible? The new version of Al (call it Al 2.0) makes no more sense than Ray Comfort.

  5. 5
    screechymonkey

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Al’s departure from FtB based partly if not wholly on not feeling comfortable here any more? Because it’s an interesting double standard to say “I’m leaving this blog network because I don’t want to be associated with these people any more,” and then insist that good heavens, no, I couldn’t possibly criticize my podcast co-host’s use of gendered slurs because that would be CENSORSHIP and infringe on his FREEZE PEACH and HOW DARE YOU USE GUILT BY ASSOCIATION!

  6. 6
    Gregory in Seattle

    I just looked through the comments at Ed’s…. wow. It is really beyond my comprehension that people like Paden would say such hateful things, and that so many people would defend that speech. Knowing that there are people out there like that makes me feel justified in being a non-social curmudgeon.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Hamilton, I know, it’s very weird.

    screechymonkey – no, I don’t think so. Or, I suppose it must have been, but I don’t think that was announced or official or anything. But we wouldn’t necessarily know – he just left, as opposed to telling us he was leaving (and why) and then leaving. It was abrupt and unexplained and bizarre.

    Maybe what you say is why he didn’t say anything (except to Ed) first – maybe he noticed the incongruity and decided to avoid it that way.

    Gregory – sigh. I know. I keep thinking they know they’re being horrible really, but…that’s probably an illusion.

  8. 8
    Hunt

    It’s funny how comments that nail it perfectly always seem to meet with the chirping of crickets. If you want your comments to be a free-for-all then, unless you want to be perceived as a hypocrite, you’ve essentially abdicated the right to moderate things by fiat. You might remember Harris’s claim that he held PZ personally responsible for the content of his comments. That is an unfair claim so long as a blogger adopts a laissez-faire attitude toward a commentariat, but one that meddles automatically becomes at least partly responsible for its content.

  9. 9
    julian

    Stefanelli’s seems to be that worthless friend we all had. The one who’d tell the people calling you a fag and a retard “He’s ok…” while laughing along to ever joke with “gay” or feminine man as the punchline. The one who got all shocked when you broke his nose and spit on him on the way out the door.

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    It’s funny how comments that nail it perfectly always seem to meet with the chirping of crickets.

    It’s funny how often people use “it’s funny” to indicate that the rest of their sentence is going to be nothing but confirmation bias.

  11. 11
    didgen

    It’s funny that the writer of a blog should be able to make the rules that people comment by. It’s funny how a group of people that have complementary ideas and/or life experiences or interests might like to come together in a kind of community even if it is only online. It’s funny how if you would like to understand why some people are not allowed to comment on this site all that’s required is a little light reading in the dungeon. Chirp, chirp.

  12. 12
    Hunt

    The corresponding post at Pharyngula is just chalk full of bull. I’ve seen the same kind of thing on other blogs that get too full of themselves an start believing their own bullshit. First, they’ve given themselves a name (always a bad sign). Now it’s the “Horde.” On other blogs I’ve seen things like the “Ilk” or the “Dread Ilk.” According to the mythos, the Horde is a “shark tank” (another thing familiar from other blogs) that will brook no false reasoning that relentlessly cuts through all false arguments with razor logic. To this end, once the Horde has determined, apparently through some ill-defined mechanism of group psychology, that a certain commentator is “not of the body,” he or she immediately becomes open to vicious attack.

    Normally, even the “shark tank” variety of forum discussion doesn’t devolve into the kind of “chicken sees red” behavior on display at Pharyngula. The only place it consistently happens is where the “sharks” know they’re sanctioned and protected by the moderator (“overseer,” god figure) who at any moment might intervene on the part of his chosen people. This is the prime reason I think secular/atheist discussion is very unhealthy on moderated forums where moderators are obviously not objective. It almost always lead to the immediate recrudescence of some very base and nasty group behavior. And, probably the sickest part of it is that dissenters, the timorous outsiders who dare voice an opposing opinion know there’s an imbalance of power. It’s like watching a shackled gladiator attempt to battle lions. You certainly can’t level the same type of rhetorical or insult arsenal against others that they’re leveling against you, since they’re usually behaving so atrociously. If you do, you’re almost immediately banned for being off your rocker. These are very, very unhealthy environments for honest discussion.

  13. 13
    John Morales

    Hunt, I take it you have tried Pharyngula and not found it amenable.

    (Those grapes are sour!)

  14. 14
    Argle Bargle

    Hunt is also known as huntstoddart. His entry in the Pharyngula Dungeon reads:

    Whiny. Told to leave a thread, he couldn’t — he just had to complain about a total irrelevancy again. Banned for stupidity and self-centeredness.

    He is hardly a disinterested commenter concerning Pharyngula. His post #12 shows PZ was right, he’s a whiner.

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    Hunt, oddly enough, I don’t maintain this blog as a place for people to complain about Pharyngula. I’m egocentric that way.

  16. 16
    Hunt

    Yes, I get it. Like most people on the opposing side of the issue, I hold Pharyngula as kind of ground zero for the discussion, but if you’re tired of hosting grievances here, it’s your call.

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    No shit. Yes, it is indeed my call.

    “Most people on the opposing side of the issue”=organized harassers aka the slymepit community. Nobody sane thinks there is such a thing as “the opposing side of the issue” in which there is one Issue and one solid faction with one settled view of it, in which Pharyngula is “ground zero.” That’s slymerthink.

  18. 18
    Hunt

    “No shit. Yes, it is indeed my call.”
    Okay, get over it. Remember, thou art mortal.

    Pharyngula is ground zero for the topics in Al’s video, which Ed responded to, which this post is about, so criticism of Pharyngula isn’t exactly off-topic on this post.

  19. 19
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, I’m mortal. Since I’m 10 million years old I’m nearly dead. What’s your point? Is that meant as a playful pseudo-threat?

    As for getting over it – I don’t know what “it” is but in any case, it’s none of your business what I do or don’t “get over.”

    No, Pharyngula is not ground zero for the topics in Al’s video. Al named me in that video too, and he’s been saying much nastier things about me than he has about PZ. I think it really pisses him off that mouthy women mouth off about him. Yes, criticism of Pharyngula is totally off-topic on this post.

    Now fuck off, you patronizing git.

  20. 20
    Hunt

    Thanks Ophelia. I see you’re a class act.

    Just to clue you in, it was said to Roman generals, to stave off hubris. Good luck to you and your efforts on FtB. I think you’re going to need it.

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    And I bet you think hubris means “arrogance” or “pride,” don’t you. So your point is…that like an arrogant Roman general, I’m so drunk on the massive power I have as a blogger and writer that I might…what? Lose track of the elephants? Attack Syracuse when I’m supposed to be destroying Carthage? Forget to cross the Rubicon?

    Blah blah blah. Give my regards to your buddies in the Roman army, Hunt.

  22. 22
    Marcus Ranum

    It’s funny how often commenters who want to complain about being banned wind up making a pretty good case for why banning them was a good idea.

    It’s vaguely reminiscent of us strategy in Afghanistan (“how much do we have to bomb you to make you love us?”). How whiny, self-righteous, and annoying do I have to be before you’ll realize what an awesome person I really am?

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