Atheists of Maine want you »« The need for extreme care

Michael Shermer was not quoted inaccurately

Shermer’s unleashed a lot of assholes on me (because I didn’t have enough of them before). I’m getting pretty tired of people saying I lied, I must say. I did not lie. I quoted Shermer accurately.

“Atheist Revolution” is pretty shameless about calling me a liar.

In his response, Shermer notes that he was quoted inaccurately and out of context.

He was not quoted inaccurately. That is not true. I don’t consider it out of context either, but that of course is always debatable. But inaccurately, no. I’m tired of people calling me a liar.

And he takes the additional step of pointing out the problems with some of
Benson’s more common tactics regarding labeling those with whom she disagrees as
sexists and misogynists.

I didn’t label him a sexist or a misogynist.

Did Michael Shermer make a sexist comment, and if so, does that make him a sexist? And most importantly, should his comment – whether it strikes you as potentially sexist or not – reduce his worth in the atheist and skeptic communities to zero?

What’s that got to do with anything? I certainly didn’t say his comment reduced his worth to zero. My article was about the stereotype, not about Shermer. I devoted one paragraph to Shermer.

Yes, it appears that this is the plan. Shermer’s contributions can now be dismissed and all because he made a comment that looks like it could be sexist in nature when presented without the context in which it was made. But even that
is not enough. Shermer deserves to be haunted to his grave, as nothing more than a social Darwinist douche and a “dipshit.” And what of Ophelia Benson herself?

Ophelia Benson

She’s decided that labeling Shermer a sexist is not sufficient. He’s also “an anti-feminist.”

That tweet was yesterday, after he’d done several anti-feminist tweets. I “decided” that he was being an anti-feminist jerk because he had apparently been so annoyed by the responses critical of his post that he felt the need to talk a lot of libertarian bullshit about feminism.

And then one of the comments

Note that the original interview, or whatever it was, happened in August. So, I agree about the manufactured outrage. I think there are people out there that are constantly trying to stir up controversey in the A/S community for no other reason than to pump their own egos. It’s shameful.

I wrote the column in August. I didn’t write it four days ago in order to stir up controversy, I wrote it in August as part of a column for Free Inquiry.

Talk about inaccurate…

 

Comments

  1. Stacy says

    Shermer’s contributions can now be dismissed and all because he made a comment that looks like it could be sexist in nature when presented without the context in which it was made. But even that
    is not enough. Shermer deserves to be haunted to his grave, as nothing more than a social Darwinist douche and a “dipshit.”

    Claim you said a bunch of hyperbolic things you didn’t say, and accuse you of excoriating some man. Then excoriate you for it.

    Am I sensing a pattern here? ‘Cause this reminds me of the time somebody said “guys, don’t do that,” and a bunch of people got testerical and accused her of ruining all the things.

  2. Stacy says

    If we’re haunting Michael Shermer to his grave, I want to be the ghost girl who telepathically puts nightmares in his head and messes with his electronic devices.

  3. julian says

    Amazing how this group demands complete and absolute accuracy from others but refuse to even do basic checks. This has been m first introduction to anything Shermer has said or done and already I can’t stand the man. From how his accusations of being obsessed with sex and race to inspiring these idiots to misrepresent you, not a good impression.

  4. says

    A lot of the spats I see on the Internet look to me like miscommunication of various sorts is the main culprit. Which is pretty frustrating when I’d so much prefer seeing some agreement and some rational discussion of the details we actually disagree on.

    For example, it looks to me like much of this fuss over what Shermer said and Benson’s criticism is the inability of Shermer and his supporters to understand that the criticism of the statement as being sexist isn’t the same as calling Shermer himself a raging sexist misogynist.

    I can see to some degree thinking that the sexism accusation (at least) implies some intention to be hateful or to put down women, and that it is therefor an accusation of bad character. Before I started hanging around feminist blogs I probably wouldn’t have understood the division either.

    Not, that is, until it was explained. I think that was something I picked up actually before Elevatorgate. At the time of Elevatorgate I remember thinking that part of the problem was that the more colloquial understanding of ‘sexist’ probably wasn’t as divorced from intent as how feminists used it.

    But as this goes on and there are explanations and clarifications thrown around it gets harder and harder to chalk up all this vitriol and anti-feminist ranting as mere ignorance of terms and failure of reading comprehension.

    I first saw Shermer’s article from a tweet. Just reading that my first thought was to assume Benson had criticized the statement as sexist (and it seemed pretty obvious to me why lots of people could take it as such) rather than accusing Shermer of being a horrible misogynist. I suppose I should get around to digging out that copy of Free Inquiry to read Benson’s article, but more just because it would generally be good for me to read rather than any expectation that I’d suddenly see Benson for being an evil slanderer.

  5. says

    Stacy

    NOOOO better idea! Did you ever see the only buggs bunny cartoon with the frog that only sings when the guy is alone? That’s what you want. Act in predictable testable ways but mess with recording devices and never appear before anyone but Shermer. He’ll be convinced you exist but be unable to prove it to anyone else. MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  6. Charles Sullivan says

    Call me a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I believe that even when these various discussions about sexist language and harassment and so forth seem to explode and spin out of control on the internet, that in the long run they have a positive impact in making people more sensitive to these matters. The problem, of course, is that it’s in the long run.

  7. Claire Ramsey says

    I am not persuaded that vicious and inaccurate personal attacks on a blogger, for example, Ophelia, contribute to a greater good. I await evidence.

    Meanwhile, why rest future sensitivity on the backs of current intelligent cogent feminist bloggers? Long run be damned. Individual beloved persons are being annoyed and harassed now, in the immediate run.

  8. Stacy says

    @John-Henry Beck,

    I suppose I should get around to digging out that copy of Free Inquiry to read Benson’s article

    You can read it online here:

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=benson_33_1

    Also wanted to say I liked your comment, especially this:

    For example, it looks to me like much of this fuss over what Shermer said and Benson’s criticism is the inability of Shermer and his supporters to understand that the criticism of the statement as being sexist isn’t the same as calling Shermer himself a raging sexist misogynist.

    I can see to some degree thinking that the sexism accusation (at least) implies some intention to be hateful or to put down women, and that it is therefor an accusation of bad character. Before I started hanging around feminist blogs I probably wouldn’t have understood the division either.

    Not, that is, until it was explained. I think that was something I picked up actually before Elevatorgate. At the time of Elevatorgate I remember thinking that part of the problem was that the more colloquial understanding of ‘sexist’ probably wasn’t as divorced from intent as how feminists used it.

    But as this goes on and there are explanations and clarifications thrown around it gets harder and harder to chalk up all this vitriol and anti-feminist ranting as mere ignorance of terms and failure of reading comprehension.

    QFT

  9. Stacy says

    michaeld, you are wily and merciless. I like that in a person.

    (Golden Age WB animated shorts FTW! I have Chuck Jones’s autograph. *preens*)

  10. says

    NateHevens: By “quoted inaccurately,” they mean Ophelia quoted the words he actually said, not the much more charitable, eminently reasonable, not-at-all sexist words he meant, which he said in his head and his heart of hearts, where you would find that he clearly is not anything like a sexist person.

    See, the anti-feminists have this special ability to read what a person truly means behind the words they actually say. It’s how they know that when Rebecca Watson said “guys, don’t do that,” she actually meant “I was almost raped and it should be illegal for guys (especially gross ugly ones) to hit on women anywhere at all and also I am a sex-hating slut.” It’s how they know that Ophelia called Shermer a sexist and misogynist even though she didn’t use those words to describe him at all.

    If only Ophelia would have e-mailed Shermer, he would have patiently explained this special hidden true meaning to her (sometimes I think they forget that not everyone has this power of magical subtext insight, but they are always willing to clarify in private communication). How shameful that she would not take such a clearly warranted step, and in doing so, misquote his true meaning so egregiously, while writing an article that was, to the subtext-gifted, all about Shermer’s alleged witchity crime of woman-antipathy!

  11. says

    In what possible other context could “it’s more of a guy thing” not be a stereotype threat?
    Not understanding that you sound sexist is no defense.
    ____

    Imagine how much worse the reaction would have been if Shermer had instead said:

    [atheism] It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, gals don’t do that.

  12. Charles Sullivan says

    Historically, women have been kept out, so “it’s more a guy thing” could be a description of how things are. And giving Shermer the benefit of the doubt, I was hoping that’s what he meant, as opposed to meaning that women are incapable of being leaders in the atheist movement. I don’t think he meant that, and I don’t think Ophelia thinks he really meant that, or believes that.

    Those are the two possible contexts for interpretation that I can see.

    Fortunately, we have come some way, and there are plenty of women. CFI has a long list of atheist women speakers, so there’s no excuse either way.

  13. A. Noyd says

    Why is Shermer being given any benefit of any doubt? Wasn’t he the one guy whose name was revealed to be on that secret list of harassers that gets passed around to women speaking at conferences?

  14. Didaktylos says

    @#15 – in which case Shermer should have publicly said “my bad” and rephrased it as “it’s [seen as] more of a ‘guy thing’ [(even by people who ought to know better)]” instead of doubling down on the testeria (thank-you for that phrase, Stacy: unless you wish to credit somebody else with coining it, I will credit you).

  15. julian says

    @16

    I really don’t think this is the time or place to be having that discussion. Probably best not to bring up any accusations like that.

  16. Sili says

    Wasn’t he the one guy whose name was revealed to be on that secret list of harassers that gets passed around to women speaking at conferences?

    Given that the list was never made public, we don’t know that.

    But he’s certainly not doing himself any favours.

  17. brucegee1962 says

    There have been plenty I’ve times when I’ve written a comment that was pretty dumb, been called on it, looked back at what I wrote, and said, “Yeah, you’re right, that was kind of dumb.” I don’t think that makes me a sexist — it just means I’m learning, and there’s no shame in that.

    Has Shermer ever admitted that this comment might not have been the best way to phrase his point?

  18. jose says

    I just think it’s funny you write the article in August, Shermer responds now in December and it’s FTB’s fault anyway. Why are you always fabricating controversies, FTBs! Now you’re even scheduling them for months ahead!

  19. ThinkingSpeck says

    Could everyone please actually read both Ophelia’s original article and Michael’s response? It could clear up quite a lot of misunderstandings, I think.
    .
    Ophelia made a factually unsupported allegation against Michael – that he “said exactly that” (“that” being ‘that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”‘). She made the point very specific and explicit in the following “it’s all there” paragraph. Technically she didn’t actually call him sexist or misogynistic, but the stereotype that she specifically accused him of endorsing in full is clearly both sexist and misogynistic.
    .
    Michael, quite reasonably, responded to this with clarification, well-supported refutation and a clear explanation of the broader problems of which he considers this symptomatic. He also explicitly rejected the stereotype, just to avoid any possible misunderstandings. Furthermore, he spent the second part of his article calling for intellectual caution and the third part warning against division and witch-hunts. Anyone attacking Ophelia on Michael’s behalf is doing so against Michael’s stated wishes; it is thus unfair to state “Shermer’s unleashed a lot of assholes on me”.
    .
    I’ll assume that Ophelia is quoting “Atheist Revolution” fairly here – I’m quite willing to believe that she found at least one atheist group willing to make unreasonable claims about this issue. What that doesn’t demonstrate, however, is that Michael in any way endorses or agrees with anything beyond what he actually wrote in that rather lengthy article that many people here seem not to have actually read. It’s likewise unreasonable to blame Michael for a factually inaccurate comment posted by some random stranger on an article written by another random stranger (can’t find a name for that either) on a site which (as far as I’m aware) he isn’t associated with in any way except that they seem to like him. That’s blatant strawmanning, just as if I took the craziest fringe lunatic “feminist” ravings on a particular topic and asserted that sane and reasonable feminists who had nothing to do with it were nevertheless somehow accurately represented by it. Which, by the way, I wish the actual anti-feminists would stop doing.
    .
    Bluntly, I think Shermer’s got a very good point about the danger posed by tribalism. There’s definitely a lot of tribal nonsense and indefensible behaviour among various groups of people who dislike FreeThoughtBlogs, but precisely the same is true of various bloggers (and many commenters) on FTB. I’ve been watching from the sidelines for rather more than a year now as Elevatorgate and subsequent dramas played out, and I’ve seen almost everyone involved descend to flinging virtual faeces at one time or another (and no, I’m not claiming that I would have done any better if I’d actually entered into the disputes myself).


    .
    Could we maybe try to value skepticism and rationality more highly than our tribal concerns, in practice as well as in theory? I understand that it’s genuinely difficult, but aren’t we supposed to be the ones who understand and ultimately transcend our glitchy firmware? I’m sorry to dump it all here – you guys are far from the only offenders – but I’m just getting really sick of this continual bullshit from so many people who really should know better.

  20. Kevin K says

    Anytime anyone says something like “it’s a guy thing”, or “it’s more of a girl thing” or “it’s a black thing” or whatever…my antenna go up.

    Shermer has to know of the controversy surrounding Harvard President L[aurence] Summers. Has to know what a shitstorm of controversy his sexist statements caused.

    He has to realize that it’s a bone-headed thing to say.

    My guess is that he’s embarrassed that he was caught doing EXACTLY the same thing, but has no way to easily extricate himself.

    Michael: Just say “I’m sorry. It was a bone-headed thing to say. I’m a public figure who probably gets recorded saying a million words a year. Forgive me for those 5. They were unthinking and wrong. I’ll try to do better next time.”

    If you had done that the FIRST TIME AROUND, the whole thing would have gone away. Disappeared. Instantly.

    Now, it’ll be harder for us to accept a simple apology. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer one.

  21. says

    Thinking spec

    Frankly even if he wasn’t perpetuating the women are too stupid stereotype you still have the women are too passive stereotype. I don’t find that a particular improvement.

  22. julian says

    I really don’t think this is the time or place to be talking about any lists. If someone wants to warn another of someone they had a poor experience with that’s one thing, those of us who aren’t part of it shouldn’t be talking about it like this.

  23. Utakata says

    Ophelia made a factually unsupported allegation against Michael – because she’s a girl.

    Michael, quite reasonably, responded to this with clarification, well-supported refutation and a clear explanation of the broader problems of which he considers this symptomatic – because he’s a boy.

    /fixed for you.

    …and you know, when defending the indefensible, you coild least try using less flowery, long winded and turgid explanation and just get straight to the point, lol.

    Could we maybe try to value skepticism and rationality…

    We do. It’s just you guys don’t agree with us and our conclusions. /shrug

  24. julian says

    Frankly even if he wasn’t perpetuating the women are too stupid stereotype you still have the women are too passive stereotype. I don’t find that a particular improvement.

    Aye, if Shermer was going to discuss reasons why women are seen as less passive that’d be one thing. But that’s not where he went with it.

    And it’s incredibly ridiculous for him to be blasting Benson for writing about one reason she thinks women are underrepresented. She didn’t even say it was the only reason just one that she found rang true to her and others she knows. Why Shermer thinks she should have devoted the whole piece to a million different perspective is beyond me. He could have easily used it as an opportunity to present his own thoughts on why but instead he, Hall and the rest used it as opportunity to take a shot at Benson.

  25. julian says

    Gee, Utakata, how will anyone ever express themselves without you around to tell them what they said or meant to say.

  26. Utakata says

    @julian

    Actually, most of the time…since I rarely post on FtB.

    Though I’ll agree…perhaps I went over the top with that. But to be frank, I am just getting sick and tired of all the defending against obvious sexism. And those same then turn around and claim we’re not being rational for accepting that. I never know it was rationalist to be a bigot. And if that’s the case, I rather be irrational.

    But anyways, I’ve stayed my welcome, I’ll go back to lurking and shut-up now. Feel free to rip my offending entry up all you want, since it was mostly based on headdesking emotions, so it’s likely so full of logic holes one could run a truck though. I’ll try to be more careful with my emo’s the next time I post. My apologies.

  27. julian says

    @Utakata

    Sorry, I’m not trying to be condescending (ok, I was but I don’t want to be) it’s just that, I really don’t think we need to be so dismissive of others at this point. Emotions are inflammed enough and we need to dial back the snark and rhetoric a bit to keep the conversation flowing.

    Hope you’re good and that you didn’t headdesk too hard.

  28. says

    @ 22 –

    Anyone attacking Ophelia on Michael’s behalf is doing so against Michael’s stated wishes; it is thus unfair to state “Shermer’s unleashed a lot of assholes on me”.

    That is completely ridiculous. Have you seen the comments on his post? He hasn’t said a word about them. He’s been sniping at feminism on Twitter for days. He has emphatically not stated any wish that people should not attack me, and his post of course inspired a lot of new attacks.

    Obviously that cuts both ways. What I said in my Free Inquiry column had the potential to inspire criticism of him, and possibly even attacks. And yet…were there any verbal attacks on Michael Shermer based on my Free Inquiry column in the last two or three weeks since it was posted online? Not that I’m aware of. Was there any criticism of him based on my Free Inquiry column? Not that I recall. I think there was some here in August when I first posted about that discussion, but I think that’s it.

    So no. It’s not the least bit unfair to say Shermer unleashed a lot of assholes on me. He’s a popular dude, he’s a big Name – he must know perfectly well that he has the ability to get a lot of rage boiz frothing at the mouth.

    He inspired John Loftus to say that people like me should be kicked to the curb, ffs. “Tribalism”? Yeah, right, I’m the only “tribal” person on the planet.

  29. julian says

    He inspired John Loftus to say that people like me should be kicked to the curb, ffs.

    Exactly. If Shermer really thought personal attacks or other on Benson were wrong or if he opposed them he would have said so. He would have told Loftus off for his post calling for Benson to be kicked out of skepticism. He would have shut down all the personal attacks at his own post.

    Because he has let it go on and egged it on by flippantly insulting the type of feminism Benson is now commonly associated with, it seems perfectly reasonable to conclude he’s ok with them.

  30. Utakata says

    @julian

    Thanks for you advice. I appreciate that. And I agree. Thus the snark and rhetoric of my offending post has been retracted. My issues with ThinkingSpeck post still remains, but I’ll leaving the ripping it a reasoanble but deserving new one to better others, including our wondeful host (which I’ll note above me). :)

  31. A. Noyd says

    julian (#18)

    I really don’t think this is the time or place to be having that discussion. Probably best not to bring up any accusations like that.

    Why the hell not? I’m sick of these folks who go out of their way to read Shermer charitably when there’s a strong possibility he does way, way worse than take it for granted that intellectual pursuits aren’t that interesting to women. It would be nice to have that particular accusation verified, but it shouldn’t be assumed irrelevant when he opens his mouth about women’s interest in conferences. At the very least, it was an accusation a lot of people found credible, and that alone says something about Shermer’s attitude toward women. Anyone (like Charles Sullivan and countless others) trying to give him the benefit of the doubt needs to acknowledge that rather than acting as if Shermer emerges fresh from his egg in the ashes with every new utterance.

  32. says

    Plus I’ve just noticed something I’d overlooked before, and it’s causing steam to exit the ears a bit. He tells a plain falsehood about me in the subhead of his post.

    In an article entitled “Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect?” in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine, author and journalist Ophelia Benson targets Michael Shermer as the embodiment of misogyny.

    I did no such thing. I quoted him using a bad stereotype; I didn’t say a word about “the embodiment of misogyny.”

    I’m getting seriously pissed off now.

  33. julian says

    Why the hell not?

    Because blogthreads are the entirely wrong place to bring up allegations of sexual harassment especially when it isn’t someone targeted by that person. Because it’s prejudicial to any future attempt to bring up this harassment. Because you have no way of verifying whether the allegations are true. Because it’s unfair to both whoever may have been harassed (as their experience and decision not to come forward is being taken out of their hands) and to whoever is accused of harassing (as they have no way of countering such claims).

    Honestly, I don’t get why you even want to go down this route.

  34. Stacy says

    @Didaktylos #17

    thank-you for that phrase, Stacy: unless you wish to credit somebody else with coining it, I will credit you

    That’s kind of you, but no, I didn’t coin the term. I saw it on Pharyngula. Don’t know who first came up with it.

  35. Stacy says

    Technically she didn’t actually call him sexist or misogynistic, but the stereotype that she specifically accused him of endorsing in full is clearly both sexist and misogynistic

    ThinkingSpeck, I refer you to John-Henry Beck, comment #5. He pointed out:

    much of this fuss over what Shermer said and Benson’s criticism is the inability of Shermer and his supporters to understand that the criticism of the statement as being sexist isn’t the same as calling Shermer himself a raging sexist misogynist.

    I can see to some degree thinking that the sexism accusation (at least) implies some intention to be hateful or to put down women, and that it is therefor an accusation of bad character. Before I started hanging around feminist blogs I probably wouldn’t have understood the division either….

    the more colloquial understanding of ‘sexist’ [isn’t] as divorced from intent as how feminists [use] it

    But “sexist” can indeed be divorced from intent. So can “racist.” So can “homophobic.” We have all said and thought sexist things.

    Michael Shermer’s comment was sexist on the face of it, and the face of it is what Ophelia was using to illustrate her point.

    People really need to get past this hyper-defensiveness that comes up every time a woman points out a man said something sexist. I never see these overblown responses when a skeptic points out that another skeptic said something wrong or unskeptical in any other context. Hmm…I wonder why that is?

  36. A. Noyd says

    julian (#37)

    Because blogthreads are the entirely wrong place to bring up allegations of sexual harassment especially when it isn’t someone targeted by that person.

    I’m not trying to discuss the (alleged) harassment itself. I’m pointing out that, given the accusation (and its reception), there’s more reason than usual to withhold the benefit of the doubt when interpreting Shermer’s opinions on women. (And if you’re going to yap about the harm that talking about harassment does, maybe you should consider just how far repeatedly sweeping allegations under the rug has ever gotten us.)

    I’m not saying we should accept this particular allegation uncritically, just that it’s wrong to ignore it and pretend the most likely interpretation of Shermer’s statement is the most neutral one. I think people are trying to remain “unbiased” like they imagine a skeptics do, but completely overlooking someone’s (negative) reputation only introduces more skew.

  37. Stacy says

    A. Noyd, I disagree. There’s no need to drag character or intent into this at all.

    (I feel sort of like a comment hog, so I’m going to retreat for a while now.)

  38. says

    People really need to get past this hyper-defensiveness that comes up every time a woman points out a man said something sexist.

    QFT!

  39. A. Noyd says

    @Stacy
    I’m not the one bringing up his intent. I’m saying that if people are going to do that then they don’t get to develop a generous case of amnesia about what the man has been accused of. For guessing at intent, character absolutely does matter.

    If you want to argue that Shermer’s intent isn’t necessary to show that his opinion is wrong, I won’t argue. But others are trying to weave the two together, and I’m protesting how many of them are going about it.

  40. julian says

    I have said nothing about sweeping anything under the rug. I don’t think sexual harassment should be ignored. I also don’t think you can take the place of those harassed and accuse people. You don’t know who they are, that they exist or why they would want to remain quiet. You don’t know if anything being said about Shermer is true or if the fears are justified.

    Besides, it’s entirely irrelevant to this discussion and could only serve to make it worse, so why not drop it?

  41. julian says

    Jesus Christ.

    Ok, we don’t know any accusation of sexual harassment are true. We have no one accusing him of anything. We have rumors. You ca’t try to discredit someone based on rumors.

    Stop it. You’re just feeding everything people say about this site.

  42. julian says

    And now the thread’s been derailed from the actual topic because you feel like bringing up accusations against Shermer that no one can verify. Lovely.

  43. callistahellene says

    A. Noyd, you do not have anything to back up your claim. You are not helping.

    “People really need to get past this hyper-defensiveness that comes up every time a woman points out a man said something sexist. I never see these overblown responses when a skeptic points out that another skeptic said something wrong or unskeptical in any other context”

    Yeah, why is that? A woman points out a sexist comment (yes, saying being intellectually active is a guy thing is ridiculously insulting to us non-guys) and she’s accused of falsely accusing a man of being a misogyinist, and she’s also a witch-hunter. A bit over the top, don’t you think?

    And when she clarifies that she didn’t say he was a misogynist, everyone ignores her. And there’s more screeching about the poor guy being crucified or burned at the stake or the victim of Nazi women.

  44. ThinkingSpeck says

    @michaeld (#24):

    Yes, he did say that women are (in this context) more passive than men (not “too passive”). That’s consistent with mainstream feminist theory (as I understand it) on the effects of patriarchal upbringing, and in any case it’s a factual claim for which he then (in his article) provided evidence. I do agree that he didn’t express himself very clearly in those few words on the panel, though.
    .
    @Utakata (#26)

    “Because she’s a girl” / “because he’s a boy”? Really? Their respective genders are irrelevant to my factual statements that you’ve quoted. For the record, I do not believe that women are on average appreciably more or less rational than men – the respective genders seem to be differently susceptible to different flaws, but that’s hardly to the credit of men.

    I’m sorry you don’t like my style. It’s just how I write, particularly when I’m trying to be very precise. Oh, and I never said I disagree with all (or even most) of your conclusions in general.
    .
    @Utakata (#30)

    Just so we’re clear, I agree that there are at least some sexist men arguing (often very poorly) for Shermer. I am sorry that you (or anyone else) have/has to put up with that, and I can understand why you lumped me in with the sexists. If you look more closely at my original comment (#22) in light of what I’m saying here, my position should be a bit clearer.
    .
    @Ophelia (#32)
    Yes, I’ve seen the comments on his post. I can’t say that Shermer is spending a lot of effort to intervene in your defence, and (for the record) I don’t approve of his inaction there, but I maintain that his spending a third of his article stressing the dangers of infighting stands as a pretty clear message that he doesn’t want people attacking you. I’d like to see his Twitter comments that you reference both here and in this article – I was disappointed that you didn’t show or link any of them in the article. I see that you acknowledge the criticism of Shermer in comments on your blog in August, though I’m somewhat surprised that the “jackass” insult actually came from you personally – he didn’t mention that. Either way, yes he has been criticised because of your original article. Do you believe that influential people should censor themselves for fear that their words might inspire some people to say nasty things about other people? I don’t, because that would mean muzzling pretty much every influential person (including you).
    .
    Ophelia, in my initial comment here (#22) I stated explicitly and repeatedly that almost everyone involved in the whole broader conflict had behaved poorly due to tribalism at some point or another. I even apologised for dumping my criticism here, since “you guys are far from the only offenders”. I’m really not trying to paint you as a bad person or exceptionally tribal – that would be unfair and unreasonable.
    .
    @A. Noyd (#35)

    Ad hominem fallacy: Poisoning the well. Please don’t do that. You have nothing more than a rumour and the willingness of some (apparently many) people to believe it. That demonstrates that at least one person dislikes Shermer enough to start a rumour against him, and that some other people dislike him enough to believe it. Again: As skeptics, we’re supposed to be better than this. I note your clarification in #45 re reputation as a valid (albeit weak) form of evidence, but I contend that that becomes completely unreliable in cases like this.
    .
    @Ophelia Benson (#36)

    I agree that the subhead is factually incorrect. However, we have no reason to believe that Shermer wrote or approved it. Please reserve your (justified) anger for whoever wrote and approved it.
    .
    @Stacy (#44)

    Thanks for the explanation. Personally, though, I believe that only a characteristically sexist and misogynistic person could say all of what Ophelia accused Shermer of, and then not immediately flinch and apologise. That’s why I so awkwardly specified “endorsing in full”, since what Ophelia ascribed to Shermer includes some strong claims about women being stupid and so on. If we were just talking about talking in public being “more a guy thing”, then I would cheerfully agree with you.
    .
    @everyone

    OK, that’s probably enough words from me. The responses I’ve received here have been (in general) both politer and more reasonable than I had expected – I thank you all, and you may rest assured that I have updated my internal models accordingly.

    -Pat

  45. says

    Julian I don’t need you policing comments for me. You haven’t always behaved impeccably yourself (and then I’ve been blamed for stuff you’ve said). You’re causing more discussion of the harassment issue, not less.

  46. says

    @ 54 –

    I can’t say that Shermer is spending a lot of effort to intervene in your defence, and (for the record) I don’t approve of his inaction there, but I maintain that his spending a third of his article stressing the dangers of infighting stands as a pretty clear message that he doesn’t want people attacking you.

    Oh, please. Shermer is spending zero effort to moderate his comments. (I don’t actually expect him to “intervene in my defence”; I do think he should moderate his comments in broader terms.)

    And you can “maintain” all you want, but that’s obviously bullshit. Of course he fucking wants people [verbally] attacking me. If he didn’t he would pop in at least once to tell them not to. He also wouldn’t be egging them on via Twitter. As for his tweets – they’re easy to find.

  47. A. Noyd says

    julian (#50)

    I have said nothing about sweeping anything under the rug.

    Uh huh. Maybe not in general, but you’re sure eager to do it in this case (and for reasons that could easily apply to others). We’re not a court of law in fear of a mistrial; we don’t have to pretend like the giant, hairy accusation (and its reception) isn’t even out there just because we have no hard and fast proof it’s true. It’s the sort of thing that should give people pause, regardless.

    Besides, it’s entirely irrelevant to this discussion and could only serve to make it worse, so why not drop it?

    Maybe because you’re being so silly I didn’t feel like letting you have the last word on this. Although, I’ll stop after this for Ophelia’s sake.

    See, I think it makes things worse to go around always wiping people’s slates clean for them before judging their intent, which a lot of people (not you, that I’ve seen) are doing. In fact, it seems to be the fucking S.O.P. every time a guy with a reputation for being no friend to feminism—and a possible predator—says something sexist. If our goal is to eradicate sexism, it behooves us to be less charitable—to instead pause and say “wait, this guy has a history that includes being accused of showing up on a list of guys that female speakers are told to watch out for at cons; that’s pretty serious; maybe there’s a reason for it” instead of automatically dismissing it and extending him the benefit of the doubt.

    There’s a difference, you know, between assuming the worst of someone and refusing to assume the best. Now, if you have a problem with what I’m getting at here then you’d gain more by saying so rather than whinging on about how we can’t proooove the ruuuumor. Because, no shit; that’s not the point.

    (#51)

    Stop it. You’re just feeding everything people say about this site.

    Don’t be ridiculous. The OP is ample evidence that it doesn’t really matter what Ophelia or her regulars say. The people you’re referring to are going to make up whatever they want to see. And, in my case, I’m not saying anything anything so terrible as you seem to imagine. (Anyway, they’re the last ones who get to criticize someone else for holding a guy up to his reputation.)

    I would merely prefer it if the folks who at least try to be fair could learn that “fair” doesn’t mean going out of one’s way to ignore a guy’s reputation. Rather, “fair” requires the opposite: giving it due consideration.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    ThinkingSpeck (#54)

    Ad hominem fallacy: Poisoning the well. … Again: As skeptics, we’re supposed to be better than this.

    I’m not suggesting the validity of Shermer’s argument depends in any way on his reputation. I’m on the side of the people who say his intent doesn’t matter. But if we are going to guess about his intent so as to analyze which interpretation he meant, then it’s entirely appropriate to bring up his reputation. Someone known for dismissing feminism is far less likely to have made an innocuous statement about women. Constantly giving someone the benefit of the doubt in the face of a reputation that would suggest they don’t deserve it is not “better” skepticism.

  48. says

    @54 and I still don’t think it’s great repeating it, nor do I find it particularly apt in our community when so many of the women in the movement seem to be facing outspoken campaigns to silence them. Hard to wonder why new voices my not want to come forward when they see this kind of thing happening.

  49. Richard Funuts says

    On one hand, Shermer could be a narcissistic asshole who is getting what he deserves.

    On the other hand, you could be an overly sensitive person who tried to take his comments and spin them in an invalid way into your arguments.

    Either way, this person says, “live by the out-of context quote,” die by the “out of context quote.” You tried to spin Shermer’s words in an out-of-context way to support your arguments. The fact that others are now taking your comments and using them in an out-of-context fashion is, well, for lack of a better term, karma.

  50. says

    No I didn’t. I didn’t “spin” his words. I quoted them. He said what he said.

    And people aren’t merely “taking my comments and using them in an out-of-context fashion” – they’re doing more than that.

  51. Tony ∞The Queer Shoop∞ says

    All the people saying Ophelia lied, misquoted or took Shermer out of context–
    Please provide a link to the version of the article you read. Then we can look at what Ophelia wrote and compare. Be ready to be incredibly wrong.
    Ophelia, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with a new crop of haters.

  52. Richard Funuts says

    Shermer clearly felt that his words were being spun to prove this premise: “(W)omen are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky.” Maybe that wasn’t your intent, but I do understand why he feels that way. When you attach his “it’s a guy thing” to that premise then it muddles the waters.

    If you wanted to clear the waters you could specifically disavow that you felt Shermer supported that premise. I suspect that until you do the attacks on you, fair and unfair will continue.

  53. OpheliaIsARacistLiar says

    Hello racists* and potential rapists*

    Ophelia is lying through her false teeth again. The pushback has begun. Ophelia doesn’t realise that this is simply a very small taster of what is to come. We are going to expose you, we are going to humiliate you, we are going to sideline you from the atheist and skeptic communities. We document everything you say, promote your mistakes, and we WILL expose you, PZ, Twatson, and the other pieces of shit for what they are.

    We are Anonymous, we are One.

    *according to PZ and your lot. I, for one, would rather not self-proclaimed racista and potential rapists inhabited our community. Get the fuck out scumbags.

  54. OpheliaIsARacistLiar says

    “Oh, please. Shermer is spending zero effort to moderate his comments.”

    You mean “censor”, don’t you Ophelia?

    What’s up, Ophelia? Is the pushback getting you down? It’s only just begun.

  55. says

    Ya that’s Tuvok. He’s got this grandiosity thing going – like the ElevatorGATE clown who’s always calling himself a Brave Hero. I collected some of Tuvok’s grandiosity from Shermer’s hit post on me.

    To use one of Stephanie Svan’s famous phrases, don’t complain when the “pushback starts to get you down”. The community has started to pushback against the bullies and troublemakers at FTB, Skepchick and A+ (how’s that going? LOL), and the ball got rolling at TAM, where it was made clear just how much contempt and anger there is towards people like Ophelia.

    Finally, let us not forget Ophelia was involved in the rumourmill regarding a certain blacklist. Turns out the rumours were trivial, but that didn’t stop the bullies from trying to stir the pot.

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-12-12/#comment-7641

    Ophelia never calls anybody out that she likes and she certainly never owns up to her own mistakes.

    Ophelia Benson is a liar and a vindictive individual. A lot of people were glad she pulled out of TAM, and I’m sure TAM attendees would rejoice in her missing the next one as well. Ophelia is not welcome in our community.

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-12-12/#comment-7932

    Erm, Jen, that T-shirt was a fun, clever and harmless protest towards the foaming-at-the-mouth bullies in the form of various Skepchicks and Baboons who had for the previous week, done their very best to smear TAM, smear Grothe, and disseminate disinformation about the event.

    That T-shirt protest was nothing. A lot of people at TAM were bloody angry at the antics of people like Surly Amy, Svan, Myers, Laden, Watson, Ophelia, etc. and that is what resulted in the dismissive and hostile attitude towards certain people. Jen, it is called PUSHBACK, and there is going to be more of it. Get over it.

    You people don’t realise that the more you do your hit pieces on people in the community, the stronger we become, and the more determined we are to humiliate and sideline you in the community.

    We will prevail.

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-12-12/#comment-7968

    Well, one way to combat them is to hit the comment boards whenever one of them has an article, or a hit piece, etc. They control their own sphere and because of editing, memory holing, banhammers, etc. it is difficult to expose them on their patch. That is why whenever their is a post regarding atheism/skepticism, make your presence felt.

    We need to expose these nasty little bullies at each and every opportunity. Hit them hard in the places that they can’t censor, and the truth about them will become more and more apparant.

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-12-12/#comment-7966

  56. Utakata says

    @Ophelia Benson

    He seems to be a dangerously paranoid little man who seems to be wearing a tinfoil hat on too tight. And one perhaps in the need of professional intervention, since he seems to find it difficult understanding the difference between making personal threats, delusion and skepticism. This person is not well.

    @ThinkingSpeck.

    I don’t think Shermer is a sexist himself. Least not in the way the loons over at the Slyme Pit are sexist (see above). I think Shemer’s issue is much subbtle and likely born in privilege and ignorance. However, what Shermer said in context was sexist. To which he should retract and apologise for, instead hiding disingenuously behind everyone and their dog stumbling over each other in defending his indefensible statement. I think I am pretty clear on that.

  57. says

    I really enjoyed Shermer’s book, The Believing Brain, but only until I got to the part about politics. Needless to say, I disagree with his libertarian conclusions, so I’m not totally surprised that he’s similarly blinded by privilege when it comes to feminism. Fortunately, he’s not the only game in town when it comes to research involving religion and neuroscience–I recommend Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer.

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