Reputation management instructions


Justin Vacula has a typically clueless video responding to Stephanie’s post on his “advice” to feminists being harassed on the internet. Stephanie and athcyo combined to produce a transcript. I started emitting steam before I was halfway through the transcript. I want to say why.

My recommendations here, for people who face criticism and hate to reduce the criticism and hate, are very reasonable things people can do. It’s what Karla Porter refers to–and I’m sure many others–as reputation management. The way people present themselves [image of a tweet by Amanda Marcotte] has something to do with their perception, with the criticism they receive.

After all, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there are many women on the internet–there are many feminists on the internet, some of them including men, who write about feminism, who write about women’s issues, who write about anything given in the world, and they don’t receive the level of criticism, negative feedback, what Stephanie Zvan calls harassment and cyberstalking. [image of a Twitter exchange with EllenBeth Wachs] They don’t receive this.

So the situation is that some people negative criticism and pushback on the internet while other don’t. So there has to be some kind of reason why this is the case. Magical harassment fairies, magical cyberstalking fairies, magical negative dissenters–whatever you want to call them–don’t just appear out of thin air and criticize people on the internet. It doesn’t happen that way.

There’s a lot that’s wrong with that, and the commenters on Stephanie’s post do a good job of spelling it out. But one thing that particularly generated steam in my locality is the fact that the harassment we get is not remotely in proportion to anything we do. Not even close. Yet Vacula never even approaches an admission of that fact. He does the opposite. He claims there “has to be some kind of reason” that we get epic levels of harassment while others – nameless others, nonspecified others, conveniently vague and general others – don’t. Then he claims that harassment and cyberstalking fairies don’t just appear out of thin air and criticize people on the internet.

Oh yes they fucking do.

They do appear out of thin air and join an existing swarm of bullies harassing people – not “criticizing” them as Vacula yet again translates it, harassing them – on the internet. That swarm did form out of thin air when a few thugs who like to call women cunts and twats found each other on Abbie Smith’s blog. Yes it was out of thin air in the sense that what they claimed or pretended to be enraged about was always way too small and minor to warrant their rage and obsession.

There is no logic to it. It is not a product of reason, and there is no genuine “reason” for it. There’s just a large bunch of people having themselves a good time harassing a small number of other people. That’s it. They’re not “critics,” they’re not thoughtful, they don’t have good ideas, they don’t have anything.

But there has to be some reason behind it, right? These people aren’t just going to randomly pop up. So I give some advice for people. [image of a tweet from EllenBeth Wachs] And I really think that if you’re going to be on the internet, you’re going to be talking a big game, you’re going to be saying really nasty things about people–calling people “sexist”, calling people “misogynsist”–instead of approaching the situation in a different manner and being charitable and saying, “Well, maybe what you have to say there could have been reframed differently.” Instead of engaging in a call-out culture in which you’re going to talk about how your ideological opponents or whomever said this nasty thing–this alleged nasty thing–you can use the moment as an instructional tool [image of Vacula’s advice] and say something like, “Well, here’s how I would have said it. Here’s the message I think that’s being conveyed by this piece.” Not making it nasty; not saying nasty things about the people.

But Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, PZ Myers—they don’t do that. They’re very often very uncharitable, and they reach the worst conclusions possible. And I believe (and this is just my hypothesis) that the reason they receive the negative pushback is because of the way they present themselves on the internet.

And the reason that puny ugly little kid gets all the “negative pushback” is because she’s so puny and ugly. The reason that faggot gets all the “negative pushback” is because he’s a faggot. The reason that abortion doctor got all the “negative pushback” is because he was an abortion doctor. These people aren’t just going to randomly pop up. They’re going to pop up because you wrote something that they don’t like, and that entitles them to pursue you and harass you until the end of time. It happens that way.

 

 

Comments

  1. Anthony K says

    you’re going to be saying really nasty things about people–calling people “sexist”, calling people “misogynsist

    I see some people can’t handle criticism.

  2. says

    Most people who write blogs don’t get shot in the face. So it has to be entirely Malala’s fault, right?

    Actually, I don’t think even Vacula would stoop that low. But it’s exactly the same logic. A bad thing happened, so you must deserve it.

  3. doubtthat says

    Clothing : Sexual assault
    Woman having an opinion : internet harassment

    Very sad that this is the case.

  4. A Hermit says

    ” I really think that if you’re going to be on the internet, you’re going to be talking a big game, you’re going to be saying really nasty things about people–calling people “sexist”, calling people “misogynsist”–instead of approaching the situation in a different manner and being charitable and saying, “Well, maybe what you have to say there could have been reframed differently.”

    yeah, let’s be charitable to the people who are screaming “fucking bitch” and suggest nicely that they frame their sentiments differently.

    I’m sure that’ll work…o_O

  5. screechymonkey says

    It’s rare that someone reveals his or her “blame the victim” mentality so clearly. Usually it’s a little more subtle.

    [Vacula mode on]
    You know, lots of women are married to or living with men, and they don’t get abused. So the situation is that some people get abused by their partners while others don’t. So there has to be some kind of reason why this is the case.
    [Vacula mode off]

  6. screechymonkey says

    But really, Vacula has a point. I mean, if someone was to make a mildly worded statement about how a particular kind of interaction made them uncomfortable and that they would advise men not to do that, without calling people sexists or misogynists, that wouldn’t provoke a hostile and violent reaction. Nope, that would never happen.

  7. says

    Suppose I wrote something misogynist on the Internet, to the effect of describing a woman of my acquaintance using violent, genital-related imagery. How exactly, per Vacula, could what I wrote be “re[-]framed differently”? Even if others were being charitable and not inferring misogynist character from misogynist writing, it would not change that what I wrote was misogynist.

    (I’d like to think I haven’t made any misogynist statements online in the past, but I’m a fallible human being and a member of one of the most privileged categories of humans (white, straight-cis males – all I’m missing out on is being wealthy) so I wouldn’t rule it out, much as I would regret it.)

  8. says

    A guy who recently had to resign from a volunteer position with a secular organization because of a petition for his removal which had reached nearly a thousand signatures is giving unsolicited reputation management advice. Perfect.

  9. says

    Reputation management lessons from Justin Vacula? Is he trying to prove that old adage, “those who can’t do – teach”? *

    (*A adage that I in no way agree with, in spite of Justin’s efforts)

  10. rnilsson says

    Not all sentences in order. So. I now almost religiously follow the policy of Vaculalia; that is, pushing most of Justin’s utterances into Solar orbit to ultimately crash and burn. It can be recommended. In a manner of speech.

  11. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I don’t know what’s more staggering – the lack of self-awareness or the cluelessness that the lack of self-awareness is so obvious.

  12. ManchurianCandidate says

    They do appear out of thin air and join an existing swarm of bullies harassing people – not “criticizing” them as Vacula yet again translates it, harassing them – on the internet. That swarm did form out of thin air when a few thugs who like to call women cunts and twats found each other on Abbie Smith’s blog. Yes it was out of thin air in the sense that what they claimed or pretended to be enraged about was always way too small and minor to warrant their rage and obsession.

    They appear out of thing air, do they? Now that doesn’t sound very skeptical or rational. The people who appeared out of “thin air” were actually created by yourself, PZ, Laden, Zvan, Christina, etc. You started harassing people, calling people rapists, slandering people as misogynist, then you are going to create PUSHBACK. You tried to silence them, DMCA them, close their Twitter accounts…only for them to come back stronger and in more numbers.

    Further, don’t come out with this crap about the term “cunt”, by someone who has refused to condemn Greg Laden’s threats of violence, the constant “die in a fire” rhetoric of FTB commentators, and Rhys Morgan’s constant use of the term.

    You are a liar and a hypocrite, Ophelia. The PUSHBACK will continue.

  13. Anthony K says

    You are a liar and a hypocrite, Ophelia.

    Do you call out your fellow Slymepitters for their hypocrisy?

    How about Mykeru’s violent threats?

    How about Reap Paden’s doxxing of people?

    How about Vacula’s lies and inability to follow his own advice?

    You people have absolutely no fucking standing for calling out hypocrisy.

  14. athyco says

    screechymonkey @ 8:

    But really, Vacula has a point. I mean, if someone was to make a mildly worded statement about how a particular kind of interaction made them uncomfortable and that they would advise men not to do that, without calling people sexists or misogynists, that wouldn’t provoke a hostile and violent reaction. Nope, that would never happen.

    I lol’ed, but it was a curt, gutteral “Ha!” Don’t we need a word for the emotional combination of a flash-of-anger-over-ignorance / humorous enjoyment?

    Schadenfreude doesn’t work because the willfully ignorant/hypocritical party isn’t suffering. Shouldafreude?

  15. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    ManchurianCandidate wrote:

    Further, don’t come out with this crap about the term “cunt”, by someone who has refused to condemn Greg Laden’s threats of violence, the constant “die in a fire” rhetoric of FTB commentators, and Rhys Morgan’s constant use of the term.

    Yay! I get to cross ‘false equivalence’ of this thread’s bingo card.

    Please, feel free to cite examples of these threats, this ‘constant’ rhetoric and Rhys Morgan’s ‘constant’ use of the term. You know, with timestamps showing just how frequently – and recently – they took place.

  16. A. Noyd says

    ManchurianCandidate (#16)

    Further, don’t come out with this crap about the term “cunt”, by someone who has refused to condemn…the constant “die in a fire” rhetoric of FTB commentators….

    Hey, stupid fucker, Ophelia came out against the use of “die in a fire” in July 2011. (And a year later she explained why she edited rather than deleted the comment that used it, effectively coming out against it again.) And the rest of your bullshit accusations are equally barren of substance. But we know you nasty little shitheads have never let trivial things like facts stand in the way of trying to invent justifications for your harassment.

    And—news flash—even if Ophelia were every bit as morally deficient as you assholes love to pretend, that’s still not an excuse to harass, impersonate, lie about, and spam her.

  17. athyco says

    ManchurianCandidate @ 16:

    They appear out of thing air, do they? Now that doesn’t sound very skeptical or rational. The people who appeared out of “thin air” were actually created by yourself, PZ, Laden, Zvan, Christina, etc. You started harassing people, calling people rapists, slandering people as misogynist, then you are going to create PUSHBACK.

    You want me to name one who appeared out of thin air? The Atheist Asshole. Do a little research of what he’s observed directly–it’s been less than 2 months since he got involved. He’s got a website by that name. That’ll take you to his YouTube account. He tweets regularly nowadays with his new buddy Rocko2466.

    He’s stated outright multiple times that he’s not read many things on this issue for himself–his willingness to ignore Dawkins’ 9th commandment, “Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others,” could almost be termed absolute. Sheeesh, he goes to great lengths to relate his ignorance at the beginning of his video about Ophelia. He goes by rumor (his term in his latest video and in the comments) personal anecdote, mind reading, double standards, and the unsupported evaluation of others. He avoids debating his case with “small fry” by not answering at all or by deciding their tone makes them uninteresting to him. If you made up a list of things to identify someone who’s knowledgeable of the specifics of what’s been said/done with this rift over the passage of time, The Atheist Asshole would fail it–miserably.

    Yet from three of five tweets from Ophelia to him, he’s got a 19-minute video, 30 minutes on a podcast, blog posts, another YouTuber making a video in his “honor,” Lee Moore touting him for a “truce” with Ophelia (but not willing to look into how he’s keeping it), others dubbing him #BraveHero for the “attack” rather than the “truce.”

    Since his “success,” he’s moved on to other targets (virtually never their content), even though they’ve neither said nor done anything to him. What do they have in common? (1) Visibility and (2) already targeted by others. If he gets links on the topic from a relative nobody? They’re not good enough. A relative nobody makes a similar argument from similar facts? He’s the king of “meh,” What’s fueling his new-found focus and activity if it’s not the topic and not responses from his more visible targets? Who’s egging him on; what’s keeping the “meh” at bay?

    Such participants ought to be an embarrassment, yet they’re rewarded. Numbers alone should not be what counts.

  18. tonyinbatavia says

    Cha-ching! It’s been a while, but ManchurianCandidate just gave me another reason to contribute to the “You Hate (and Threaten Continued Big, Strong, Manly-Man All-Caps ‘Pushback’), Ophelia Profits!” fund. Congratulations, ManchurianCandidate, money has just been transferred to Ophelia Benson on your behalf. You truly are a very special person.

  19. says

    That’s a lot of lying in one comment @ 16 – but that’s standard for the swarmers. As athyco A Noyd said, I did condemn “die in a fire” and I said don’t say that. And as for Rhys, I have argued with him about that. He’s wrong about that one thing but he’s no friend to misogynist assholes, and in fact he too is harassed by them.

    Swing and a miss. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just another rent-a-nym who won’t have to deal with any consequences of lying and trolling.

  20. says

    I had a boring twit on twitter telling me Ophelia made him into a pitter… Whenever I’ve asked them before about the hideous experience that so traumatised them I usually get no link as its “gone” or something. But with this one I found the thread where he was insulted and his opinions derided. Yup just his opinions, arguments and what he *wrote* was derided and that terrible treatment was enough to turn him into a pitter apparently. This is the offending comment from what I can discern I wonder how you should have “framed” it to be accepted by “Philip” and for him not to cheer on the harassment campaign. To be fair he is a very polite British harasser in that the worst insult he can come up with is “odious weasel”, and I think that required a spell on the fainting couch to recover from. Looking further on you even took the time to explain that the term “male-normal” that he took so much offence to was not what he thought it was. Finally you got bored with him and his friend derailing the conversation to make it all about them and politely asked him to leave.

    You really deserved that hater! If there was such a thing as a professional victim I’m sure they’d manage a bit more actual insult and unpleasantness to get their harassers than that. I’m really not sure you are earning your money there, more like shooting fish in a barrel than a professional performance. How do I sign up for the pro-victim millions, looks like easy money as I’m much more of an asshole to people online than that, without even trying! In fact I was to him on Twitter, but I somehow doubt I’ll be worthy for some reason…

  21. says

    @athyco, yeah Anton came out of nowhere… I was following him for some reason when he had his little snub from Ophelia — she wouldn’t *prove* the Slymepit is misogynistic therefore she was a bad skeptic! I had a very long twitter convo as I just could not understand why her refusal to ping him a link when he knows she has a fricken blog was such a big deal… He wouldn’t let it go. Even so I really didn’t see the daft response of a 30min video or whatever it was on the subject after a week or more simmering about it… Let alone him carrying on with it. What is that all about, I don’t get the mentality.

    He recently blocked me after I criticised him tweeting to Melody that she was minimising PTSD by daring to suggest she has it from cyber-bullying. What did he base this on…. Personal fucking experience! A one second Google gets you *first* result a citation for PTSD from cyberbullying. But yeah, he is totally a great skeptic and not at all an “asshole” for condescendingly explaining to someone he doesn’t know and who surely doesn’t want his opinion that they cannot have PTSD just cos he knows some people with PTSD. No research required…

  22. Artemis says

    ManchurianCandidate (16):

    You started harassing people, calling people rapists,…

    That is a pretty serious accusation. Whom has Ophelia called a rapist and where? Can you please provide a link? Otherwise I will be inclined to think that you are making it up.

  23. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Oolon wrote:

    I had a boring twit on twitter telling me Ophelia made him into a pitter…

    What odd logic. There isn’t anything that a person could write or say or do which would make me forget that concepts like equality and diversity were necessary to being rational. I suspect what he really means is that what Ophelia wrote offended him so much he stopped pretending to not be an asshole, and then found a bunch of assholes in the scum-hole who’d cheer him on.

  24. says

    oolon, I saw those PTSD tweets – oh wait you know that, because I tweeted my amazed disgust at you. Sneering incredulity that anyone could actually be harmed by non-stop harassment – incredulity coming from someone who engages in non-stop harassment himself. It’s like hitting someone with a rock while sneering, “You’re not seriously telling me that hurts are you?!”

    Blegh. Pond scum.

  25. Aratina Cage says

    These people aren’t just going to randomly pop up.

    *self-face-smack* Tell that to Rebecca Watson. These “random people” have been popping up since day one! (Hello, Vacula! Elevatorgate Man himself was a random person.)

  26. maudell says

    @Arthemis

    I remember Ophelia calling people rapists.

    She called the guys who gangraped and murdered (euphemism) a young woman in India rapists.

    She called those who did the same in South Africa rapists.

    I’m sure she called priests who raped children rapists.

    I bet you they are all pitters now. You see? Manchurian has a point here.

  27. athyco says

    Ophelia @ 23:

    As athyco said, I did condemn “die in a fire” and I said don’t say that.

    That was A. Noyd, with the ever-impressive links, too. I’m happy with the transcript nod, especially since that “magical harassment theories, magical cyberstalking theories, magical negative dissenters” crap deserved to be in print to embarrass Vacula. I was squinch-faced with irritated boredom listening to it until that point; that dismissive phrase set me to transcribing.

  28. reinderdijkhuis says

    Oh yeah, time to donate in “honour” of ManchurianCandidate. Last time I did. I accidentally donated to the entire FTP network instead, so I still owe you one.

  29. Bjarte Foshaug says

    My recommendations here, for people who face criticism and hate to reduce the criticism and hate, are very reasonable things people can do. It’s what Karla Porter refers to–and I’m sure many others–as reputation management.

    …says the guy with one of the worst reputations in the whole atheosphere (It couldn’t be more deserved). To take “reputation management” instructions from Vacula is like taking flying instructions from a walrus.

  30. says

    @Wowbagger, unfortunately I probably have to agree. I say unfortunately as I usually assume people are inherently ok and not assholes, but its hard to explain some of the insensitivity displayed just to win some internet debate game. It probably arises from people generally not being assholes to me for the sake of it, even when I deserve it. So one of those privilege things that doesn’t exist and we all beat each other up over in the A+ forum ;-)

  31. says

    It’s quite weird that Vacula thinks he’s in a position to give advice, considering that the community at large seems go against his line.

    Or, at least, from my perspective it is, what with how I keep seeing all the, ahem, “gender ideologues” getting speaking gigs and enjoying their time, while the only place I can think of that would give us an insight into the ‘pitter side’s influence is…TAM. Vacula himself has no speaking gigs to my knowledge.

    So…where exactly are all these invisible moderates that Vacula et al think we need to appease by following this ‘advice’?

    I also wonder about TAM…is that going to end up becoming the ‘slymepit convention’, so to speak? The place where all the privileged, anti-social justice, right-leaning/libertarian types gather to talk about anti-vaxers and Bigfoot? Because that looks like what’s happening, at least based on how speaking engagements and conferences are shaping up from my (admittedly biased) perspective.

  32. athyco says

    I had a boring twit on twitter telling me Ophelia made him into a pitter…

    oolon, with your reply to Wowbagger, I went back up to see what he’d said. Reading this quote for a second time, I’ve now got a melody running through my head. Oh, scary crap, I just may be able to write a jaunty show tune that starts with this. Might have to lose the word “into.” :)

  33. athyco says

    Oh, even scarier crap, leebrimmicombe-wood. Now my jaunty show tune is morphing into something between “How Soon Is Now?” and “You Should Have Been Nice to Me.”

    *silent scream*

  34. Laurence says

    This whole thing that’s been going on for however long it has been has made me not want to be identified as a skeptic ever. I never really identified as one before (I typically prefer the term atheist) but now I definitely don’t want to. I care much more about how I treat people than I do about being “skeptical” (whatever that means). Now, I think I’m just going to start criticizing all self-proclaimed skeptics for not being skeptical enough because they believe in things like objects external to the mind with no good reason. Come on skeptics, if you can’t take Ophelia’s word on something that’s obviously pretty common to women on the internet, then you definitely shouldn’t trust that your senses are telling you the truth about there being a world external to the mind. Sorry to post off topic Ophelia, but that’s been something that’s been on my mind lately. I’m sorry for all the shit that you’ve had to continuously deal with. I hope it gets better.

  35. UnknownEric is just a spudboy, looking for a quantum tomato. says

    In my head this is sung by Morrissey.

    I was reading the slymepit on the Internet
    and heaven knows I’m miserable now
    I was looking for some jerks and then I found some jerks
    and heaven knows I’m miserable now…

  36. ChasCPeterson says

    what they claimed or pretended to be enraged about was always way too small and minor to warrant their rage and obsession

    Key observation.
    One has to speculate that their current targets are just convenient scapegoats for…larger issues; they’re just generally immature enough to always have to make their displaced ‘dissent’ personal and nasty.
    [/psy]

  37. fastlane says

    They do appear out of thin air and join an existing swarm of bullies harassing people – not “criticizing” them as Vacula yet again translates it, harassing them – on the internet.

    No no no. When we criticize them, it’s harassment or bullying, when they actually bully, cyberstalk, and harass, it’s criticism.

    Got it.

  38. monkeymind says

    Pretty sure that one of the things people with actual expertise in reputation management will tell you to do is to flag inappropriate content, fake twitter accounts, etc. on 3rd-party blogs, and to not allow rabid, hateful commenters on your own blog.* Did someone perhaps use some buzzword he learned the other day in order to make himself sound impressive and authoritative, while not really understanding what it’s all about?

    Not to minimize the other kinds of harm it causes, but my impression is that this type of internet harassment is not an especially serious problem for reputation management. Comments on anonymous forums and low-traffic blogs are easily pushed down the search results by mentions on more reputable websites.

    Also, once they have recovered from high school, most people realize that actually accomplishing something in life is not the same as making everybody like you. Vacula and his coterie are not the internet, they are not the gatekeeper of anything worthwhile. Even if they have a corner on one segment of the skeptical/atheist movement, so what? They don’t want volunteers with a proven track record of successful fundraising? It’s their loss.

    * And then of course there is the sleazy segment of the reputation management biz that spams the web with negative comments, then tries to market their services to the targets. If you get a markeiing email from the Slymepit’s house expert on “reputation management”, I’d be suspicious. Just sayin.

  39. johnthedrunkard says

    The slime are just disgusting. Lock stock and barrel.

    Secondary to them, but probably the more significant problem, is the unwillingness of ‘normal’ folks to recognize that these shits exists.

    There is a recent book in which an author recounts suffering a campaign of web harassment from a deranged ex-student. He, or the reviewer on Slate/Salon/Daily Beast, that the harm of this kind of attack is multiplied by the ‘Just World’ fallacy. ‘Where there’s smoke there might be fire,’ is on the same spectrum as ‘of course he raped and murdered his 5 year-old daughter–she wasn’t veiled.’

    When I was facing daily beatings from school-yard bullies the response of school authorities was ALWAYS to blame me. There is some ghastly sticking point, seemingly built into people, by which they blind themselves to pure evil unless it strikes them directly.

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