Locked up in a room with her hands, mouth and face bound for four days »« Can anyone explain?

Crude examples of the genus Homo

Eric has a post about The mad anti-feminist stance of the male atheist fringe. Guess what: he doesn’t find the stance entirely impressive.

I have been following — at a distance — the dispiriting farrago of abuse and obscenity aimed at feminist atheists and their supporters. All the completely contemptuous remarks and stultifyingly offensive use of scatological and twatological language to try to get women freethinkers and sceptics to shut the fuck up. It’s simply bizarre, and, from what I can tell, quickly becoming an obsession of a small marginal group of rather crude examples of the genus Homo who seem to think they have a right to use whatever insulting language they choose.

And not just a legal right, but a moral right, a political right, a social right. They seem to think they have every possible kind of right, and indeed duty.

Why do people think, just because you can throw insults at people from a distance, that it is an appropriate thing to do? And why do people think that addressing their often obscene remarks both at women freethinkers and at the men who support them is something that is within the pale of any movement, let alone one that is intended to shine the light of reason onto the human scene?

I don’t know. I used to wonder, but I got tired of the futility, so I stopped.

One thing that does concern me about all this is that Michael Shermer seems to have lost the plot. He said something stupid. Ophelia Benson called him on it. But instead of simply saying, “Sorry,” and left it at that, he just had to go into a long rigmarole – he couldn’t help it, I guess — a male tic, apparently – that has a tendency to defend what he said, suggest that it was simply said as a matter of routine, because that’s the way it was when, and then pillory Ophelia for calling him on it in the first place. It makes no sense to me.

It does to me. He’s vain, for one thing, and a shallow thinker, for another. That’s all really. His vanity was outraged because I, some upstart, dared to criticize something he said, and he didn’t see my point because he didn’t bother to try. Put the two together and you get the mess he made.

Let’s get this quite straight, shall we? Women play as important a role in the freethought movement as men.

Damn right.

Comments

  1. A Hermit says

    “not just a legal right, but a moral right, a political right, a social right. They seem to think they have every possible kind of right, and indeed duty.”

    This^ Some of these people seem to think they have an obligation to be as offensive as possible.

  2. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I think we’ve got to keep pushing why it is they’re doing it – and that’s a very important point, at least as far as I can tell, since it’s not just because it’s a good laugh to make women feel bad; many of them are doing it specifically to silence the people who are trying to make changes in the atheist community, to protect their privileged positions.

    I honestly don’t think they’re all necessarily overt misogynists – but they’re willing to use the tools available to them in order to preserve the status quo, and that includes that particular kind of abuse.

  3. A. Noyd says

    Wowbagger (#2)

    I think we’ve got to keep pushing why it is they’re doing it…

    Reading that thread over at Michael Nugent’s, it’s amazing to see the mythology they’ve built up over why they do it.

    …but they’re willing to use the tools available to them in order to preserve the status quo, and that includes that particular kind of abuse.

    Almost like the tools are using them. They just like the result well enough not stop and say, hey, wait a sec, the is utterly fucked up.

  4. great1american1satan says

    On the why -
    I’ve avoided reading too much mildew because Yuck, but on Nugent’s post I ended up reading their side in the comments. I wasn’t quite aware of their specific grievances until then, but now it makes a tiny bit more sense. They see Abby’s tale, and probably Vacula’s more recent failure at CFI, and think there’s a dedicated contingent of horrible oppressors threatening people’s livelihoods for the crime of occasionally using off color language. If I gather that correctly.
    I’m not sure what to say to that, aside from Bullshit.

    The evils of 4chan are an occasional topic of discussion in my household. Example: telling people with eating disorders to kill themselves. But 4channers see themselves as awesome heroes. Why? I guess they saved a poor little kitty from abuse one time. I think slymers are about the same: Harass someone to the edge of collapse using disgusting sexual, ableist, ageist, slurs, but hey I told a guy who believes in bigfoot that he’s stupid one time, so it evens out. Right?

  5. says

    Feel free to tell me not to pry, but what happened to Eric MacDonald blogging here on FtB, as announced by many two weeks ago?

  6. bad Jim says

    Shermer is, as far as I can tell, perversely contrarian. He had to publish a piece at Scientific American claiming that leftists are anti-science, too, and Chris Mooney took him to task in Mother Jones for false equivalence, if not High Broderism.

    (I know there’s still a lot of anger at Mooney hereabouts, but the kid keeps evolving; he even admitted that the New Atheists seemed to be doing something right. I’m not willing to write him off.)

    Dave W., he wrote about it here. It doesn’t seem to have been a big deal.

  7. bad Jim says

    I’m going to tender a profoundly unsatisfactory hypothesis for why so many people do such thoughtless and harmful things. It also explains why most major newspapers and opinion leaders supported the invasion of Iraq, whose tenth anniversary is this month, and the intransigence of the Republican Party in Congress.

    There’s an enthusiastic audience for it.

    That’s it. There’s no thought behind it of any kind, no facts, no principles. People decide their position based upon the positions of their chosen peers: I’m to the right of this person, to the left of that one, so I take my place in line, and since I belong to the crowd I’m a serious person (or virtuous, or strong, or whatever). Relatively few people have the confidence or security to think independently and risk unpopularity; being part of a crowd is easy and guarantees approval.

    It’s futile to try to understand the reasoning behind something when there never was any to begin with.

  8. says

    bad Jim,

    Interesting that you should mention Mooney in this, because he and Shermer and Vacula and a few others seem to share a common trait: the belief that they are entitled to a certain level of deference and respect because of who they are, because they have made themselves Very Important People. You get the feeling that they were all really popular in high school and college, ran some clubs and were on student council, real social go-getters. They’ve always been the big fish in the little pond, even as the ponds got bigger. Now that the “movements” are getting bigger than their ponds, they are desperately jealous of their “big fish” positions. They feel the need to crush the usurpers, who have done nothing wrong but create their own ponds… not that they take away someone else’s little pond, but that their existence shows how small the other ponds really are.

    For instance, TAM used to seem like a big deal, 7-8 years ago. And it was, then. It is still pretty big now, but it isn’t remotely the only game in town. Fact is, it is very expensive, and very far away from most people, and the organizers have felt the lack of growth and threw a temper tantrum that the “movement” is bigger but their fundraiser can’t draw the really big numbers anymore. Honestly, when Grothe threw his tantrum over the Skepchicks, what we SHOULD have thought of was the growth of SkepchickCon that takes place around the same time, costs less, is probably more fun because it doesn’t have the same speakers every year, and can be seen as stripping money from TAM.

    Libertarians. All they really care about is cash and privilege, the rest is smoke-screen.

  9. great1american1satan says

    Should I know who that git Jon is, commenting at Eric’s? Is it a luminary of Slyminess? Do I even want to be more familiar with these jerks?

  10. Stacy says

    They see Abby’s tale, and probably Vacula’s more recent failure at CFI, and think there’s a dedicated contingent of horrible oppressors threatening people’s livelihoods for the crime of occasionally using off color language.

    I know you know this is bullshit, great1american1satan, but to be clear, the ur-slimepit was on ERV’s blog before any of that happened. They attacked Rebecca Watson relentlessly, in sexist terms, for two crimes: 1) saying “guys, don’t do that,” and 2) criticizing Steph McGraw (the continuation of a public disagreement) in person while she was on a lecture stage and McGraw was in the audience.

    The lies and exaggerations and outrage about “threatening people’s livelihoods” are post hoc rationalizations for their behavior.

    You prolly know all that. Just wanted to underscore it.

  11. Stacy says

    Interesting that you should mention Mooney in this, because he and Shermer and Vacula and a few others seem to share a common trait: the belief that they are entitled to a certain level of deference and respect because of who they are

    To be fair I’ve never gotten that impression about Chris Mooney, Improbable Joe. (About Shermer, Vacula, and plenty of others, sure, but not him.) And I’m pretty sure he’s not a libertarian.

    The rest of your comment I agree with wholeheartedly.

  12. great1american1satan says

    Thx for the clarification, Stacy. I knew the Watson thing was the starting point, but I feel like the persecution complex is the thing that keeps them going. Maybe I’m just overthinking it. Bad Jim@8 had as good an explanation as any.

  13. says

    “not just a legal right, but a moral right, a political right, a social right. They seem to think they have every possible kind of right, and indeed duty.”

    This^ Some of these people seem to think they have an obligation to be as offensive as possible.

    I agree with Eric and A.Hermit above but its also the bystanders, to a degree Vacula although he seems to be showing his true colours more what with dramatic readings etc. They “hang out” at the pit, don’t agree with the language, hyperbole and bullying (Although they probably wouldn’t call it that) but say nothing. Well nothing other than its not for them, just a personal preference with no moral, social or political (Given the effect on the reputation of the “atheist movement”) compulsion to do anything about it. Because they have no legal compulsion to do anything they do nothing… Probably a great argument against libertarian/equity feminist approach of legal equality somehow magically equating to actual equality without the need for any positive action. If people don’t act on what is a moral imperative then nothing changes.

  14. bad Jim says

    Mooney screwed up again and again, it’s true. He was into framing with Matt Nisbet (though they’ve since quarreled and separated) and attacked atheists as a threat to promoting science, especially global warming and evolution. He’s backtracked since then, and apologized at least a little; now he seems mostly focused on climate change and trying to understand the phenomenon of Republican recto-cranial inversion. He’s on our side, mostly, and that matters to me.

    Ten years after the Iraq disaster, I’d strongly recommend wearing yourselves out wondering how anyone could be so fucking stupid. Being stupid is easy: just don’t think about it, go with the flow. If everybody you know is piling on to someone unpopular, dive right in. Everyone will cheer.

    When it comes to Iraq I could go all night citing chapter and verse, aluminum tubes and mobile weapons vans, how Hans Blix and El Baradei the very next day demonstrated that Colin Powell was full of it, but that would be entirely beside the point. That would be all about evidence and science and logic, and to a first approximation nobody actually thinks that way. Instead they ask somebody else, “What do you think?” and modify their views accordingly.

    It’s frustrating to try to figure out how someone else thinks if they don’t actually think. I’m embarrassed to recall how long it took for the dime to drop in that case, for me. The difference between them and me isn’t that I’m smarter or better informed, it’s that they don’t even bother.

    Paul Krugman is a fine counter-example, an independent thinker with nothing to lose, railing against zombie economics and Very Serious People, frustrated because few can tell the difference between a well-informed expert like him and a washed-up blowhard like Joe Scarsborough.

  15. bad Jim says

    R!

    strongly recommend against wearing yourselves out.

    Actually, banging your head against a wall can be briefly satisfying.

  16. Dunc says

    Never underestimate the psychological gratification that comes from imagining yourself to be a brave hero fighting a desperate battle against a legion of ruthless, evil oppressors. It’s a very similar dynamic to that which motivates fundies and anti-vaxxers… Think of it as a kind of 24/7 LARPing lifestyle.

  17. says

    Improbable Joe #9:

    For instance, TAM used to seem like a big deal, 7-8 years ago. And it was, then. It is still pretty big now, but it isn’t remotely the only game in town. Fact is, it is very expensive, and very far away from most people, and the organizers have felt the lack of growth and threw a temper tantrum that the “movement” is bigger but their fundraiser can’t draw the really big numbers anymore. Honestly, when Grothe threw his tantrum over the Skepchicks, what we SHOULD have thought of was the growth of SkepchickCon that takes place around the same time, costs less, is probably more fun because it doesn’t have the same speakers every year, and can be seen as stripping money from TAM.

    Libertarians. All they really care about is cash and privilege, the rest is smoke-screen.

    Not to mention, Vegas is fun capital of the world for extremely privileged people. It’s not the most inviting in general for people who aren’t rich and/or male.

    That being said, it’s really goddamn hard to say that libertarians and other right-wingers are worth keeping around if we keep finding them associated with other undesirable elements. Rachel Maddow had a segment earlier that touched on the Freedom Riders’ receptions in the South, and I couldn’t help but draw parallels between that crap and the sort of harassment thrown at feminist skeptics (the difference being, of course, that the Internet precludes the physical violence aspect). It’s like…why are so many people seemingly missing the big picture here?

  18. says

    Dave W @ 5 – for people who don’t click on the link – it was nothing to do with FTB substantively, it was the move from an independent blog to a network. Once he made the move he found it didn’t work for him, at all – was in fact profoundly uncomfortable.

    It’s sad, because it would have been great fun to have him as a neighbor, but given how uncomfortable it turned out to be for him, I’m glad he went back home and is able to blog there again.

  19. kaboobie says

    I went to TAM 9 and enjoyed most of the programming, but concluded quickly that Vegas was not for me and the cost of the event compared to similar events was not justified. That was prior to DJ’s accusations of female bloggers “scaring women away” from registering and the fallout over sexual harrassment policies, which solidified my resolve not to return to TAM and, further, led to my decision not to support the JREF financially any longer (despite my great respect for Randi).

    I’ve been attending Dragon*Con and the Skeptrack for a few years (though probably not this year) and am looking forward to WiS2 and CONvergence/SkepchickCon in the coming months!

  20. says

    Oh… I should have been clear in my comment about Mooney/Shermer/Vacula that I’ve never known Mooney to harass, assault, stalk, or even excessively bother his critics. I think he’s a political climber type like Vacula, but not a misogynistic douche-canoe, and I should have made that more explicit in my earlier comment.

  21. says

    That’s true. Mooney was kind of “stalking” generic new atheists for awhile, and that was the main reason I kept “stalking” him. I use scare quotes because I actually don’t think that counts as stalking, in either case. I do think Mooney was at that point building his career by repeatedly bashing an already-hated* group, and that that was a wrong thing to do, but it wasn’t nearly frequent enough to be stalking. Pff. Once a week or so, for a summer – probably less than that. No, that’s not stalking. Every day, hour, minute – that’s stalking.

    *Hated for bad reasons.

  22. atheist says

    @Setár, genderqueer Elf-Sheriff of Atheism+ – March 5, 2013 at 2:10 am (UTC -8)

    It’s like…why are so many people seemingly missing the big picture here?

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” –Upton Sinclair

  23. Smokey Dusty says

    If I may go off on a tangent…

    Shermer received a bit of a slap down from Nassim Nicholas Taleb recently. Seems he reviewed Talebs new book but misunderstood it. He also requested (in the review) a list of recommendations for policy makers. That material was already in the book. Maybe evidence of Shermer’s intellectual abilities.

  24. says

    The misogynist Kevin Solway is commenting at Eric’s place. It’s fascinating, in a train wreck sort of way. Here’s an example of his thoughts:

    There’s nothing about feminism that says you have to believe that women are identical to men, or that you have to believe that women are, on average, equally as rational as men.

    Men and women are different. Men tend to be better at some things, and women tend to be better at others. That’s perfectly compatible with feminism, and in fact is essential for any kind of true feminism.

    Separate but equal!

  25. says

    Ahh Kevin Solway, still one of the nuttier loons ever on here…

    I had a girlfriend at the age of ten, and within twelve months I felt that I had exhausted the possibilites of relationships with women.

    He got a bit upset about me spreading “lies” about him… By quoting from and linking to his website, so you better watch out Sally.

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