Record-straightening time

Update: A helpful informant got curious and did a little digging on Vacula’s timeline and came up with…quite a lot of Vacual prodding me to go on his podcast, just since March 3 – less than two months. To wit:

Mar 3, 6:35 PM Vacula: “Ophelia, you should be guest on future show” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/308360095786483713

Mar 3, 6:38 PM Porter: “we would love to have your humor @OpheliaBenson and TY for all the promotion.” https://twitter.com/karla_porter/status/308360678056538112

Mar 4, 2:18 PM Benson: “And no, I’m not calling in to your stupid podcast.” https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/308657805366267904

Mar 4, 2:20 PM Vacula: “You wouldn’t want to have a candid productive conversation outside of Twitter? :(” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/308658344007176192

Mar 23, 7:27 PM Vacula: “45 chatters – too bad Ophelia Benson won’t call in, but she was a great promoter of our show!(Zvan, too, irrc)” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/315605861802319872

Mar 31, 6:20 PM Vacula: “Apparently, it’s OK to have a “Fuck the Pope” sign at #aacon13 – What if the sign said “Fuck Ophelia Benson?”” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/318487900843040768

Apr 5, 4:35 PM Vacula: “Happy to have discussion w picking up the phone – @opheliabenson too – Ophelia has my cell#” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/320273537510293504

Apr 5, 4:37 PM Vacula: “I’d be happy to talk – Ophelia refuses, though, invited her on podcast in July of 2012″ https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/320274046325510145

Apr 5, 4:39 PM Vacula: “When i was appointed to SCA position all of the haters had my cell# from press release (1/2)” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/320274550954803200

Apr 5, 4:40 PM Vacula: “Not one of the #ftbullies bothered to ask me questions, pick up the phone (2/2)” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/320274772690874368

Apr 5, 4:45 PM Vacula: “Hopefully people will want to have civil discussion @ #WIScfi -Really excited for convention” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/320275906218307586

Apr 27, 2:47 PM Vacula: “@opheliabenson – Your blog post mentioning @karla_porter gave me a good giggle. Tune in to #BraveHero Radio tonight and consider calling!” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/328218984191238144

Apr 27, 2:56 PM Porter: “Seriously, please call in @opheliabenson.” https://twitter.com/karla_porter/status/328221072078016512

Apr 27, 5:14 PM Vacula: “@opheliabenson We’d love to have her on the show. Too bad she’s unwilling to have discussion – but she is welcome regardless” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/328255930946957314

Apr 28, 12:59 PM Vacula: “Too bad Ophelia won’t come on #BraveHero but we appreciate early promo. Maybe she will chat at #wiscfi ?” https://twitter.com/justinvacula/status/328372980507889664

I saw some of those, and ones before March 3, and that is why that “Maybe she will chat at #wiscfi?” made me think he really did have a plan to get up in my face at WiS2 and try to force me to “chat” with him. I do not want that, so I attempted to pre-empt him by telling him not to.

Who, exactly, is “witch-hunting” here? Which of us, exactly, is harassing the other? Which of us is it who refuses to leave the other alone?

Vacula commenting on his own post:

It’s been quiet for the last two weeks or so, I think, but now PZ and Ophelia are fanning the flames once again. Along with their commenters, a threat narrative and an attempt to ban me from Women in Secularism 2/kick me out of the conference is being mounted. I’m not going to stand by and ignore what’s going on.

That’s staggeringly dishonest. This, again, is what started the “flames.”

brave

Justin Vacula tweets

@opheliabenson – Your blog post mentioning @karla_porter gave me a good giggle. Tune in to #BraveHero Radio tonight and consider calling!

Karla Porter tweets

@justinvacula Seriously, please call in @opheliabenson.

Justin Vacula tweets

@karla_porter@opheliabenson We’d love to have her on the show. Too bad she’s unwilling to have discussion – but she is welcome regardless

And then -

brave3

Justin Vacula tweets

@caias@OpheliaBenson@karla_porter Too bad Ophelia won’t come on #BraveHero but we appreciate early promo. Maybe she will chat at #wiscfi ?

I saw all of that only because some guy I don’t know included me in a reply to that tweet.

I am not the one who “fanned the flames” again.

Comments

  1. Ulysses says

    PZ and Ophelia are fanning the flames once again.

    AKA telling Vacula to leave them alone.

  2. says

    an attempt to ban me from Women in Secularism 2/kick me out of the conference is being mounted

    Is it? That’s news to me. I thought two attendees had indicated that they wanted to be left alone by him. They may have been forthright, but that’s not the same thing as attempting to ban someone or kick them out of the conference.

    I would say that Vacula is being economical with the truth…

  3. says

    Remind me again why this asshole is not being banned from the WIS conference? When someone is as much of a flaming asshole as Vaculous has repeatedly shown himself to be, common-sense principles of hospitality pretty much demand he be barred at the door — especially if there’s a reasonable chance his presence will be a problem for other attendees who are NOT flaming assholes.

  4. A Hermit says

    Banning him let’s him cry about how oppressed he is. Letting him show up means one of two things will happen;

    1) He’ll make an ass of himself desperately trying to get people’s attention.

    2) Nothing will happen and his big self promoting stunt fizzles completely.

    I’m betting on 2)…

  5. says

    So what if he’d enjoy being a “martyr?” Conference organizers aren’t responsible for his feelings or image, they’re responsible for organizing a conference and making it work. And besides, people like him take ANYTHING that happens to them as “vindication.” Whatever anyone says or does to Vaculous, he’ll say it proves he was always right about…whatever.

    And isn’t he already basking in “the cachet of being a martyr” before any decision is even made? Letting him show up where he clearly isn’t wanted and has no place won’t make him any less tedious or obnoxious. All it will do is make decent attendees feel less at ease there — which could be exactly what Vaculous wants to do.

  6. Josh, Official Spokesgay says

    For god’s sake. He already thinks he’s a martyr, he’s already got a following for it. It doesn’t matter WHAT anyone does. Their behavior is a known quantity and it cannot be mitigated by being super careful.

    I have no idea what the conference bosses said or did behind the scenes or why, but if it had been me he and other troublemakers would have been barred. With no apology because it’s obvious to reasonable people why. They cannot lie or distort any more than they already have.

    There is no benefit to civilized people by allowing them there. There is no action to take that will ward off more abuse. There are no good options except to say NO.

    I wish organizations would just understand this. And the rest of ya, friends.:)

  7. says

    @4: Martyrs generally have to be dead before being thought of as martyrs. Not wishing that on him. But no matter what happens, he’s going to claim victimhood.

    There is no scenario that he won’t spin into martyrdom. Not one.

    So, there being no way to change the outcome with regard to him, I say you should not worry about it. Ignore him. Make him the invisible man. Don’t be openly rude — you can’t be rude to someone who isn’t there. Just act as if there’s a human-shaped hole where he happens to be standing.

  8. Josh, Official Spokesgay says

    Ah, great minds and all.

    What we have is a tragedy of the commons situation. There’s no way to solve this problem without collective, consistent action. That requires big names at big organizations to draw a line and stick to it. But they will not. The result is more shit endured by Ophelia and company, up to and including blaming them for not “ignoring it.” This will only stop when big bosses get off their complacent, naive asses. I’m looking at you, mostly men.

  9. penn says

    Is anyone else amazed at what an entitled baby Justin is?

    You have no right to people’s attention. Other people can refuse to speak to you for any or no reason at all. That is their right. And reminding you about the consequences of breaking the rules is not a threat or intimidation, unless you were/are planning on breaking the rules. If someone tells me they’ll call the police if I steal their car, my response shouldn’t be to call them bullies, but to A) reassure them that I won’t steal their car, and B) reflect on what I might have done to make them think I’d steal their car. Maybe they’re crazy or completely unreasonable, but the conditional “threat” is perfectly legitimate. If I did steal their car, I should face the police. If Justin breaks conference rules, he should face the consequences. What is there even to argue about?

    Think if the tables were turned. If Justin said he didn’t want to talk to Ophelia or PZ, and that if they approached him he would file a formal complaint with the conference. Is their any doubt that Ophelia and PZ would just say “Sounds good.” and fucking move on like grown-ups?

  10. says

    So, there being no way to change the outcome with regard to him, I say you should not worry about it. Ignore him. Make him the invisible man.

    That’s not sufficient if the mere knowledge of his presence makes the conference less useful or enjoyable for any of the other attendees. It is the organizers’ responsibility to ensure, by reasonable means, that unpleasant or undesirable people are not invited in the first place. Letting an asshole show up and then expecting your other guests to ignore or tiptoe around him is a bit of a cop-out.

    Besides, I honestly think Vaculous’s entire objective here is just to make this conference as unenjoyable as he can — and he knows he can do that just by showing up. Then he can go back and use that to reinforce all that crap about how A+ is flailing and failing yadafuckinyada. So that’s another good reason to disinvite him.

  11. says

    Just not sitting down over a cold beer and thrashing out your little “disagreements” with him at the conference will be painted as a crime against free speech/ not skeptical/ just like creationists. So I’d say given he loses pretty much nothing from being kicked out and a lot of ppl going feel happier then the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the Vaculous. The conference however needs to be fair and has to follow the rules, so unless he states a Hoggle-like intention to harass he will have to be let in. I’m with those guessing he will quietly hang out with any pro-pit crowd at the conf and grumble quietly. When its over without a scene the ‘drama [slurs]‘ at FTBs will have been generating controversy over nothing again. Ignoring all the, at best, annoyance he created with his stunt. How long before his pals at AVfM like JohnTheOtter and Elam start playing for attention by invading feminist conferences, inspired by Damion and Vac?

  12. screechymonkey says

    You have no right to people’s attention

    That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it?

  13. says

    I say you should not worry about it. Ignore him. Make him the invisible man. Don’t be openly rude — you can’t be rude to someone who isn’t there.

    There’s nothing like a good shunning.

  14. smhll says

    “Along with their commenters, a threat narrative and an attempt to ban me from Women in Secularism 2/kick me out of the conference is being mounted.” [JV]

    This storyline isn’t being ‘mounted’, it’s being ‘framed’.

    Is that a framing hammer in your pocket, JV, or are you just happy to see FtBloggers squirm?

  15. Josh, Official Spokesgay says

    I’ve run half a dozen conferences. There’s no law, nor even any “standard practice” that says all comers must be allowed to register. I’d bar a problematic attendee with a keystroke and think nothing of it. I’d never allow the Vacula equivalent to come. It would be an insult to my constituency.

  16. carlie says

    There’s nothing like a good shunning.

    Ah, that’s what I was looking for. I kept being uncomfortable with all of the “ignore him” advice (even though I also gave some), because it seemed too close to the dumbass “ignore bullies and they’ll go away” crap that we know isn’t true. But shunning, now there’s a different story. It’s one thing to ignore somebody, it’s another to actively pretend that they are entirely invisible. Much more noticeable in intent. Yes, shunning. Eeeeeexcellent. [/Mr.Burns]

  17. says

    Can anybody tell me exactly who the hell Justin Vacula is? Or give me a link to some sort of information about him? I’ve tried reading his blog over at some place called Skeptic Ink and I assume from his air of self-importance that he is a major figure in the world of skepticism or atheism or something, but I’ve never heard of him as far as I can recall except for his asinine campaign of harassment of well-known writers documented here and by Stephanie Zvan and so on. Every time I read one of these pieces in which he or one of the other harassers is involved I feel as if I had come into a theater in the middle of a play. Is there some place I could at least get a program for it?

  18. theoreticalgrrrl says

    He actually calls himself “BraveHero”?? I thought you guys were kidding about that.

    He keeps calling you #ftbullies but is suprised when you don’t want to come on his show. His hostility is right there, out in the open. His mind is already made up, you are the bad guys.

  19. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    theoreticalgrrrl wrote:

    He actually calls himself “BraveHero”?? I thought you guys were kidding about that.

    There are two reasons why no-one on our side bothers to parody the ‘pitters: 1) because it adds nothing to the discussion, and 2) because we can’t actually make them look any more foolish and contemptible than they do themselves.

  20. Stacy says

    Can anybody tell me exactly who the hell Justin Vacula is?

    He’s a pissant drama llama trying to make a name for himself by stirring up shit. He begs people who are orders of magnitude smarter than him for attention, and when they don’t give it to him he sobs that he’s being oppressed.

  21. Ulysses says

    To add to Stacy’s description of Vacula @23, he’s a believer in free speech (or FREEZE PEACH as it’s sometimes called). However free speech only goes one way. He feels he’s free to say anything he wants. However any criticism of his statements is denial of his free speech. Ophelia’s desire that Vacula not talk to her at WIS is denying him free speech. He has the right to bother her and all she should be allowed to do is listen to his rants and roars BECAUSE FREEZE PEACH!

  22. says

    I don’t know what Mr. Vacula is suffering from but there must be something wrong with him if he really can’t see why someone might not want to have a “civilised discussion” with him about why they should not be sexually assaulted.

    As an aside if I were Ophelia or PZ I actually would be seeking to have him barred from WIS. Moreover I make this promise that if we turns up to any event I organise, he will be unceremoniously thrown out. I see no reason why anyone should tolerate the likes of him.

  23. hjhornbeck says

    sbh @19:

    Can anybody tell me exactly who the hell Justin Vacula is? Or give me a link to some sort of information about him?

    A good start would be Zvan’s petition, though that’s a bit outdated.

    Josh @17:

    I’ve run half a dozen conferences. There’s no law, nor even any “standard practice” that says all comers must be allowed to register. I’d bar a problematic attendee with a keystroke and think nothing of it.

    Hey, I agree. There is no obligation to welcome everyone into your conference. CFI are free to digitally tear up his ticket and email him the pieces with a full refund.

    They won’t. And I don’t think they should, either. Remember Adam Lee’s petition, and Rocko’s counter? They make a pretty good estimate of how much support the anti-FtB/SkepChick side has within the atheist/skeptic community.

    And it ain’t a lot. They’re outnumbered a good 20:1 by people who oppose their tactics. I know a lot of you don’t want to engage with people like Vacula, and that’s fine. No-one’s obligated to be an activist, to get into a debate or argument with someone who hold abhorrent views.

    But if only 1 in 10 of us are willing to debate, argue, or whathaveyou, then 9 don’t have to. And in a room full of social-justice loving skeptics and atheists, I think you’ll have no trouble finding that one.

    So let Vacula come. Let him set up his radio show and talk (LIVE!) to his ten listeners. Let him dream his dreamy dreams of being a big man in secularism. All he’s doing is introducing himself as “that guy who spams conference Twitter feeds” to a wider audience, and in so doing isolating himself further in a corner. He’s turning 20:1 into 40:1 or worse, and make it easier on those who don’t want to deal with him.

  24. says

    But shunning, now there’s a different story. It’s one thing to ignore somebody, it’s another to actively pretend that they are entirely invisible. Much more noticeable in intent.

    Shunning is problematic. On the one hand, giving the cold shoulder is my preferred weapon of choice. However, like anything it exists in a continuum of social interaction. Taken to extremes it can be a form of bullying. Shunning within religious communities has been documented as a tool of social control.

    Until recently I lived in Sweden where (I am in danger of descending into national stereotyping) I met many Swedes who would win medals at the passive-aggression Olympics. There, shunning is a not-uncommon response to dealing with unwanted people, or outsiders. As someone who found himself on the receiving end, for reasons which are complicated and partially my fault, I can tell you it ain’t pretty.

    if I were Ophelia or PZ I actually would be seeking to have him barred from WIS

    As a non-attendee it’s easy for me to say that this benefits no-one. After all, I’m not a target. I’m just some bloke shouting encouragement from the sidelines. But I do think this plays into his hands. For a long time now he and the ‘pitters have scrabbled for any evidence of FTB bullying and what they have offered up is thin gruel; mostly manufactured outrage. I’d be loathe to give them something more substantive that they would milk from here until the heat-death of the Universe.

  25. 'dirigible says

    “You have no right to people’s attention.”

    Or their participation.

  26. oursally says

    You are letting this creep hijack your blog. Every other entry is about him. I personally do not know who he is, except for a pain in the neck, and I don’t care, and if I did twitter I would not follow him. Please stop letting him wind you up. Bring back the real Ophelia.

  27. carlie says

    lee – oh yes, it can be terrible. I just meant it could be a very good strategy for WIS in particular.

    oursally – why? So you don’t have to be confronted with the fact that the blog owner is getting constantly harassed? It’s not exactly fun for her, either. If she stopped writing about it, she’d be the only one who knows what a creep he’s being towards her. This way, hopefully either he gets a sense of shame about it and stops, or everyone else learns about it and avoids him.

  28. says

    if I were Ophelia or PZ I actually would be seeking to have him barred from WIS

    As a non-attendee it’s easy for me to say that this benefits no-one. After all, I’m not a target. I’m just some bloke shouting encouragement from the sidelines. But I do think this plays into his hands. For a long time now he and the ‘pitters have scrabbled for any evidence of FTB bullying and what they have offered up is thin gruel; mostly manufactured outrage. I’d be loathe to give them something more substantive that they would milk from here until the heat-death of the Universe.

    Vacula is a complete non-entity, someone I had never heard of until a few months ago. I have no idea what this slimepit is, nor do I really care. But one thing is clear, if someone is going to publicly advocate violence then against attendees of a meeting it’s quite reasonable to bar that person. So what if Vacula would interpret this as bullying? There’s not much point in worrying about how this paranoid person sees the world, especially as hardly anyone will be taking any notice of him.

  29. Brian E says

    Please stop letting him wind you up. Bring back the real Ophelia.

    Stop hitting yourself Ophelia! If you ignore them, they go away. Bullies are cowards, you must not be standing up to them if they’re bullying you. Etc.

    This reminds me of Steve Zara’s pompous post ages ago, when he chastised Ophelia for not rising above it all and setting a better example (I paraphrase), when Ophelia asked him if he’d said the same thing to the harassers, I think he left a comment about her being a leader, and buggered off quick smart.

    Why is it Ophelia’s responsibility to weather this crap, keep a stiff upper lip, and act all cordial? Is it because she’s a woman, and woman deserve no better?

  30. says

    Until recently I lived in Sweden where (I am in danger of descending into national stereotyping) I met many Swedes who would win medals at the passive-aggression Olympics.

    They’ll have to compete with Minnesotans for those medals.

  31. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Oursally, when you are obsessively harassed and lied about you can deal with it any way you like. Ophelia does not write her blog just for you. So, if you’d like to pretend that this isn’t happening to her so that she can write about things you like without the inconvenience of knowing the awful shit she’s being forced to go through, too bad. That’s a selfish and callus attitude you’ve put on display and childishly insulting as well. The “Real Ophelia” is being targeted. So are many women who dare to speak or write about their experiences in our community. That is important. That is information people need to know. You may not care about the treatment of women in the a/s community, but decent people in that community do. Demanding that this blogger preform for you without bothering you with the fact of her harassment is staggeringly entitled and dismissive. So instead of being a brat about it, the next time you see an entry you don’t want to read, why not just skip it? I hardly think you’d be put out by finding something else to do with your time.

    That goes for everyone whining that they don’t like what Ophelia is blogging about. Go start your own blog and if you are ever harassed or the focus of a dishonest smear campaign, feel free not to write about it. That’s your choice.

  32. Brian E says

    Go start your own blog and if you are ever harassed or the focus of a dishonest smear campaign, feel free not to write about it. That’s your choice.

    I wish I’d posted this.

  33. says

    But I do think this plays into his hands. For a long time now he and the ‘pitters have scrabbled for any evidence of FTB bullying and what they have offered up is thin gruel; mostly manufactured outrage. I’d be loathe to give them something more substantive that they would milk from here until the heat-death of the Universe.

    So you’d just let him show up where he’s not wanted, regardless of the feelings and interests of the other attendees, just to avoid giving them an excuse to do something they’re already doing?

    There’s a perfectly valid reason not to let Vaculous attend: “Because he has a track record of being an obnoxious jerk who has nothing to offer, and who has shown zero respect for any of the stated goals of this conference.” The only people who won’t buy that are his own fanboys and fellow morons — and they’re already screaming about “FTBULLIES!!!!” and will keep on doing so until they die, regardless of what anyone here does.

    Caving to bullies only give us more bullying, no matter what transparently lame rationalizations we offer for it.

  34. says

    @27. Yes. Precisely. Social control.

    This is a person who does not understand the basic rules of human interaction. An effective tool for social control of people who do not understand basic rules of human interaction is to ignore him.

    Works great with 4-year-olds.

    I don’t see why you think this is “problematic”. It’s exactly and precisely the objective. To nonviolently demonstrate to him that his behavior is unacceptable and that he is not regarded as a member of the community.

    Another effective tool would be a good spanking. But I’m against corporal punishment in general.

  35. Shari says

    oursally brings up a point that needs to be answered loudly and clearly -

    I would bet dollars to donuts that Ophelia and all FTBloggers would like to working more on social issues that aren’t initiated by personal attacks.

    Stephanie and Ophelia don’t need heroes. The support they get here is good to see. I don’t follow all skeptic blogs but it would be cool to see more Non-targeted skeptics publicly laying out condemnation of this harassment. I think it would be grand if people talk about it – tweet about it – blog about it – even more – until people are so sick of it that they shut that twit down each time he decides to just be shitty to other people. Do the opposite of shunning – be happy to condemn his bigoted actions anytime anywhere on social media.

    After all, does he really have time to obsessively harass 20 people who stand up to his crap? 30? 50?

    Ophelia, i thank you for keeping this crap in the spotlight. Hidden attacks just keep on coming. But i’m really sorry you have to :-( This is one of the most on-point examples of how social justice is personal. Very.

  36. georgelocke says

    Vacula doesn’t understand why his behavior is harassment. Almost all of these tweets in themselves, outside of context, are civil. Even the “fuck ophelia benson” tweet is an expression that Vacula does not see the distinction between that and “fuck the pope”.

    It is harassment. But it seems as though there might be some way of communicating this to him.

  37. A. Noyd says

    leebrimmicombe-wood (#27)

    But I do think this plays into his hands.

    Vacula is a troll. There’s nothing that doesn’t play into his hands. He’ll twist whatever he’s given and invent whatever he’s denied. That said, we really do give him what he wants when we accept that it matters to anyone but Vacula whether he believes he’s “won” or “lost” his nasty little games. Far better not to consider that at all and, instead, take action based on what benefits the billions of people on this earth who aren’t Justin Vacula.

  38. says

    I doubt that it’s true that Vacula doesn’t understand why his behavior is harassment; I think he just pretends not to understand. I don’t know for sure, but that’s what I think.

    The “Apparently, it’s OK to have a “Fuck the Pope” sign at #aacon13 – What if the sign said “Fuck Ophelia Benson?”” tweet isn’t civil even independent of context. There was no reason whatever to use me as his example, yet he did. That doesn’t qualify as civil. Of course the context does make it even more uncivil.

  39. georgelocke says

    The “Apparently, it’s OK to have a “Fuck the Pope” sign at #aacon13 – What if the sign said “Fuck Ophelia Benson?”” tweet isn’t civil even independent of context.

    I agree that that particular tweet is uncivil regardless of context (I wrote “almost all” because of this tweet), but, if we take Vacula at his word, he doesn’t see it that way. The argument that tweet makes suggests a double standard where “fuck the pope” is okay but “fuck ” isn’t. You or I would agree that the “double standard” is correct (cuz, yno, bloggers aren’t the pope, AIDS in Africa, actually public figure, all that jazz), and under our understanding, Vacula’s presentation of his argument is harassment in itself. He (ostensibly) doesn’t see it that way.

    If you think he’s arguing in bad faith, I can’t blame you. I certainly DO NOT expect you to have any patience for the man; he has lost that privilege long ago. I personally think he’s in denial and can be reached, mainly based on reading his blog where he presents unconvincing yet coherent arguments. (Whatever his faults, the man is prepared to engage with people who disagree with him – whether such engagement has any hope of changing minds remains unclear. Certainly I don’t expect that I would change MY opinion after engaging with him….)

  40. georgelocke says

    typo above. should read:
    …is okay but “fuck [insert your favorite FTBully]” isn’t. (used gt/lt instead of brackets so that the omitted text was interpreted as bad html.)

  41. georgelocke says

    I’m sure he understands the principle; I don’t think he understands that he’s crossed the line. FWIW, I think he’s a bit nuts for failing to see this; as I say, I think he’s in denial.

  42. A. Noyd says

    georgelocke (#42)

    Whatever his faults, the man is prepared to engage with people who disagree with him – whether such engagement has any hope of changing minds remains unclear.

    If he were willing to consider what his opponents have to say, at least one of the dozens of people trying to explain shit to him in the past few years would have gotten through to him. His attempts to “engage” are just an act that lets him pretend that he’s the reasonable one while the people who refuse to play along are bad skeptics. But he wouldn’t even do something so simple as correct his presentation of what was threatening about the letter sent to Ophelia about what would happen to her if she went to TAM. That was back when Ophelia did engage with him directly. So you really need to stop pretending he’s just honestly confused.

  43. georgelocke says

    If I may be permitted to speculate as to motives here: Vacula and many of his supporters hold the skeptical value that “nothing is beyond question” so highly that it blinds them to the ethical costs of demanding to be heard. This is why they were so upset at the Secular Woman response to the whole “be nice” announcement.

  44. Josh, Official Spokesgay says

    If I may be permitted to speculate as to motives here: Vacula and many of his supporters hold the skeptical value that “nothing is beyond question” so highly that it blinds them to the ethical costs of demanding to be heard.

    That’s stunningly naive. And way too charitable at this late stage.

  45. georgelocke says

    @A. Noyd 46

    If he were willing to consider what his opponents have to say, at least one of the dozens of people trying to explain shit to him in the past few years would have gotten through to him. His attempts to “engage” are just an act that lets him pretend that he’s the reasonable one while the people who refuse to play along are bad skeptics. But he wouldn’t even do something so simple as correct his presentation of what was threatening about the letter sent to Ophelia about what would happen to her if she went to TAM. That was back when Ophelia did engage with him directly. So you really need to stop pretending he’s just honestly confused.

    I’m not pretending anything. I hope you understand why I find that bit offensive. Since you’re so sure of his intransigence, you probably have more experience with the man than I, and if knew what you do maybe I’d agree – you present a reasonable case here – but you have no business telling me you know what’s going on in my head better than I do.

    If someone has a link to the “failure to correct” (or timeframe/google search terms) I would appreciate it.

    I agree that his engagement with his critics is effectively a ritual dance, a sort of cargo cult skepticism where debate replaces considering alternative views. I’m just not convinced that this is a permanent state of affairs.

  46. A. Noyd says

    georgelock (#50)

    I’m not pretending anything. I hope you understand why I find that bit offensive. [...]you have no business telling me you know what’s going on in my head better than I do.

    I’m not telling you what you feel. “Pretend” has more meanings than deception. Think of how it relates to “pretentious,” which is what I’m getting at here. I mean, do you really think no one has tried to reason with Vacula in the hopes of being able to reach him?

    And here’s your link to Ophelia discussing Vacula’s refusal to correct his lies about the TAM threats. Note the other nasty shit Vacula’s done that people are talking about in that comment thread. If you need more background to understand the context, you can do your own research.

  47. says

    George @ 42, I’m sorry, I don’t see how Vacula can credibly claim not to see that it’s harassy to insert my name in there for no earthly reason. It’s like writing contemptuous graffiti on the wall of a urinal. I simply can’t believe that he’s so dysfunctional that he doesn’t know that.

  48. says

    If I may be permitted to speculate as to motives here: Vacula and many of his supporters hold the skeptical value that “nothing is beyond question” so highly that it blinds them to the ethical costs of demanding to be heard.

    No, he only pretends to hold to this value when he wants to question something he doesn’t like and pretend he’s the brave out-of-the-box freethinker. Just like a creationist pretending he’s “just asking questions” because he’s “skeptical” of “scientific dogma.”

  49. georgelocke says

    I believe he’s that dysfunctional. I think cognitive dissonance is a better explanation than malice.

  50. Anthony K says

    I believe he’s that dysfunctional. I think cognitive dissonance is a better explanation than malice.

    Based on what do you separate those two and assign them values of explanation?

    I’m dysfunctional, and one of the ways my dysfunction manifests is in malicious behaviour. I was raised by dysfunctional people, and one of the ways in which their dysfunctions manifested was in malicious behaviour. This is not uncommon.

    What explanatory power is gained by handwaving away a factor?

  51. georgelocke says

    Lacking a magic cognitive dissonance vs malice dowsing rod, I base my conclusion on what I know of his writings and behavior.

  52. says

    @ 55 – really. And his malice is just glaringly obvious. Yes it’s possible that it’s pure cluelessness, but it’s certainly not at all obvious or self-evident.

    Maybe you’ve never watched any of his “dramatic readings” – that might change your mind.

  53. georgelocke says

    Maybe you’ve never watched any of his “dramatic readings” – that might change your mind.

    I hadn’t seen them. I can only find one, and yes, that is malicious. So I was wrong in asserting that malice doesn’t motivate his actions. I oughtn’t to have needed to listen to that in order to know I was wrong. He is malicious.

    Nevertheless, I expect that Vacula thinks (wrongly) that this is legimate satire, as though EEB or whoever might benefit from understanding how his/her words appear to people like him. Even though his actions are malicious, I just don’t think he understands that this is the case. Most people don’t like to think of themselves as malicious, nasty people (even sociopaths), so they justify their actions to themselves somehow, however vacuously (#BraveHero). Everything about Vacula’s presentation of self screams “I’m defending what is right and good” even as he spreads hate like these dramatic readings. He may doubt himself from time to time, but I can’t imagine that his own opinion of himself is that he’s a piece of shit.

  54. Ulysses says

    georgelocke @58

    It’s probably true that Vacula doesn’t think of himself as a piece of shit. That doesn’t change the point that other people, especially his victims, see him that way. He may not think of himself as malicious. So what? His maliciousness is obvious to pretty well everyone except his supporters. I suspect his maliciousness is plain even to them but since they agree with him they just don’t care.

    Few people think of themselves as villains. That doesn’t mean they’re not. It’s easy to justify one’s actions. It’s harder to sell those justifications to others.

  55. A. Noyd says

    georgelocke (#56)

    I base my conclusion on what I know of his writings and behavior.

    Except you seem so incredibly ignorant of Vacula’s writings and behavior. You should stop trying to come to conclusions until you know WTF you’re talking about. And you should sure as hell stop telling those of us who know his writings and behavior better all about your precious conclusions—conclusions which, when they aren’t wrong, are utterly banal.

    Furthermore, even if he was malicious out of a failure of understanding rather than out of a conscious desire to hurt people, so what? As I mentioned, people have tried to reason with him, and they’ve come away unsuccessful. His his internal workings and justifications aren’t important. Minimizing the harm he does is what people rightly care about. You want to attempt to rehabilitate him, go right the fuck ahead. Just don’t make the blogs of his targets your staging ground, FFS.

  56. says

    Justin Vacula’s continued perpetuation of the vicious lie that I faked a rape threat against myself does not lend credence to the silly idea that he’s not actively malicious.

  57. georgelocke says

    @Ulysses 59
    I agree with what you’ve written except that probably most who agree with him in general agree with him that his behavior isn’t harassment in particular.

    If it’s so banal to acknowledge that he believes he’s doing the right thing, then why say “if” he’s malicious out of a failure of understanding? I seriously doubt that no one would change their opinion him if an email surfaced where he declared his intention to make people feel awful until they shut up. Intentions matter.

  58. ewanmacdonald says

    Why and to whom does his intention matter, in this instance? Be very, very specific.

    Please bear in mind that you came into this discussion fairly ignorant of his actual output. Exercise a little bit of self-doubt here. It will improve the quality of your posts markedly.

    I say this without malice, of course.

  59. georgelocke says

    In general, immoral acts are more offensive when accompanied with ill intent.

  60. Feline says

    In general neither me nor my surgeon cares if the knife in my back was put there by accident or by ill intent when I’m lying in the emergency room.

  61. georgelocke says

    If he doesn’t understand the problem, that means if he were to understand, he might change his behavior. If he understands the problem and doesn’t care, making him care is much more difficult.

  62. georgelocke says

    @Feline 65

    Yet the law distinguishes punishes pre-meditated murder more, and this is just.

  63. Feline says

    Ok, then. If I’m about to disembowel one of my former bullies with a dull serrated blade the question of whether they were a ringleader, an active participant or a passive (as they would call it) cheerleader is all egal.

    But here’s the thing. Justin Vacula knows the hurt he causes, on account of being told. So there is no way to ascribe lack of ill intent to his actions, since they lack any sort of intrinsic positive part. So why do you contort yourself so fiercely to find some way to excuse his actions?

  64. A. Noyd says

    @georgelocke
    Jesus fucking Christ. As I already said: If Vacula were willing to consider what his opponents have to say, at least one of the dozens of people trying to explain shit to him in the past few years would have gotten through to him.

    If you’re so sure he can be shown the error of his ways, why don’t you go do that instead of JAQing off and speculating about Vacula’s inner workings on the blog of someone a) who knows better, and b) for whom his intent is irrelevant. Go put your hypothesis to the test and find that magical way of communicating to him that what he’s doing is harassment.

    Given your success in communicating here, though, I won’t hold my breath.

  65. ewanmacdonald says

    george, I asked for specifics. Can you explain a single, solitary difference that will be made by changing the intention in this specific example, and to whom, specifically, this difference will be made?

  66. oursally says

    Well, yes, you are all quite right… It’s just, whenever I look here I see this creep hijacking the blog, which is what he wants to do.
    At my advanced age I’ve been the target for bullies often enough. Since I am small and female and an engineer and an atheist and a feminist I get it a lot. I do indeed know how it is. Rape threats were frightening in the pre-internet days too.
    FTB is balsam for my lonely soul. I’m not terribly articulate and I don’t really have much to say that is new or exciting to anyone but my friends, so I don’t think I am going to start my own blog, or if I did no-one would want to read it. So I come here to hang out with like-minded people. Even when I don’t say much. And I am sorry to see the usual creeps getting the usual attention.
    I was not intending to belitte your pain.

  67. Maureen Brian says

    There’s a questionable assumption in what you say @ 71, oursally – the assumption that if we or Ophelia or whoever stops mentioning the man Vacula, some improvement will come about.

    Either he will get bored and find another hobby or he will see the error of his ways, eh?

    Sorry, it’s been tried. If you would read events and his rantings in the run-up to his planned visit to WiS2, his stated purpose in that, his fundraising, etc, you will see that all that was precisely because he was not getting enough attention – especially from the people whom he treats as targets of his campaign. Also, not enough was happening to keep on convincing those who really should know better that poor little Justin is the target of a witch-hunt.

    He needs to keep the action running even if he is playing all the parts himself.

    I’m sorry you find its not as comfortable for you as it used to be to hang out here. Do you imagine it is now more comfortable for Ophelia? Or for any of the other targets?

  68. says

    I’m sorry to keep sticking a fly in the balsam though, Sally. I do realize it’s a huge annoyance to some readers (as it is to me). I live in hope for a better future…

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