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Atheist solidarity? What’s that?

Remember that photoshop I posted on the More documenting the harassment page last Saturday? The one taken from the photo Adam Lee took of us FTBers holding our signs of solidarity with the Bangladeshi atheists? That Reap Paden changed to signs spelling out our love for “Justin” [Vacula]? That Vacula reposted on Facebook?

padenshop

Now Vacula has done a blog post about it; he’s that proud of it. That proud of erasing an important and (one would think) meaningful message to fellow atheists who are under attack in a theocratic country, for the sake of making a stupid, mean joke about people who dislike being harassed by Vacula.

He stole the photo, too. It’s not his to post just as it wasn’t Paden’s to alter and post. He posted it without attribution and without permission. It’s Adam Lee’s photo. That is not a nice thing to do to a fellow atheist and activist.

He titles the post “Don’t satirize feminists, but happily draw Mohammad?”

That’s stupid. The two are not comparable. I’m not Mohammed. Stephanie is not Mohammed. Maryam is not Mohammed. Adam Lee is not Mohammed.

I hosted one photoshopped satirical image of various feminists — including Ophelia Benson of the Freethought Blogs network — on my Facebook page because I found it light-hearted, humourous, and in good taste. A friend of mine, Reap Paden, had edited signs in the image to read “We <3 Justin” – what I thought was a humourous mild jab because, in part, many in the image do not love me and instead have written dozens of over-the-top blog posts about how much of a bad person I am.

That’s not true. The posts I’ve written about Vacula have been about his relentless harassment of me.

Notice how he singles me out even here.

He notes that there was some reaction.

The moral imperative proposed — that one ought to remove a satirical image merely because one claims offense — is most unreasonable and would consign everyone to silence on any given issue because anyone can claim offense. What matters, instead, I believe, is whether one’s claiming of offense is reasonable. If the claiming of offense is unreasonable, there should be no moral imperative for one to refrain from the mildest of satire. If it is not permissible to satirize feminists because people may claim offense and be hurt, why should it be permissible to satirize Mohammad?

See above. I’m not Mohammed. The rest of us are not Mohammed. “Satirizing” powerless obscure individuals is not the same kind of thing as satirizing long-dead prophets of bossy totalizing religions.

In addition, altering someone else’s photograph of a serious attempt to express support for beleaguered atheists in another country, to make a stupid taunting “joke” – that too is not comparable to satirizing long-dead prophets of bossy totalizing religions.

 

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    Let’s clear this up right now: If there were an actual serious movement in some places to make it illegal to do a dumb photoshop job on a line of feminists, or if you could be seriously afraid of mob violence or having your embassy burned down because you made a bad photoshop joke on a line of feminists… then yeah, I’ll be the first one in line to do the point-making satire.

    Conversely, if there were very few Muslims in the world, and nobody ever threatened anyone with death for drawing Muhammed, and all they ever said about it was, “That’s really not very nice” — then yeah, Draw Muhammed Day would be a real dick move. Not illegal ,mind you, but a dick move.

    This is not fucking complicated. If freedom of speech is truly threatened, then it makes sense to defend speech, even offensive speech, by extraordinary means — even if it means being mean to people. If freedom of speech is not actually threatened, then being mean is not a political statement, it’s just being mean.

    How fucking hard is that to figure out?!?

  2. says

    Even the anti-FTB circlejerk Rich Sanderson gets it better than Vacula here…

    I guess their argument would be that they (ie the radical feminists who hate other women) exist in the here and now, while Muhammed was a rather dubious liar and bully in the 7th century.

    Ok so his assertion that radical feminists hate other women is not particularly great or the rest of his comment that papers over his own observation. But hey its pretty impressive how clueless Vacula is here when one of his most foaming acolytes out thinks him.

  3. says

    Notice how he singles me out even here.

    What’s the opposite of a back-handed compliment? A front-handed insult? At any rate, if you’re the one that Vacula most wants to silence, you must be doing something very right.

    I’m not suggesting that this is at all fun for you, but you clearly matter. I mean, it would worry you if he was praising you, right?

    But he clearly doesn’t give a mouse-sized fart about the Bangladeshi atheists.

  4. says

    This is satire? What’s the object of the satire? What’s the point? Where’s the humor? Okay, people don’t like Vacula. So you photoshop a picture of the folks who don’t like Vacula to make it seem as if they love Vacula.

    Um… ha ha?

    I’ll be over in the corner, banging my head against the wall.

  5. smhll says

    Poor Justin. The mean feminists don’t love him as much as he believes he richly deserves. Such an injustice, and not caused by Patriarchy. Where are the people who will march and protest against the terrible unfairnesses? Who will shake a stubborn fist against his arch-nemesiseseses? Who will stomp their feet unceasingly until this dreadful problem is resolved to his full satisfaction? Why doesn’t the brave hero have more applauding friends?

    (And, why in the name of brilliant satire, didn’t Raep draw mustaches on all of the faces in the photo? That would elevate this satire to heights of brilliance heretofore undreamed of.)

    /mockingsnark

  6. Anthony K says

    This is satire? What’s the object of the satire? What’s the point? Where’s the humor? Okay, people don’t like Vacula. So you photoshop a picture of the folks who don’t like Vacula to make it seem as if they love Vacula.

    Um… ha ha?

    They’re like Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. They mistake references for satire. “Ha-ha! Remember these people? Remember Vacula? Here’s them both…together!”

  7. MyaR says

    It’s “light-hearted, humorous, and in good taste”. Says all you need to know about Vacula.

  8. seraphymcrash says

    Satire?

    I think satire needs to have a message to convey. This points out nothing, exposes nothing, contributes nothing. It’s not clever or intelligent.

    The only point of this was that it was “funny” to make it appear that you like someone who has been harrassing you. Its petty and small minded grade school level bullying. I would challege them to name another example of “satire” that only consited of altering something to make it appear that the originator holds a belief contrary to what they actually hold.

  9. screechymonkey says

    Yeah, I’m not offended by this, and by the standards of the ongoing campaign, this strikes me as pretty minor. (Of course, (1) that’s easy for me to say, not being the target, and (2) this whole campaign, like most bullying, is more about an accumulation of little things than huge outrageous things.)

    But mostly I’m just baffled that this is supposed to be funny.

  10. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’m just baffled that this is supposed to be funny.

    Yeah, I (unfortunately) went through a Freeze Peach-esque Nothing-Is-Sacred period in the early days of these here intertubes*, and I’m pretty damned sure that even old me wouldn’t find any of that stuff funny. Cause it just isn’t.

    *Every once in a while, I’ll run across a bit of “comedy” I did 10-12 years ago and just sigh really deeply. Man, I was an asshole.

  11. says

    Not to mention, a lot of folks in the A+ camp, me included, think that the “draw Mohammed” day has devolved into an excuse for pointless, bigoted Muslim-bashing.

  12. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    UnknownEric,

    *sigh* Me too. Only, I don’t have to go back that far.

  13. Eristae says

    If anyone where to take a photo supporting unjustly imprisoned men who were currently facing death threats and jail time and alter it to mock Mohammad, I would go “WTF?” too. I have never seen someone who was mocking Mohammad take pictures that were supporting the oppressed and alter them to do so. Not ever.

    And, as jamessweet said, drawing Mohammad was an act of defiance against a group of people who said that drawing Mohammad should be punishable by death; no one is saying that about him photoshopping pictures of you. So, as I have repeatedly said, I fail to see what it is supposed to be a satire of. What is the message? What is the point? What are we all supposed to take away from it? Because I can answer all those questions for drawing Mohammad: that death threats are not an appropriate response to “blasphemy,” and that death threats will not be given into. His is . . . what? That he will not give in to you supporting the rights of the oppressed (aka the jailed bloggers/etc)? Ooh, wonderful message.

  14. says

    Yes I think that’s about right. He won’t give in to it because supporting the rights of oppressed atheists is beside the point because we are still totally horrible people who are so horrible we deserve to be harassed nonstop until we kill ourselves.

  15. G Pierce (Was ~G~) says

    BTW you seen Dan Fincke is debating him today?

    And next week he’s debating one of Jessica Ahlquist’s harassers about the first amendment.

  16. Stacy says

    He works so hard to express his half-baked thoughts in intellectual terms.

    The moral imperative proposed — that one ought to remove a satirical image merely because one claims offense — is most unreasonable and would consign everyone to silence on any given issue because anyone can claim offense.

    Uh, that moral imperative was not proposed, dumbshit.

    Borrowing words from philosophy does not JV a philosopher make.

  17. Anthony K says

    Borrowing words from philosophy does not JV a philosopher make.

    He’s going to have difficulty if he tries that with Dan Fincke.

  18. says

    Oh. What. Did someone say ‘self aggrandizing tool who can not nor never will understand nor tolerate anything that isn’t about him?’

    Oh. No. It was ‘Vacula’?

    Whatevs.

  19. Eristae says

    Also

    We <3 Justin” – what I thought was a humourous mild jab because, in part, many in the image do not love me and instead have written dozens of over-the-top blog posts about how much of a bad person I am.

    So, it’s humorous to take a picture where a bunch of people who don’t like you (and sometimes write about things you do) are supporting people who are severely oppressed, people who are unjustly imprisoned, people who are being threatened with death . . . and alter that picture to be about you? Oh hahah. So funny. Look! I can’t hand those people doing something that isn’t about me. It must be made to be about me! Ah ha ha. Is it fair that those atheist bloggers/etc are being oppressed, imprisoned, and threatened with death? The real question is if it is fair that the people in that picture don’t like me and blog about me but aren’t paying attention to me right now!

    Ah ha ha, I’m so clever! I’m satirizing silly people are who don’t like me and sometimes write about me by taking an instance where they were doing something that had no relation to me whatsoever and making it about me. Llllllllooooollllllllz.

    *headdesk*

  20. Michael De Dora says

    This is EXACTLY what I was talking about when I got into a Twitter exchange with Justin recently. You can’t post this kind of photo (especially over and over again) and then turn around and call the people in the photo cowards and frauds for not wanting to sit down and talk with you.

  21. G Pierce (Was ~G~) says

    Hmm. so making a picture of people communicating an idea exactly the opposite of what they usually believe is satire? Someone call Stephen Colbert and let him know he’s doing it wrong.

    Here would be closer to satire- take a picture of the people who *defend* Vacula, and make it look like THEY are holding signs that say “We Love Justin” Still weak, but at least going in the right direction.

  22. Michael De Dora says

    Another thing: aside from any harm these photos might cause on the people targeted, do the people who create and spread these photos not understand that they are doing great damage to their own credibility in the eyes of any reasonable observer?

  23. Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu says

    I…I don’t even know what to say.

    There is no satire in this. No humor. No intelligence. No respect. No empathy.

    There is ego, and asshattery, and duchebaggery.

    Ophelia, everyone in the photo, thank you for continuing to teach me what it mans to be a decent human being.

  24. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    do the people who create and spread these photos not understand that they are doing great damage to their own credibility in the eyes of any reasonable observer?

    They hold a bizarre delusion that they are the reasonable observers. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

  25. maudell says

    Also, he acts like he doesn’t know the difference between photoshopping the photo of someone once (a shitty “joke”) and doing it over and over to the same target.

  26. says

    Michael @ 22 – I know, right? And he keeps doing that. Especially to me. When he re-posted this stupid and anti-solidarity photoshop on Facebook on Saturday, and I got a notification about it because I was tagged, and I went there and told him to leave me alone – he did it again. First he called me names and then immediately afterwards said “let’s put all this behind us and work together” etc etc. Immediately after calling me names. I think even he for once realized that was a bit much, because he then “edited” the comment to call me some more names instead.

  27. Anthony K says

    And next week he’s debating one of Jessica Ahlquist’s harassers about the first amendment

    They can share tips! Go home, Jessica Pineapple!

  28. Eristae says

    This is EXACTLY what I was talking about when I got into a Twitter exchange with Justin recently. You can’t post this kind of photo (especially over and over again) and then turn around and call the people in the photo cowards and frauds for not wanting to sit down and talk with you.

    No, see, posting this kind of photo over and over again while wondering loudly why anyone in that photo might respond in any way makes perfect sense! Why is she so obsessed with the fact that I will turn absolutely anything she does into a chance to sneeringly shove myself into her life against her will? Why does she feel the need to publicly tell me to leave her alone when clearly a simple request would have done the trick, as is demonstrated by my posting mockingly altered photos of her from the very place she told me to leave her alone at? Why would she think that I wouldn’t leave her alone at a conference when I go out of my way to show her that I won’t leave her alone for the space of even one conference? Why does she think that my going to the same conference as she’s going to has anything to do with her after I fixate on making her actions at the conference about me even when they originally had nothing to do with me? Why does she keep posting about the fact that I won’t stop posting about her?

    Duh.

  29. says

    He’s well on the way to becoming a verb. Scorn will drip from the lips of future generations when they explain why they avoid their local vexatious smear of disingenuous pomposity: “I just can’t stand all that Vaculating xe does all the time”.

  30. says

    Satire … I do not think it means what JV thinks it means. Ditto “humour”, “wit” and, erm, “irony”. It’s the mark of a pre-adolescent sense of humour.

    Vacula is the kind of guy who’d arrive at a Star Trek convention in a Chewbacca costume, say “I’m Worf dressed as Chewbacca! AHAHAHAHAHAHA”, flash his smug, shit-eating grin and then wonder why all he gets in response is facepalms from the Picards and raised eyebrows from everyone – not just the Spocks.

  31. says

    This really gives the lie to the “common ground” and “working together” that we hear so often from the King Tut-Tuts who sit atop their gilded fences. What ground could be more common than supporting atheists in foreign countries who face tyrannical theocracy and violent reprisal for their “crimes” of disbelief? What cause could bring us together better than using our ability to speak freely to do so in support of those who risk their lives by doing so? This is taking a stand against oppression, for shared atheist values and for actual free speech and not the frozen fruit facsimile–this picture represents everything the Pitters claim they stand for.

    And they Photoshop it to make a dumb joke, where the punchline, ultimately, is themselves.

    This would have been an excellent opportunity for Vacula to prove his “brave hero” cred, to take a stand and do what’s right instead of using his limited prestige for self-aggrandizement. “Guys, that’s not funny,” he could have said. “I don’t like Ophelia or the others any more than you do, but this isn’t about me or them or FTB or feminism, it’s about standing up for atheists in danger from backwards religious ideologies. Whatever our differences of opinion, that’s something we can all get behind, and I’d appreciate it if you removed the parody picture.”

    Vacula could have taken the high ground, could have supported the causes he claims to support, could have chosen common ground over “satire” and self-promotion and getting another dig in at the targets of his harassment. He didn’t. Instead, he defended the image and threw out the usual set of defenses against arguments no one is making, oblivious to the irony of citing a protest against threats of religious violence for making certain images to make his argument for altering an image protesting threats of religious violence.

    This, more than most things, exposes him and his claimed positions for the frauds they are. He doesn’t give a flying goddamn fuck about atheist activism except inasmuch as it adds to his visibility, his fame, and his ability to get other people to praise him and pay for him to do things. He’s an utterly shameless creep, and this is precisely why there’s no chance for common ground.

    Because even when there’s common ground, these dipshits can’t wait to rush in and piss all over it.

  32. says

    Or, he could even have said that without bothering to say “I don’t like Ophelia or the others any more than you do.” It’s not as if there’s any ambiguity about it.

  33. Pteryxx says

    Leaving this here from a commenter on the Dear SFWA letter that’s going around:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial#DARVO

    Harassment covers a wide range of offensive behaviour. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing.

    DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender.

  34. Eristae says

    Dag nab it, Eristae, that makes three internets I have to award today. Ima have to re-order at this rate.

    Why thank you ^_^

    To be honest, Vacula has been irking me by persistently and continuously proving me wrong about the depths that he’s willing to publicly sink to. I knew very, very little about him before this incident, but nevertheless . . .

    I thought, “Oh, regardless of his initial intentions, surely he’ll leave Ophelia alone now that she’s publicly told him to, if for no other reason than to prove her wrong. If he’s tactically savvy enough, he won’t even talk about how he left Ophelia alone; he’ll just leave it to others point out that he didn’t do anything.”

    Nope.

    I thought, “Oh, Eristae, you’re being unfair by getting all mad at him for ignoring oppressed atheists; just because you know what those signs said before Reap altered them doesn’t mean Vacula does. It’s still a horribly shitty thing to do, but surely Vacula will retort that he had no idea what the signs originally said and that, yes, supporting oppressed atheists is a good thing. Maybe he’ll even say he didn’t know the image was altered and that he thought the people in the photo were mocking him.”

    Nope.

    I thought, “Oh, even if he doesn’t care about those oppressed atheists, he’ll at least be embarrassed enough to shut up and not insist that quite literally erasing the plight of currently oppressed men from an image to make it about him is in good taste.”

    Nope.

    He. Keeps. Proving. Me. Wrong! O_O

    I mean, can you imagine the wrath that would have rained down on Rebecca Watson’s head if she’d taken a picture of Richard Dawkins supporting women who are being oppressed by Islam and used it to make a “satire” of him, a satire that involved literally erasing the women’s plight and superimposing giant letters spelling out her name over it? She didn’t even need to bring up the oppression of women by Islam in order to have people freak out about her minimizing “real” oppression. And yet here he is, proudly displaying his behavior for everyone to see. Bloody hell. How does one even deal with a person who will do these kind of things and simply feels no shame?

  35. Eristae says

    Oh, and just to clarify the “Oh, Eristae, you’re being unfair by getting all mad at him for ignoring oppressed atheists;” section: I was thinking this to myself about myself after I got all upset at him over twitter but before he responded. I was convinced I had jumped the gun and allowed my knee jerk response to get the better of me. I was working myself up to feel all embarrassed when he pointed out that, no, I was coming to unfounded conclusions.

    Would that this had been the case.

  36. Subtract Hominem says

    I’m not claiming this is what actually went on in his mind, but the following is my most charitable attempt to reconstruct Paden’s potential thought process in such a way that the ‘shop could maybe possibly be something like satire, a little bit. Less charitable attempts have been discarded and will not be posted.

    • I disagree with everything these here #ftbullies say and do.
    • What? They’re supporting a cause I agree with? That can’t be right; they’re the villains!
    • I must make it known that I am onto the treacherous ways of the #ftbullies. How can I do this?
    • I’ve got it! I shall photoshop their message from one supporting someone we both agree with into one in solidarity with someone whom I support but they do not. Since everyone I support is good, that will highlight their hypocrisy in not supporting all the same people I do!
    • Whom are the #ftbullies most upset with lately? Ron Lindsay, I guess, but that doesn’t fit nicely on the cards. Neither does my name. What a shame.
    • Eureka! “WE-♥-J-U-S-T-I-N” fits perfectly, and everyone knows they’ve got it in for that #bravehero. Photoshop, here I come!

    Of course, since it’s an attempt at Reap’s internal monologue, it would all be one continuous paragraph rather than neatly separated and bullet-pointed, but there are limits to my theory-of-mind.

  37. says

    Ophelia:

    Or, he could even have said that without bothering to say “I don’t like Ophelia or the others any more than you do.” It’s not as if there’s any ambiguity about it.

    Well, I wanted it to sound somewhat like something he might say.

  38. Stacy says

    I mean, can you imagine the wrath that would have rained down on Rebecca Watson’s head if she’d taken a picture of Richard Dawkins supporting women who are being oppressed by Islam and used it to make a “satire” of him, a satire that involved literally erasing the women’s plight and superimposing giant letters spelling out her name over it?

    But Eristae, Richard Dawkins is one of our Leaders. Also, he has a penis.

    So you can see that the parallel you draw is just silly, as that wouldn’t be the same thing at all.

  39. Stacy says

    Of course, since it’s an attempt at Reap’s internal monologue, it would all be one continuous paragraph rather than neatly separated and bullet-pointed, but there are limits to my theory-of-mind.

    To really gain insight into Paden’s mind you’d have to do a fuckton of meth over the space of (at least) several years. Talk about your effort-reward imbalance.

  40. Anne Marie says

    So somebody literally erases your (and others’) words, replaces them with their own inane message, yells “SATIRE” when countered, and yet we can’t convince certain people that there are jerks out there silencing others?

    Oh, okay.

  41. Anthony K says

    So somebody literally erases your (and others’) words, replaces them with their own inane message, yells “SATIRE” when countered, and yet we can’t convince certain people that there are jerks out there silencing others?

    Oh, okay.

  42. says

    For the life of me I can’t figure out where the “satire” is supposed to be, in this image. It’s just a gratuitously nasty jab at people Vacula and Paden don’t like. That isn’t what the word “satire” means.

    For that matter, I don’t think Draw Mohammed Day is satire, either. It’s supposed to be a “protest for free expression”, but it’s never seemed to me like a particularly effective or well-targeted one. And all too often it’s turned into a pretext for bigots to be gratuitously nasty to Muslims.

  43. MrFancyPants says

    satire, n. The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.

    So, Justin thinks that Ophelia and the other bloggers in the picture are either “stupid”, or that supporting Bangladeshi atheists is a vice?

    I find it interesting that various of the slymepitters have called on Ophelia to post more on atheism/skepticism, but yet when she does, their hood-ornament Vacula derails it with something like this. The guy can’t even speak english correctly, it seems.

  44. Aratina Cage says

    Is Ron Lindsay going to say anything about Vacula silencing your voices at the very conference where he made an issue out of it?

  45. Glendon Mellow says

    [My comment over at Vacula’s post]

    When it comes to images and image use, I know a few things.

    One of the tests of parody is whether or not it also comments on the work it’s using as a source. I’m an illustrator with some experience, not a copyright lawyer but it seems to me stripping out the message of solidarity for Bangladeshi atheists is removing any chance of commenting on it.

    Nah, what we have here is just ripping off Lee’s photo and replacing the original message to slap at some people you and Paden enjoy slapping at.

    This isn’t parody. It isn’t a stand against tyranny. It’s just a crappy Photoshop to make other people feel crappy while you get lulz.

  46. says

    Walton:

    For that matter, I don’t think Draw Mohammed Day is satire, either. It’s supposed to be a “protest for free expression”, but it’s never seemed to me like a particularly effective or well-targeted one. And all too often it’s turned into a pretext for bigots to be gratuitously nasty to Muslims.

    It’s why I think the best “Draw Mohammad Day” entries are the ones that are just completely inoffensive, beautiful works of art.

  47. says

    For the life of me I can’t figure out where the “satire” is supposed to be, in this image.

    Yes, agreed. Vacula used the word “satire” in this case to diminish the differences between the analogized subjects, but it doesn’t really fit. If the “photoshopper” had drawn a new version of the folks involved and then put the words in their mouths, that would’ve maybe basically fit the criteria of “satire,” though it wouldn’t have been a very good example since the original signs had nothing to do with Vacula or his clique anyway.

    “For that matter, I don’t think Draw Mohammed Day is satire, either. It’s supposed to be a “protest for free expression”, but it’s never seemed to me like a particularly effective or well-targeted one. And all too often it’s turned into a pretext for bigots to be gratuitously nasty to Muslims.”

    Yeah. It’s for this reason that, while I did defend some folks who were involved in DMD I chose not to participate. Any time you participate in something like that you’re going to be held accountable for the worst venom spewed on behalf of your side of the argument. I absolutely think a pure and simple protest of drawing someone people have been murdered for drawing is a fine method of peaceful resistance. But the situation with DMD was far more complex than just that as a whole.

  48. great1american1satan says

    I think my DMD entry was especially bad, in retrospect, for being racially condescending, excessively vulgar and violent. I wonder if it has since been deleted? I have been very hotheaded about islam, and am trying to be cooler now. The outrages to human decency coming out of those quarters just made me lose my progressive sense completely.

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