Thou shalt respect The Leaders


Michael Nugent has decided to defend Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer from the violence and abuse of those evil Freethought bloggers. It’s not a very even-handed account of the situation, in my view.

Let me preface this post by saying that I accept that I might be mistaken in anything that I write, and that I am open to changing my mind on the basis of reasonable civil discussion. Also, I assume that I have done variations of at least some of the things I am complaining about others doing here.

I believe that atheist and skeptic people and groups, like all people and groups within society, should promote compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, equality and respect for people, combined with robust rational analysis of ideas. I believe that this should include tackling sexism, racism, homophobia and other discriminatory biases in society.

I believe that the approach taken by PZ Myers, and by some other people on (for shorthand) the FreeThought Blogs perceived ‘side’ of some disagreements, is counterproductive to these aims. It is also unjust and harmful in itself, because it routinely demonises decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

I must be one of those “some other people on (for shorthand) the FreeThought Blogs,” since I’ve been blogging about the combative and/or antifeminist and/or sexist things that Sam Harris and/or Richard Dawkins wrote and/or said lately.

I am also concerned that distorted versions of these disagreements are now leaking into more mainstream media, as evidenced by recent sensationalised newspaper articles about Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and by Mark Oppenheimer’s recent article, ‘Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement?’, which is more comprehensive but not fully informed.

The many overlapping atheist advocates and movements

Some of these more mainstream media analyses imply that there is a single ‘atheist movement’, and that it is best analysed through some opinions of some mostly American bloggers and activists who, while committed and sincere and doing good work, are not representative of atheist activism worldwide.

Zing.

I’m short on time today, because of pesky duties elsewhere. More later.

Comments

  1. says

    Some of these more mainstream media analyses imply that there is a single ‘atheist movement…

    And apparently the way to correct this mistaken impression is to shut up about the existence of pround disagreements. Glad he cleared that up.

  2. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    For someone who pays so much lip service to “civil dialogue,” The Nuge doesn’t really LISTEN, does he?

  3. Crimson Clupeidae says

    So wait. We’re the ones who are hampering the discussion of gender equality? Because….how exactly?

    Fuck the nuge.

  4. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I can’t wait for the day that Dawkins’ $135 million dollars doesn’t hang over the head of the movement like a carrot causing everyone to dance for him.

  5. Anthony K says

    It is also unjust and harmful in itself, because it routinely demonises decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

    Just like how atheists and fundamentalist Christians both want people to lead good, fulfilling lives, but simply have different approaches to it. Ever hear a fundamentalist Christian out and out say they don’t respect women? Or a fundamentalist Muslim? Of course they respect women. They want to keep them safe. Atheists via full human rights, fundamentalists via stringent rules about what to do with their dirty vaginas and burkas.

    Different approaches. Obviously. Why can’t we all get along without the demonizing?

  6. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Every self-proclaimed leader of this so-called atheist movement is an egotistical blowhard without a conscience.

  7. rrede says

    The US mainstream media always oversimplifies complex issues, always has a US-white-straight-etc. centric focus, always sets things up as “pro v. con,” and generally does a piss poor job of reporting on anything of substance. So I could be with Nugent to that extent. But then in a post about demonising people, Nugent turns around and singles out PZ as the Great Demon of all Discord not to mention ignoring ALL the women who were cited in the most recent article Nugent is responding to. *headdesk*

  8. Tinjoe says

    Ok, so …

    How is one supposed to tell Sam Harris that racial profiling doesn’t work and that actual experts refute that claim without directly addressing Sam Harris? (or more recently that feet in mouth can be apologised for if you truely feel you misspoke or were misinterpreted)

    How is one supposed to tell Richard Dawkins that his reaction to child abuse is not universal and his view of it is probably not univesal among his peers that suffered the same without directly addressing Richard Dawkins? (see also faulty stranger vs. acquaintence rape comparisons)

    If people see Christina Hoff Sommers as more of an anti-feminist because of the things she says and writes then how does one call that out without addressing her and her arguments directly? I know less about her, but I did watch her response to Anita Sarkeesian this morning and was not impressed by obvious goalpost shifting among other issues.

    and on and on…

    Are you and ‘some other people on (for shorthand) the FreeThought Blogs’ supposed to deal with people in the abstract and assume agruments are created ex nihilo? Just address the posts and ignore who said them and whether they have a history of making these arguments and, as I’ve noticed more and more (and more), not reading any of the rebuttals?

  9. Seven of Mine: Shrieking Feminist Harpy says

    It is also unjust and harmful in itself, because it routinely demonises decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

    How dare we demonize people just because their approach to equality is to shelter rapists, promote sexist stereotypes and generally scoff derisively at anyone who dares suggest that atheism as a movement hasn’t quite figured out this equality thing yet.

  10. carlie says

    decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

    True, “Critical thinking is more of a guy thing” is a different approach, but I don’t think it supports equality.

  11. R Johnston says

    carlie @12:
    I don’t think that “Critical thinking is more of a guy thing” even qualifies as an approach to anything at all. It’s a bare assertion lacking any evidence or critical consideration, a static piece of divine revealed truth. It is certainly not a conclusion to an approach. I suppose that if you’re not a rational person it can be used as part of a post-hoc rationalization of related irrational prejudices, but it doesn’t even qualify as an approach by which those prejudices are actually reached.

    “God hates fags” isn’t an approach to homophobia, just an irrational post-hoc excuse for it. “Critical thinking is more of a guy thing” is in the same vein.

  12. Hj Hornbeck says

    I was about to say something about Nugent and that whole peace process thing of a while ago, when a thought struck me:

    Has Mike Nugent said anything about Patheos, SkepChick, or Skeptic Ink? For that matter, what about Boghossian, Dawkins, and the rest? While it’s bizarre to see so many prominent atheist and skeptic leaders make sweeping statements about FreethoughtBlogs, it’s the fact that they’re bothering to do it at all that has my eyebrow raised.

    FreethoughtBlogs has become a major force in the atheist/skeptic movement. The bloggers and commenters here have a disproportionate impact on where we’re collectively headed. There’s really no other explanation for why all these leaders think it’s worthwhile to sort themselves into pro- and anti-FtB camps.

    We’ve “made it to the big time,” as they say. Congratulations, everyone.

  13. says

    So Michael doesn’t want the atheist movement’s reputation to be harmed by those making allegations of sexual misconduct. What other Irish organization does that remind me of?

  14. Kevin Kehres says

    Amanda Marcotte just did a take-down of Sam Harris as well. All of those non-FtB sources saying the same thing.

    It must be the mind-control device PZ has in his basement.

  15. Brony says

    Am I correct in remembering that Nugent was the one that tried to host the debate to heal the deep rifts earlier on? If so that matters.

    On describing decency and demonization
    So how does this,

    I believe that atheist and skeptic people and groups, like all people and groups within society, should promote compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, equality and respect for people, combined with robust rational analysis of ideas.

    …relate to this,

    I believe that the approach taken by PZ Myers, and by some other people on (for shorthand) the FreeThought Blogs perceived ‘side’ of some disagreements, is counterproductive to these aims. It is also unjust and harmful in itself, because it routinely demonises decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

    …when it comes to the specific content of the characterizations PZ and others are making? He needs to define demonization.

    I noticed that Nugent spared ZERO effort to actually describe the content of the controversies involving “decent people being demonized”. Is it demonization of me to suggest that Harris was dismissing his critics because he thinks that women are probably not good at criticism, because of estrogen? Those are not his literal words but I would be happy to defend that way of portraying his views. I don’t think that someone like that is acting like a decent person. If Nugent is willing to call out behavior he should be willing to get specific when he is taking sides. Otherwise this is a more complicated pissing on fire hydrants.
    I don’t think that Dawkins is acting like a decent person when he literally gets personal in his rhetoric by dismissing critics as only in it for the money (and the other stuff that has been mentioned here). I don’t think that Shermer is a decent person after hearing Randi’s defense of him. Nugent is dry and tasteless without details.

    I believe that the approach taken by PZ Myers has been central to the escalation of what some people call ‘the deep rifts’.

    Actually some of us have decided to support him more openly BECAUSE is willing to escalate when appropriate. That is a skill I admire. Calling out behavior that is worth calling out is is critical to any society, especially among the leadership because they set moral and ethical tones for those below. I want a less hierarchical society but some parts of human psychology will be things to deal with as they are. I require Nugent to give me examples of when it is appropriate to escalate in order to take him seriously.

    But something seems to happen to him when he gets behind a keyboard. He routinely demonises people in a way that he doesn’t do in person, and that he recognises as unfair when others do it to him. He routinely attacks people as individuals, as opposed to merely attacking their ideas or behaviour.

    So why does Nugent keep making the claim that PZ demonized someone without actually trying to back it up? I don’t care if you are a commenter, a blogger, or the president of the united states if you are directing strong words at someone you have the responsibility to do a minimum level of demonstration. PZ and others at FTB outlined why they said what they said in specifics.

    By specific I mean he should line these characterizations of what PZ said, with the reality to show why the are demonization.
    *”He routinely attacks people as individuals, as opposed to merely attacking their ideas or behaviour.”
    *accused “…Michael Shermer of multiple unreported serious crimes…”
    *accused “…Russell Blackford of being a lying fuckhead.”
    *”…described Robin Williams’ suicide as the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people…”
    *”…a white lady who made racist comments looks like the kind of person who would have laughed at nanu-nanu…”
    *”Richard Dawkins has been eaten by brain parasites and is grossly dishonest.”
    *”Christina Hoff Sommers promotes lies about feminism and claims them as inalienable truths.”
    *”Michael Shermer is a liar and an assailant”
    *”Sam Harris has scurried off to write a tendentious and inexcusably boring defence of sticking his foot in his mouth.”
    Some of these are worth talking about as problems too. But we can’t actually tell if a characterization is accurate without it being lined up with reality and I’m simply not satisfied that Nugent has even done that for himself with what I just read. He’s simply acting startled at tone towards authority figures and letting that direct his analysis. And of course he displays no problems with the tone or the content of Dawkins and Harris et al.

    Dawkins inverted
    Did anyone else notice the huge list of “atheists doing nice things” that was provided because Nugent was afraid of the atheist community looking bad because of press coverage? Dawkins was pointing at suffering that he believed was worse elsewhere in the world to get women to stop talking and to encourage others to stop paying attention to them. Nugent is now pointing at good stuff atheists are doing elsewhere in the world to get PZ to stop talking and encourage others to stop paying attention to him and FTB.

    The measuring of “goods” is just as fallacious as the measuring of “bads” like suffering when figuring out of a behavior is appropriate. His piece could have been half as long and I would not have been insulted by him.

    On tactics

    I believe that this should include tackling sexism, racism, homophobia and other discriminatory biases in society, and making our groups and events welcoming to everybody who wants to be involved.

    That is literally what is being done at FTB. Nugent is not helping by being an ally to sexists and creeps at best.

    I believe that we can do this without routinely demonising good people who support equality but who have a different approach to it, without uncharitably misinterpreting tweets and impromptu comments as if they were formal pronouncements of misogyny, and without ignoring the principles of natural justice by publicly accusing named people of serious alleged crimes.

    Given that we have no idea what he means by “demonization” there is no way to tell what he means by “ignoring the principles of natural justice”. Authorities calling out other authorities is probably part of natural justice for apes. Large numbers of people calling out authorities is natural for apes. But so is harassment and criticism can be harassment if done a certain way so I’m not saying that there is nothing that he could call demonization. I am saying that Nugent has done a terrible job of framing the conflict.

    I believe that we should robustly question the ideas and behaviour of people who are, or who are perceived to be, authority figures in our own spheres of activity.

    Why yes we should! So why did you ignore PZ, Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan and others when they questioned Dawkins, Harris, Shermer and others? I get literally no impression from Nugent’s piece that he saw more than the twitter paraphrasing of this conflict.

    Nugent is MASSIVELY mistaken in his piece and getting preemptively defensive should be unnecessary, unless he knows that at some level he did not do his homework.

  16. Anthony K says

    What other Irish organization does that remind me of?

    For that matter, why is there even that other Irish organization? Why the Deep Rifts? We know Michael Nugent agrees with the Pope on 99% of things (water is wet, salt is salty, sky is blue.) God does/does not exist is like one fucking question.

    So why is he part of an atheist movement even? Wait, don’t tell me: it’s those whiny victim dollar$.

  17. Jackie says

    So Michael doesn’t want the atheist movement’s reputation to be harmed by those making allegations of sexual misconduct. What other Irish organization does that remind me of?

    We know Michael Nugent agrees with the Pope on 99% of things (water is wet, salt is salty, sky is blue.) God does/does not exist is like one fucking question.

    QFFT

  18. Steve LaBonne says

    Are we ready to concede that some atheist critics of New Atheism, e.g. Chris Stedman, may not be totally out to lunch?

  19. mildlymagnificent says

    Maureen

    I hath spoke over at Michael’s blog. Dunno if it will do any good.

    You may be unsurprised to learn that things aren’t going wonderfully well. It’s basically a hatefest on PZ, with mentions of horrible feminists with sparkly sprinkles. I didn’t bother.

  20. screechymonkey says

    Steve,

    Are we ready to concede that some atheist critics of New Atheism, e.g. Chris Stedman, may not be totally out to lunch?

    That’s rather strangely put. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to “concede” anything of the kind, because I never took the position that every single critic of New Atheism was totally out to lunch to begin with. Nor, I think, did Ophelia.

    Many of us were noting Dawkins’ occasional tone-deafness (Brights, anyone?), Hitchens’ problematic positions on various issues, Harris’s problematic musings on torture, etc. while still believing that the personal flaws of some “leaders” doesn’t undermine the overall project of speaking forthrightly about religious nonsense. I still think that basic proposition is true, though the list of “flaws” has gotten longer and I’m no longer interested in considering some of these folks leaders.

    But I still think that most criticisms of New Atheism remain off-base. In fact, one of the things that is so irritating about the recent behavior of Dawkins is that he is adopting some of the same kinds of attacks that were baselessly employed against him. Calling your feminist critics the “thought police” is truly on a par with the whole “militant fundamentalist atheist” canard, and speculating on the profit motive of “dramabloggers” is no better than the snide remarks that were made about how profitable writing about atheism had become for Dawkins.

  21. PatrickG says

    Kudos to your Maureen. I don’t think my mental health can stand wading through that Who’s Who list of the Slymepit.

    Case in point: people are still bringing up the damn porcupine. How long ago was that? How long ago was it that PZ apologized for it? How many times have people in this community jumped on comments that could be perceived as physically threatening?

    Absolutely pathetic.

    More on-topic: I always thought Both-Sides-Do-It was a bad argument… I’m not sure what to call Nugent’s Only-One-Side-Is-Bad strategy.

  22. Steve LaBonne says

    screechymonkey @24- I should have phrased that more carefully, because I was aware of nuanced reactions to Stedman like yours and Ophelia’s. Thanks.

  23. Sili says

    He’s awfully hung up on civility. Considering that his frame of reference should be people blowing up and shooting eachother, he’s really focusing on the small stuff.

  24. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I really don’t want to be part of any movement that considers people like Dawkins, Harris, Shermer, Nugent, Grothe, etc. leaders. Yeah, cause it’s way radical to break away from religion’s insistence on following your white male leaders by giving into Atheism’s insistence on following your white male leaders. Meet the new boss…

  25. screechymonkey says

    Steve @26,

    Honestly, I don’t know that I would describe my reaction to Stedman as “nuanced.” Although I probably agreed with him on many things, he only really came across my radar for his more over-the-top Gnu bashing, and my response to that was usually fairly blunt. So I doubt you’d find a lot of comments from me praising him.

    I would say that my position as to any of the “Four Horsemen” (or any other supposed leaders) was nuanced, if by that you mean simply that I was not a starry-eyed worshipper. But I hardly think I was in any way unusual for that. The notion of Dawkins as a pope whose rabid followers think he’s infallible was always nonsense. I don’t even think it’s true of the folks fawning over him now on Twitter; they would drop him in a heartbeat if he betrayed their “values,” and many seemed on the verge of doing so just for the heresy of the Joint Statement disavowing harassment.

    In short, it’s not that I think you’re selling me personally (and Ophelia and/or a small number of others) short — I think you’re mischaracterizing the general position of the commentariat here as a whole and painting with way too broad a brush.

  26. Anthony K says

    I’m not sure what to call Nugent’s Only-One-Side-Is-Bad strategy.

    Professional atheism.

    “Yeah, I got her really drunk and had sex with her when she was unconscious.”
    “Did you believe in God when you did it?”
    “No.”
    “Carry on, then.”

  27. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Anthony @ 31:
    So, so true.
    I’d laugh uproariously if it didn’t also make me want to cry.

  28. Tethys says

    I can see this as nothing more than a concerted effort to try and keep the SJW faction on the defensive. The facts revealed by the Oppenhiemer piece; namely that both Randi and RD were well aware of Shermer’s predatory behavior and have been abetting it all this time, are ignored and drowned out by a good ol boys club noise machine. I think it is time to go on the offensive and start writing loud demanding posts that focus on that. Refuse to let them dictate the terms of the conversation is an effective strategy against this BS. RD knew and has been lying this whole time. CHECKMATE

  29. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Michael Nugent is a perfect example of someone using tone trolling and civility fetishing to hush up the fact that some of his pals are really horrible people.

  30. Steve LaBonne says

    Well, I think one of the lessons of this whole sorry business is that certain aspects of Gnu were well and truly due for a bit of bashing. Hell, I used to defend parts of Dawkins’s schtick- the “child abuse” thing, even- that I now find appallingly ignorant. I have found it both necessary and salutary to examine my own preconceptions- fro me to be taken in, something had to have been wrong with my thinking.

  31. R Johnston says

    Courtesy of Paul Krugman:

    When there’s an honest, good-faith . . . debate[,] by all means let’s be civil. But in my experience demands for civility almost always come from people who have forfeited the right to the respect they demand.

    He’s saying it in the context of debating economics, but it’s clearly an idea that applies much more generally than that.

  32. yazikus says

    Yuck, I just went over there and read all of the comments. Who’s who of the slymepit indeed. I imagine that many big names are being made uncomfortable by the idea they might get called out by someone with such a large audience, and are pro-actively trying to poison the well before they themselves can be called out.

    I think his argument boils down to “Your criticism of sexist atheists and their subsequent discomfort is worse for atheism than sexist atheists saying sexist things that cause non-sexist atheists discomfort”. AKA Uncomfortable sexist-atheists is worse than uncomfortable non-sexist atheists.

  33. PatrickG says

    The sad thing is that I only found “organized atheism” because of feminism. If I’d gone that route today, I would have run screaming. On the other hand, I am so much more understanding Silverman at CPAC now. Clearly the target demographic.

    @ R Johnston:

    Yeah, I immediately thought of that Krugman bit as well. Very on the nose.

    @ Anthony K

    I also don’t know what to call this sensation of laughing and crying at the same time… sort of like ErikTheUnknown. Oh well, thanks for the diaphragm spasms.

  34. PatrickG says

    And crap, I don’t know how I turned UnknownEric into his viking doppelganger. Sorry for getting your ‘nym wrong.

  35. moarscienceplz says

    it routinely demonises decent people who support equality but who have a different approach to it.

    RiiIIIght. Because

    All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

    George Orwell

  36. MyaR says

    I also don’t know what to call this sensation of laughing and crying at the same time…

    lolsob. You’re welcome.

  37. Silentbob says

    @ 19 Brony

    Am I correct in remembering that Nugent was the one that tried to host the debate to heal the deep rifts earlier on?

    Yes, that’s right.

  38. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Patrick @ 41:
    That’s okay, I kind of like my new Viking doppelgänger. It means I get to wear cool hats. :)

  39. says

    Steve LaBonne @ 22 – I have conceded that and mentioned the conceding several times lately. Chris had a point, and I was wrong about a lot. A lot. We’ve had friendly exchanges on the subject.

  40. Brony says

    @ Silentbob 44
    Thanks. That matters, but I’m not quite sure how. Nugent’s experience of that debate will have colored things. How it might relate to his inability to describe the things bothering him about PZ and others at FTB beyond characterizations I’m not sure about. But anyone trying to mend divisions has to be able to describe what people are complaining about.

  41. Steve LaBonne says

    Ophelia @46- I read some of your posts along those lines, and was very gratified by them- thank you. I too was wrong about a lot and have had to engage in sometimes painful rethinking.

  42. says

    I’m amazed to see such political ingenues as Nugent in leadership roles in a community or movement.

    In any political assessment, the first step is to get the lay of the land: to determine the sort of system you’re dealing with. In cases of systematic oppression, it’s wrong and irresponsible to act and advocate as if the systematic oppression didn’t exist. In such cases, you don’t just throw up your hands and rally behind anyone and any acts purported to oppose oppression.* You face difficult decisions about possible resistance actions.

    Supporting an oppressive status quo isn’t a valid option, regardless of language and tactics. And arguments about how “decent/reasonable people can disagree” about bodily autonomy or how everyone should be “civil,” or advocating “compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, equality and respect for people” in some abstract manner are naive and serve the oppressive system. If Nugent doesn’t understand this, perhaps he should try to imagine the most oppressive system he can (Nazi, Stalin, slavery,…), and then think about how his interventions would operate in that context.

    * It should be, but sadly isn’t, obvious that acknowledging systematic oppression doesn’t mean automatically accepting any measures. But people who refuse to acknowledge systematic oppression don’t have a legitimate position in these discussions.

  43. says

    So, according to The Nuge:
    *It’s fair to hold PZ responsible for comments made years ago by other people on his site–comments that have been roundly denounced by PZ and the commentariat over intervening years–but unfair to hold people responsible for “off-the-cuff” statements made in interviews and subsequently doubled-down on.
    *When people argue dishonestly or lie, calling them dishonest or liars constitutes “public attacks” in a “personalized way.”
    *Cherry-picking and eliding context is only okay if you’re not doing it to Michael Nugent, because he’s such a polite and reasonable person.
    *Accusing someone of actions that have been witnessed by multiple people is somehow rude and unacceptable.
    *We should all be concerned with social justice issues, but if people go around saying racist, sexist, or other things that are counter to the goals of social justice, we should politely accept them without stern criticism, because they clearly, simply “support equality but who have a different approach to it.” Unless those people use an approach that Michael Nugent considers rude and counterproductive to secularism. Then they deserve to be the subject of rambling, condescending hit-pieces.
    *Bigotry is not rude.

    Does that about cover it?

  44. tonyinbatavia says

    Maybe I should have seen it earlier, but it turns out that Michael Nugent is nothing but an epic tone troll.

    Go ahead, Michael, go ahead and look past all the heinousness — of Shermer, of Harris, of Dawkins, of Sommers, of the whole lot of them — and declare that PZ Myers is responsible for escalating the deep rifts because, basically, he “demonises” people. Just go ahead and ignore the actual rotting core of the movement. Ignore the actual words these asswipes have said. Ignore the evidence presented of sexual assault. The real problem here, according to you, is that PZ has the temerity to call these assholes out on their heinousness with an indignant tone because it’s “counterproductive” for “tackling sexism, racism, homophobia and other discriminatory biases in society.” The thinking is, apparently, that all those good and wonderful leaders just have a different approach to supporting equality.

    Bullshit.

    Their approach to supporting equality is to actively not support it. It’s evident they don’t want social justice and that they are actively banding together to discourage those who do. They are doing everything they can to ensure that an already-cloistered movement does not take real action to be inclusive by continually berating and trying to minimize those who do. If you have paid attention at all to what has transpired in the last week and concluded that PZ is the issue, and not them, then you are part of the real problem.

    I hope PZ et al (“for shortcut”) keep at it with a vengeance. Something PZ et al offer that too few with weight in the movement offer are active consciences and a willingness to call out all the naked emperors. For Nugent to tone troll and try to shame the too-few-but-much-needed movement ombudsmen while ignoring the problems created by our so-called leaders is pathetic. Providing cover for heinousness is itself pretty damned heinous. Nugent’s post is heinous.

  45. John Morales says

    tonyinbatavia above, hard to say.

    First, he was dismayed by the “rifts” and tried to have a dialogue.

    Then he defended Dawkins against “uncharitable readings”.

    Then he defended Dawkins against “smears”.

    Now he defends Dawkins against being “demonised”.

    (But yeah, I remember those comment threads, and their infestation; it makes it hard to impute naivete to him)

  46. =8)-DX says

    Nugent’s pre-response response (for readers of the comments here) Respond to what I actually said!

    I do believe that PZ and some FreeThought bloggers and commenters are sometimes abusive, in the context of being extremely offensive and insulting, although I did not use that term in my post, and that is not the reason for my criticism. The reason for my criticism is a consistent pattern of attacking people as individuals, as opposed to merely attacking their ideas or behaviour, and particularly attacking them in the way that I cite in the post.

    What is more offensive and insulting?
    1) PZ Myers using nasty words about Michael Shermer’s sexual assault and harassment allegations?
    2) The actual sexual assault and harassment by Michael Shermer.

    I don’t think you can divide “attacking people as individuals” from “merely attacking their ideas or behaviour”. That’s unpossible, all those are interconnected. It’s like “love the sinner, hate the sin”. If someone says I’ve written something bigoted or acted cruelly, it makes me feel that I’m a bad person – someone thinks I’m a cruel bigot. It’s up to me to apologise for my cruel behaviour, repudiate my bigotry (even unintended), only then can that criticism become decoupled from who I am as an individual rather than define me as a person.

    I seem to smell a lot of anti-ad-homineming in this complaint: calling someone a sexist pig is not a good argument against their intellectual position, but although a nasty thing to say, it’s perfectly appropriate if that person owns their sexist ideas and behaviour, refuses to admit they were wrong/sexist.

  47. Bernard Bumner says

    As happened when Nugent posted previously on the subject of rifts, the comments have been taken over by ‘pitters using it as a forum to launch precisely the sorts of personal attacks he denounces in his OP (and where he accuses PZ of formenting a hostile commentariat).

    Nugent is an active enabler.

  48. noxiousnan says

    I believe that atheist and skeptic people and groups, like all people and groups within society, should promote compassion, empathy, fairness, justice, equality and respect for people, combined with robust rational analysis of ideas.

    What, I’m supposed to read further than this when I’ve already been told in the first sentence of the OP that he is defending Dawkins and Shermer? Does not compute.

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