JT Eberhard: A Parody

I wasn’t going to write about the one hiccup from JT Eberhard about an incident at the Great Lakes Atheist Convention (as Greta Christina already did), but someone on twitter has convinced me that I need to. First, I’ll say that I heard the convention was freaking awesome and that the organizers were phenomenal. It was seriously one of the best-run first-time conferences JT had ever attended.

The problems all started when, after the Q&A of Mandisa Thomas’s talk, JT complained about a response to a woman who asked Mandisa what black people were doing to fight black on black crime. Was the woman’s question naive? Yes. Very. Especially since Mandisa’s talk was about what the atheism movement can learn from the hospitality industry (irony meter pegging out here) and had nothing to do with crime in black communities or even race. Oh, and there actually is no glut of black-on-black crime, that’s actually a racist belief all too often innocently bought into (the rate of white-on-white crime is actually comparable, and when controlled for economic rather than racial variables, is pretty much the same), since the whole notion is a false belief based on racial inferiority (‘black people are worse’), which is, by definition, a racist belief.

Anyway, he is sure her naivety resulted in her asking a question that certainly had racist undertones, even if the woman was not intentionally being racist. Although that of course is kind of the problem with racist beliefs. One does not have to be maliciously or consciously a racist to hold them or act on them. Yet those beliefs and behaviors are still racist. And still do harm and offend.

Nevertheless, I’m told Mandisa handled it well.

But then, during the Q&A of Darrel C. Smith’s talk, Bria Crutchfield stood up and proceeded to give the woman an angry tongue lashing. This went on for about five minutes (or maybe it just seemed like that long). While Bria did answer the woman’s question, it was very embarrassing to the woman and trailed off into a number of red herrings such as “I’m here, get over it” as if anybody was suggesting that Bria or black atheists were unwelcome at the conference or silently sneered at by…anybody.

Well, except maybe the woman who asked a question so insensitive and off topic that it gave the distinct impression that she harbored some negative beliefs about the black people in the room and even derailed a talk about hospitality to put the black speaker on the spot over it. As if “black on black crime” was particularly “black people’s responsibility” and “what are ‘you people’ going to do about it.” It’s not as if anyone asks a white person what ‘white people’ are going to do about “white on white crime,” least of all in the Q&A of a talk that has nothing to do with race or crime or even social problems generally, and is even about learning from the hospitality industry, an industry you’d think would practically have as rule number one “don’t derail convention talks with wholly unrelated questions tinged with racist undertones…and certainly don’t do that when the speaker herself is black.”

Anyway, JT and several others wound up leaving the room during Bria’s monologue. Even though this means he didn’t actually in fact hear her whole speech, putting him in the worst position for being one to criticize it. But never mind that. It just seemed so unnecessary to him. He was sure the questioner was ignorant of what would make her question offensive (she at least did know it was off topic), and this could’ve been solved without Bria embarrassing her (and herself) by usurping another speaker’s Q&A. You know, exactly like the original woman did to Mandisa’s Q&A. Even though it is commonly a rule when someone steals speaking time unfairly in a discussion, the other side is awarded a similar exemption from the standard format. And although the speaker Darrel Smith was okay with it. And most of the audience, too (as indicated by their applause).

But whatever. The woman merely needed information, not to be screamed at, and certainly not to be screamed at through a long diatribe in the middle of a conference when the floor was not hers. Although, to be fair, Bria didn’t actually scream. And maybe I shouldn’t automatically refer to a black woman speaking passionately as screaming at people. But whatever. The woman who asked the insensitive question and derailed Mandisa’s Q&A just needed information, because she was just ignorant. And insulting public displays of racial ignorance never warrant expressions of racial exasperation and outrage. And when black people are so offended like that, they should keep their mouths shut and not vent because we never do that (except that we do) and we’re better than they are (except we’re not, because racism is false).

Anyway, our community is usually big on dispelling ignorance, and even JT does this brashly in public all the time. Like, you know, in the way he’s treating Bria now. Which isn’t all that different from what Bria did. Actually, kind of not even at all. Except people don’t usually refer to white men writing passionately as screaming. But apart from that. Embarrassing Bria by writing lengthy talk-down lectures at her online is totally okay. But a passionate outburst by a black person offended at the way black people at the conference had just been publicly treated, that’s totally uncool and should be condemned. With tens of thousands of words.

Anyway, while JT believes there’s a place for drawing note to improper things people have done in public, he’s a big advocate of trying to resolve it personally first (after all, for good people usually all they need is to have attention drawn to their blind spots and they will feel sufficient contrition on their own…and we in this community only ever deal privately, one-on-one, with every ignorant and misinformed individual there is, we wouldn’t think of more efficiently communicating our facts and feelings publicly so as to get through to more people than just them).

Well, okay, JT’s a big advocate of trying to resolve things personally first…except when he doesn’t. Like when he didn’t talk privately to a single one of his critics before responding to them on his blog. He thought (and still thinks) that Bria had a blind spot there (but evidently doesn’t think any of his critics now do), so rather than immediately write a blog, he pulled Bria aside later that day to tell her that he thought she was out of line (in the hopes of helping her to see her blind spot without publicly humiliating her…whereas his critics, evidently not having a blind spot for him to point out, didn’t require anything comparable…or maybe, they didn’t because they are white, and blind spots are, like, totally a particular problem black people have).

Okay. So that happened. Anyway…

It…didn’t go well.

JT was just going to leave it there, but then someone on twitter started messaging him. He thought it was obvious that Bria was out of line, but apparently not. This convinced him that there may be a bigger overall problem with people thinking that any slight (like Bria’s), even if it’s the result of ignorance rather than cruelty (like Bria’s supposed blind spot), can merit intentionally humiliating or yelling at someone (or dressing them down in lengthy public blogs). I have seen this elsewhere, where a disproportionate response takes place and someone defends it by saying they were justifiably angry, as if every action taken on account of justifiable anger is therefore justified. Except that sometimes it’s by visibly seeing that justified anger has been produced that we learn we’ve done something wrong. And maybe those offenses keep happening so often that what we’re seeing is the end result of finally blowing someone’s top, who is sick of silently taking this again and again and again and again and again and again (you know, when it’s like this, because people who have lived with racism all their lives will tell you it’s like this). Because no one flies off the handle at a single slight. Except black people, who everyone knows can’t control themselves.

Anyway, JT needed to get Bria out of the way before he moved on to the tweets. When he spoke with Bria, he opened by telling her that he didn’t wish to imply that she’s a bad person (I know, I know, a white guy saying that to a black girl in preface to a criticism of her does look kind of bad in the context of American race relations, particularly in Michigan, but never mind that). He followed by saying he thought she was out of line (he even told her that he had been out of line before and he doesn’t think he’s a bad person–it happens). He explained that the woman in the audience who took over another speaker’s Q&A to ask even an unintentionally racist and insensitive and completely off-topic question, didn’t mean offense, and to then take over another speaker’s Q&A to yell at her (or passionately rant on what was offensive about it, however you prefer to describe it) was probably a disproportionate and unproductive response (at least in terms of helping the woman to feel positively about Bria’s cause and to recognize where she may have misstepped). Unless, of course, she got the point…as most people would when they see something they said produce such a reaction, being then made curious to know why it would do so, which would result in them learning something about race relations and why minorities get sick of this stuff because it keeps happening to them so often that any white person would blow their top, too, if they had the same experience of it over years and years.

Anyway, Bria responded that she’d heard that JT likes to criticize other speakers at conferences. He told Bria that this is news to him, although it seems he didn’t think to ask which speakers had told her this and thus he wasn’t all that interested in this news apparently, but if he thinks someone is out of line, of course he lets them know. This is what he would want someone to do to him. As many have since done. And he ignored them just as Bria ignored him, so I guess that’s how he likes it. Only, of course, he’s not black and hasn’t been on the receiving end of shit like this relentlessly everywhere he goes the whole of his life. But context is irrelevant. And when you ignore the context (as you totally should, since it’s irrelevant), their situations are obviously identical. I mean, if a white guy went off on a rant defending vegetarianism against some remark against it earlier, and derailed a Q&A with a passionate tirade over it, that’s totally exactly like a victim of a lifetime of racism going off against yet another public display of it at a conference.

Admittedly, under the surface JT was insulted by the suggestion that he was conveying his displeasure to Bria out of some need to feel superior, and not for his stated reason. Even though he didn’t mention her saying that exactly, it just kind of looks like that when a white guy dresses down a black girl who speaks out against a public display of implicit racism making her feel unwelcome and not understood at a conference. But he let that drop.

Bria then told JT she was offended, to justify her earlier explosion. He said he didn’t blame her for being offended. The question was offensive, he admits. But surely, he asked, she doesn’t think that the offense was intended? Bria did not answer, which suggested to JT she thought it was intended. Because one always assumes what an answer will be when none is given. Anyway, he honestly didn’t see how anybody could possibly have reached that conclusion. Even though that need not have been the conclusion Bria reached in the first place. Ignorance is still offensive, and getting sick of it being publicly thrown in your face and othering you is usually quite justified. Indeed, we usually empathize with that side of the argument, rather than with the ignorant offense that is making the victim of it feel unwelcome and poorly understood. Imagine the same scenario and something homophobic or transphobic was said and a gay or trans person went off over it…I think we’d usually sympathize with the offended party there, rather than the offending one. But whatever.

JT assures us he can very much relate to Bria’s offense (and the offense taken by others at the question). He’s offended every time a person suggests that people who have a mental illness need to “toughen up.” Although Michigan didn’t endure appalling riots over that just a generation ago. And if JT kept getting that shit thrown in his face over and over again, in public, while he had to keep staying silent, he’d probably eventually feel justified making as public and forceful an answer to it as it deserved, and in the exact same manner and venue.

However, JT can realize that such admonishments of the mentally ill are not the product of a disdain for people with mental illness (except when often it is, and one often cannot tell the difference, which is what is particularly problematic about it), but the product of ignorance caused by there not being nearly enough information readily available in our society about this subject (and repeated, persistent ignorance paraded in public should never engender outrage). He can draw the difference between those who are good people, but ignorant, and those who are assholes (even though that’s irrelevant to whether repeated offense and ignorance deserve public expressions of outrage).

JT can also realize that if he yelled at and publicly humiliated each of them (rather than just one of them, on one particularly appropriate occasion), he’d drive good people away from his cause while hamstringing his ability to create another eager voice for it (all while believing they were at fault for insulting him to start out with!), although he actually has no evidence of this whatever (there is no scientific data supporting his assumptions about the social effects of well-timed public outrage–and the audience reaction, in open support of Bria, would tend to be evidence against him, and in my own case if I had said something that produced such an outburst I would want to know what I did, rather than become an even more entrenched racist simply because I don’t like being yelled at). But pulling them aside and educating them? Perhaps telling them his own story so they can understand? That’s doing right by other human beings, it’s placing value on good intent and rewarding it with information, and it’s fulfilling his stated goal: changing minds.

Except that sounds kind of like, you know, physically impossible and condescending…as if a black woman is supposed to pull aside every white person on earth who publicly says something ignorantly racist (because obviously white people get to speak their ignorance in public, while the victims of their inadvertent racism have to communicate one-on-one and in private), rather than simply broadcast to all white people that maybe they should stop saying shit like that and treat black people with enough respect to actually ask them relevant questions–and to maybe take the trouble to learn some things on their own first rather than expecting black people to personally tutor them all the time.

Anyway. Bria then told JT that some people in the audience appreciated what she did. He’s sure there were many that did. His argument isn’t that nobody applauded Bria’s behavior, but simply that those who did were wrong to do so. Because JT knows better than his own community what proper decorum is. Bria then told him that “the only people who concern her were the people who agreed with her.” Which is basically the same thing JT has said on countless occasions about religious bigots and even fellow atheist blowhards like Justin Vacula. (She reiterated this later on her facebook page by saying “At the end of the day, ALL that matters in MY life are those who are in MY corner”).

JT told Bria that’s a great way to feel like you’re always right, but that dismissing the concerns of those who disagree with you out of hand is a terrible way to be made aware of your own blind spots. Then JT promptly dismissed the concerns of those who disagree with him, out of hand. But even apart from that, this was an odd thing for him to say, since he is supposed to have agreed that what the questioner asked was indeed wrong and Bria’s response to it was indeed right–it was only the tone supposedly, and the venue, that was incorrect, even though she used exactly the same venue and circumstance as the person she was criticizing (and no one else who matters minded), and her tone was justified in the context of black people’s lived experiences in the face of this constant imbalance between white people getting to say stupid shit in public and black people being told (by white people no less) to keep quiet about it and not get so angry and like, sheesh, chill already.

(BTW, has JT never read any of Sikivu Hutchinson’s books? He’ll freak out when he does.)

JT told Bria he understood that the woman’s question had racist undertones, to which Bria responded “I didn’t say I had a problem with that, I had a problem that she embarrassed Mandisa.” JT lamented that Mandisa was embarrassed (Mandisa, in everyone’s experience, is a wonderful person and a fantastic hugger). But he pointed out that Bria then embarrassed the woman who asked the question, the only difference being that Bria had the full intention of doing so. Well, that and the fact that she warranted and provoked it in precisely the way Mandisa didn’t. You know, except for that one other difference. (Precisely the difference that provoked Bria to outrage….in other words, precisely Bria’s point.)

JT then asked Bria if she felt that engaging in the same behavior she found distasteful was the best way to advocate for her cause. Even though Bria didn’t engage in the same behavior, since nothing she said was ignorantly racist. It was just passionately expressed. She was, in fact, answering in kind (same venue, same circumstances). Which ought to be an offended party’s right. Anyway, Bria responded that she doesn’t care what people think of her. Just as JT has said on many an occasion about offending religious people or other blowhards and putzes, since he doesn’t care what they think about him, either, as long as he’s telling the truth and answering them in kind. But he’s white, so that’s okay.

He told Bria he can appreciate not being bothered when people unfairly think ill of you (he likes to think he has that down himself), but asked if that made adopting what Bria had already said was distasteful behavior acceptable (i.e., embarrassing a speaker by hijacking their Q&A). What he got next was a series of statements like “That’s how I roll” and “I chew the meat and spit out the bones,” as if those things even remotely addressed the issue of Bria being out of line. Well, except that they are kind of the same things JT says when asked why he is so mean to religionists. And they do address the issue because they partly explain why she spoke truth to power rather than meekly avoided offending the white people who offended her (no doubt because she’s sick of being told that, and of the ultimate consequences it entails: that white people get to say stupid shit in public, while black people aren’t allowed to say even true shit in public response).

After going down all these routes and making no progress, JT asked Bria if she thought that was the best way to change a person’s mind. Bria said she didn’t care if the woman’s mind was changed. As sometimes JT has said of the religious wingnuts he has taken on. He then asked Bria, if her intent was not to change the woman’s mind, what she had hoped to accomplish. Bria responded that she didn’t have to tell him that. He agreed, but told her that it might help him to understand her position better. Bria reiterated that she didn’t have to tell him what she had hoped to accomplish. Maybe because JT was being condescending, and she’s sick of white men lecturing her over speaking publicly about what she feels and why. But whatever.

Anyway, the conversation went on like that. JT never derided Bria (in fact, a couple times he told her that he didn’t think being out of line made her a bad person, even though she made several jabs at his character, with more later that he won’t get into). But he just wants people to know the full context of what happened (except for all the details he left out, which kind of very much change how all this looks), and to know that he tried to resolve this personally (even though when he came to be criticized for this, he totally dropped that principle). He wouldn’t even have tried to resolve this publicly if not for being convinced that the problem extends beyond Bria.

That’s where his twitter interlocutor comes in…

[Insert here thousands and thousands of words of fisking tweets that ultimately demonstrate the complete uselessness of twitter for communicating ideas; demonstrate, that is, to everyone except JT, who doesn’t get the irony of using a vast blog post to explain what’s wrong with tweets.]

A Parable

Once upon a time an atheist was at a debate mostly attended by Christians. The topic of debate was simply does God exist. During the Q&A a Christian in the audience asked the atheist debater why he is not a supporter of Hitler and the Nazis, since they were atheists, too, and atheism only leads to dehumanizing societies like Stalinist Russia. The atheist debater explains that that isn’t relevant to whether a god actually exists or not, but takes a little time anyway to also note that Hitler and the Nazis were overwhelmingly Christians and Stalin committed his atrocities because he was a sociopath and megalomaniac, not because he was an atheist.

Near the end of the Q&A an atheist in the audience took the mike and attacked that questioner, ranting with open anger that the things he said were offensive and bigoted and insulting to the atheists in their company, the atheist debater in particular, and that this nonsense about Hitler being an atheist and atheism causing Stalinism has to stop, and Christians need to start treating atheists with the respect their actual actions in American society deserve, because there are a lot of us (“we’re here”), and we are good people, doing good things, and our reputations in their community should be based on reality, not demonizing myths. He got loud and was clearly outraged.

The other atheists in the audience clapped. And for probably the first time, the Christians in the audience realized how many were there, and who thus had to listen to that offensive question. This no doubt shamed many of the Christians in the audience who had gloated at the question, but were now forced to realize these people were right there sitting next to them and were ordinary, everyday people, and not Nazis and rapists, and that maybe, just maybe, they kind of deserved that dressing down, and should be ashamed of thinking what they did, and maybe they should check their facts and be more respectful next time.

And no one blogged about how awful that atheist audience member was for getting angry and speaking his mind. No one took him aside and told him he should have kept quiet and taken that one single Christian aside and had a one-to-one over it. Everyone who mattered felt better that it had finally been said, and that a lot of Christians heard it, and saw how angry a question like that made us, and why.

So maybe we should cut people like Bria some slack. And treat her like one of us. And not an angry screaming black woman for all us white folk to tsk tsk at. Because what she did, wasn’t all that different.

Comments

  1. CaitieCat says

    Seriously. Take off the fucking White Supremacy goggles, JT, and listen to the people telling you how very, very badly you’re fucking this up.

    Put the fucking shovel down, man.

  2. says

    Thanks. Some people are saying that in principle, anything Bria Crutchfield would have said would be OK. I don’t buy that. However, JT seems to be the only person who read her as being motivated by a desire to make the question-lady cry. I don’t buy that. I think thsi is a terrible thing to stake his reputation on without video or other people who agree with his account. It’s far more likely he’s wrong.

    • says

      All well said.

      Right. That was not Bria’s objective. And there certainly are lines even Bria could have crossed that would warrant valid objection (I can even think of mild advice about how she could have done it better, but not such as would warrant a whole rant about it, and my conversation with Bria, if I even thought it important enough to go out of my way to have one with her over it, would have sounded very differently from what JT said).

      To think that defending Bria in this case means we are saying people can’t ever criticize a black person speaking out is just more latent racism in my view (since that claim seems to be coming from people defending JT and not people defending Bria…and in jumping to that conclusion, a fallacy of false generalization driven by racial anxiety, their [possibly unconscious] racism is showing).

    • Parse says

      The other thing that they’re saying (I was actually writing up a reply, before JT closed the comments) is that “the question is how far to go in anger, and Bria went too far.” It’s telling, though, that they never raise those questions – or if they do, to nowhere near the same extent – when JT gets angry and passionate in a response, when Greta gets angry and passionate, when PZ gets angry and passionate. But when a black woman gets angry and passionate, all of a sudden they want to debate how far is appropriate to let anger take you.

    • says

      And sometimes we need to cut anger some slack. It isn’t the monkeywrench JT thinks. It actually can get things done. Just don’t overuse or misuse it. But Bria did neither, so far as even JT’s account indicates.

  3. says

    How lacking in empathy does someone have to be, not to understand that an emotional outburst doesn’t depend on whether it’s “justified”, or “the best way to change someone’s mind”, but simply springs from that persons emotions and needs at the time?

    And what kind of a (white) person – rather than apologise to the black people in the room that they had to listen to the racist clap-trap – berates one of them for ticking off the person who spouted it?

    Of course, if oppressed groups were suddenly allowed to speak out freely, why, the top dogs just might lose some of their privilege! I think this may be at the heart of why so many don’t want their atheism sullied with all this social justice.

    • nathanaelnerode says

      “How lacking in empathy does someone have to be, not to understand that an emotional outburst doesn’t depend on whether it’s “justified”, or “the best way to change someone’s mind”, but simply springs from that persons emotions and needs at the time? ”

      How lacking in empathy? Let’s just say that there are many, many, many convention *organizers* who are that lacking in empathy.

      “And what kind of a (white) person – rather than apologise to the black people in the room that they had to listen to the racist clap-trap – berates one of them for ticking off the person who spouted it? ”

      For genericity, take out “white” and “black” and replace “racist” with “offensive and dismissive”:

      “And what kind of a person – rather than apologise to the people in the room that they had to listen to the offensive and dismissive clap-trap – berates one of them for ticking off the person who spouted it?”

      Well, if the person AGREES with the clap-trap, why they do it all the time. It can get very nasty being in the room with people spouting offensive clap-trap when half the room approves of it. I’ve blown up in such circumstances.

      It’s much weirder, and more suspicious, to do it if they claim that they don’t agree with the clap-trap though.

  4. piegasm says

    I’m really glad you wrote this. I’ve seen/heard JT say on a number of occasions how much he admires you so hopefully coming from you will make it easier for him to hear and engage with it. I was always really moved by JT’s bravery talking about his mental health issues and I think he has it in him to be a valuable ally if he can just stop falling into this hole he’s dug for himself.

    • says

      I wouldn’t hold my breath. He “admired” Greta, too…but that didn’t stop him from twisting her words and dumping her when she criticized him.

      If all it takes is the same thing coming from a man to bring him around…ugh.

  5. maudell says

    Ahh, whenever I read about this, my skin crawls. So much to say. I did expect skeptics to question their biases. But I guess that’s too much to ask, and criticism is the totalitarian censorship of the white man.

    Anyway, JT needed to get Bria out of the way before he moved on to the tweets. When he spoke with Bria, he opened by telling her that he didn’t wish to imply that she’s a bad person

    Minor correction: according to Bria, he tweeted about it before he ‘pulled her aside’ (his words). I think it is relevant in the context of his ‘I speak to people privately first’ rule.

    There is so much insult to the whole thing. Then we wonder why the movement is so white. The amount of people saying that making an effort for every atheist/skeptic to join the movement drives people away is making me sick. Of course, ‘people’ implicitly means ‘white men’. So many folks of color, women, disabled people, genderqueer and gay people have been driven away by this attitude, but that doesn’t translate as ‘driving people away from the movement’. Interesting.

    There is so much to rebut to his judgement of the black woman not knowing her place, but he’s demonstrated he’s not willing to listen, and he’s not willing to respond. In his last post, he mentions not responding to his critics because he did not find their argument compelling (Crommunist did an excellent job outlying the problem with his post on his ‘feminists should be nicer to potential allies, aka people who are not convinced of the equal value of genders’). Even though many of his readers asked him to respond to clarify his view, it’s just not that important to him that they took the time to research and respond to his writing. In fact, he finds it insulting. As a writer, if the majority of his readers ‘don’t understand’ his writing, it’s their fault! They should learn *real* English. Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between people who ‘understood’ his post, and people who write that this is a prime example of racism against white people. But that can only be a coincidence.

    I can count on one hand the amount of white people holding racist views I have met in my life who did not rationalize their racism as well intentioned. This is the same problem JT and so many others have with misogyny. They see misogyny and racism as a slimy anti-social monster with a ‘I hate blacks and women’ t-shirt. Thing is, I prefer being insulted directly (if the bigot is non-violent) by an unapologetic racist/sexist. The insidious problem is the pseudo-ally progressive. Ze’s not an enemy to combat. But ze needs to wake the f*ck up. It’s uncomfortable? Boo hoo, life is hard. Then you can come back home and forget about your race and gender. We can’t.

    Following this, I’d like to point out that while a comparison can be drawn between mental illness shaming and racism, they are slightly different things. I don’t mean that one is worse than the other, only that they have different connotations and results. The problem with racism is that it doesn’t just insult me. It insults me, my family, my ancestors, my (hypothetical) children. So often have I heard skeptics wonder if the large percentage of white atheist comes from white people’s ‘hard-wired’ propensity to reason. I am reminded that I wear my racial identity 24/7, I can’t be judged solely on my actions. I am reminded that my family does not have the same social capital as white people, also known as ‘people’.

    To finish my rant, I’d like to point out that there is no problem with people who are just not interested in social justice. For example, I am interested in race, gender and class issues, but I am not involved in ableism issues. I know I am ignorant on the topic. The solution? I shut up when people involved in these issues speak up, even when their concerns appear trivial to me. Is it *that* hard? I would be a complete ass to tell a disabled person to be nicer and more welcoming to people who don’t want hir to participate in society, ‘pull hir aside’, and explain why ze’s not a bad person, but needs to make hirself less visible. Because you see, we should ignore your concern, because I don’t see disability! I don’t see race! I don’t see gender!

    An Ego was shattered and we should all mourn for JT. He’s been brutalized by this odious instance of reverse racism.

    ***Important Disclaimer: pointing out that white men are not predisposed to understand the day-to-day struggle of people who are otherized in society is not an insult. We all have reasons to not understand others experiences. Minor difference: we don’t yet have institutions filled with powerful Native American women to decide on white men’s lives.

    • says

      Minor correction: according to Bria, he tweeted about it before he ‘pulled her aside’ (his words). I think it is relevant in the context of his ‘I speak to people privately first’ rule.

      I am not aware of that, but if you have a link, please include it here (for anyone who wants to verify that). Because you’re right.

      There is so much insult to the whole thing. Then we wonder why the movement is so white. The amount of people saying that making an effort for every atheist/skeptic to join the movement drives people away is making me sick. Of course, ‘people’ implicitly means ‘white men’. So many folks of color, women, disabled people, genderqueer and gay people have been driven away by this attitude, but that doesn’t translate as ‘driving people away from the movement’. Interesting.

      Oh, yes. Well said.

      There is so much to rebut to his judgement of the black woman not knowing her place, but he’s demonstrated he’s not willing to listen, and he’s not willing to respond.

      That may change.

      In his last post, he mentions not responding to his critics because he did not find their argument compelling (Crommunist did an excellent job outlying the problem with his post on his ‘feminists should be nicer to potential allies, aka people who are not convinced of the equal value of genders’). Even though many of his readers asked him to respond to clarify his view, it’s just not that important to him that they took the time to research and respond to his writing. In fact, he finds it insulting. As a writer, if the majority of his readers ‘don’t understand’ his writing, it’s their fault! They should learn *real* English. Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between people who ‘understood’ his post, and people who write that this is a prime example of racism against white people. But that can only be a coincidence.

      Although I disagree with the general principle that a writer is not at fault when a lot of people misread them, I do agree that when the “lot of people” who misread a writer just happen to correlate with the people who are notably biased against the point being made, then it is not the writer’s fault. It’s the fault of the cognitive bias in their readers. And as skeptics they should know it’s their responsibility to see to that.

      (If you can locate the title or URL of Crommunist’s article, please post it here. I read that, too, but I can’t remember it’s title or date, and I think it is so on-point it deserves inclusion here.)

      The insidious problem is the pseudo-ally progressive. Ze’s not an enemy to combat. But ze needs to wake the f*ck up. It’s uncomfortable? Boo hoo, life is hard. Then you can come back home and forget about your race and gender. We can’t.

      My sentiments exactly. And that’s even coming from a guy who might be made uncomfortable. Because I know what you just said is true.

      Following this, I’d like to point out that while a comparison can be drawn between mental illness shaming and racism, they are slightly different things. I don’t mean that one is worse than the other, only that they have different connotations and results. The problem with racism is that it doesn’t just insult me. It insults me, my family, my ancestors, my (hypothetical) children. So often have I heard skeptics wonder if the large percentage of white atheists comes from white people’s ‘hard-wired’ propensity to reason. I am reminded that I wear my racial identity 24/7, I can’t be judged solely on my actions. I am reminded that my family does not have the same social capital as white people, also known as ‘people’.

      (I’m just re-quoting this from you because it bears repeating. Anyone reading this, read that.)

      To finish my rant…

      It read to me like a well-reasoned and informative discourse. But we can call it a rant, of the good kind.

    • says

      That commenter at Jen’s would be me.

      Yes, based on the timestamps on JT’s three tweets (follow darreno2112′s link above for details), JT sent them out withing three minutes, 20 minutes before Darrel Smith’s time slot ended. To me this suggests that JT started tweeting pretty immediately after (or possibly while) hearing Bria’s elucidation.

      So JT’s carefully constructed smoke screen of how he prefers to give feedback personally first is utter and complete bovine excrement. Or, to be precise, lying by omission and misleading. What a charming gentleman!

      The content of those three tweets was as follows (direct links to them are also at the link given above):

      @jteberhard 17 Aug (2:09 PM EDT): Ok, the way to resolve questions of personal offense is not to call someone out during a Q&A. #GLAconvention

      ‏@jteberhard 17 Aug (2:10 PM EDT): Bria Crutchfield co-opting the Q&A of another person’s talk to give her own monologue. #BadForm #GLAconvention

      JT Eberhard ‏@jteberhard 17 Aug (2:11 PM EDT): Well, there goes the good vibe this conference had going. #GLAconvention #Awkward

      “There goes the neighborhood”, indeed. In the context of half a dozen PoC at an otherwise very white conference. I still cannot find words to express – well anything about that telling detail. I’m just gaping.

    • Drolfe says

      Richard,

      I think the post we’re thinking of is this one:

      http://crommunist.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/was-it-kierkegaard-or-dick-van-patten-who-said/

      On allies and labels.

      Here’s the thing about labels: labels follow behaviour, not the other way around.

      Identifying as “a skeptic” does not somehow mean that all the things you do, all of the heuristics you use when arriving at conclusions, are magically imbued with skepticy power. Your brain is not better because you have chosen to affix a label to yourself. If anything, the use of a label in the place of a behaviour suggests a brain that is less engaged, not more. The moment that you stopped questioning your own assumptions, the second you abandoned the premise that you might be wrong about something, the instant you precluded from yourself the possibility that you are prone to the same errors that everyone else is, that’s when you stopped being “a skeptic”.

      You are “a skeptic” right up until the point when you stop acting like one.

      And here’s the thing about that – you are “an X” right up until the point when you stop behaving like an X. Then you become something else. Oftentimes it’s “an asshole”.

      I read this post before I even knew that it might be in reference to something, so I thought it was just Ian being awesome.

  6. GrzeTor says

    Your parable, modified “During the Q&A a Christian in the audience asked the atheist debater why he is not a supporter of Hitler and the Nazis, since they were atheists [...] Near the end of the Q&A an atheist in the audience took the mike and attacked that questioner” by running amok and emotionaly screaming and waving his hand similarly to the way Adolf Hitler did. This excited atheists who applauded the attacker. Christians run away scared to death…

    Really, when the question is about violence, it’s unwise to address it by showing anger…

    • rumblestiltsken says

      To GrzeTor -

      the parable, explicit:

      A white male atheist stood up and yelled that it was offensive to judge people by their group and not their actions, and everyone in the audience nodded sagely, because he was obviously a very rational fellow. Some Christians even changed their minds, because he looked a bit like Jesus.

  7. says

    Excellent post. I’m so glad you decided to write it.

    I see now that not only have I been feeling too much sympathy for JT, but I have also been feeling entirely too little sympathy for Bria and others.

  8. gwen says

    “Only, of course, he’s not black and hasn’t been on the receiving end of shit like this relentlessly everywhere he goes the whole of his life.”—thanks. This is MY life.

  9. darreno2112 says

    I like JT, but between this and his last issue regarding Socratic Gadfly and Jen and Greta, it kinda makes me sad…

    On this incident, we’re all subject to our perceptions and are all capable of reading a situation incorrectly. I don’t fault JT for that. But the pattern that seems to be emerging is of a person who when he decides he’s right about something, no amount of additional information (from subject matter experts as well as people with much more life experience than he has) can convince him otherwise.

    When I first read his post about it, the first thing I thought was, wow! he has a lot of nerve taking it upon himself to admonish someone with whom he wasn’t a) friend, b) superior, or c) mentor. I don’t know if that’s his most egregious misstep, but it’s the first thing that jumped out at me, especially when you consider that JT’s own version of events would be most charitable to himself. He may claim he would do that with anyone, but I don’t many people who would take an unsolicited critique about their public speaking without having established some level of trust with the person giving the critique.

    If I’m giving JT the benefit of the doubt about the pattern of behavior that has emerged in his public persona over the last few months, the best I can do is say, he simply lacks the maturity to be an effective voice in the atheist movement, and I’m finished, at least for now, giving him page views on his blog.

  10. A Hermit says

    Here’s another great analogy from a comment at Chris Hallquist’s blog:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2013/08/bravo-jt/#comment-1014237703

    If Congressman Barney Frank, who happens to be gay, comes to your conference and gives a lecture on the impact of regulations in the banking sector, and during the Q&A I ask him, “Isn’t it a little awkward for you gays to have to schedule sex around when you might or might not have recently pooped?” then I agree that giving me a five minute dressing-down from the podium is an inappropriate reaction to my comment.

    The correct reaction is to eject me from the building.

    • says

      I’m not sure that’s an apt analogy. The dressing down JT was criticizing did not come from the podium (a key point, since it was half of that bothered him); and the woman’s question was not so offensive as to warrant ejecting her from the conference (and doing so would have done nothing to correct the ignorance and thus would not have solved anything but just perpetuated the same false beliefs and attitudes).

    • ischemgeek says

      How much of it not being considered “so offensive” is due to cultural racism?

      I mean, implying that an entire race of people are violent thugs who don’t care about the law through dog-whistle weasel-wording is pretty damn offensive to me.

    • says

      To be fair, I don’t think the questioner was implying “an entire race of people are violent thugs who don’t care about the law.” It’s also entirely possible she actually thought there was a significant disparity to address. One can be mistaken about the latter (I once was), without even coming close to believing the former. The real problem is why she thought that was a relevant question to address to Mandisa at that time and place.

      (It’s worth revisiting what Mandisa has said about this: here and here.)

    • A Hermit says

      You’re right about the “dressing down from the podium”. As for offensiveness I’m not a person of colour or gay so I cant really say which would be more offensive. I can certainly understand someone in either demographic being really pissed off by either comment.

    • Konradius says

      and the woman’s question was not so offensive as to warrant ejecting her from the conference

      Actually, I don’t think that’s true. Or, I thought that was true until I adjusted for my white privilege and the fact that I am more aware of anti-gay than anti-black contemporary movements.

      (note that I’m not sure about whether either question warrants ejection, but I am quite sure both questions are equally obnoxious)

  11. DrVanNostrand says

    The funniest thing about your parable is that it sounds EXACTLY like something JT would do. I don’t think he would give that questioner the benefit of the doubt, and I think he would consider the question a perfectly acceptable target for ridicule.

  12. uberfeminist says

    You missed the part where the founder of Atheism Plus accused JT of being a mentally ill rapist on Twitter.

    Just FYI. I mean we beat up on JT enough and sooner or later racism is over, right?

  13. dezn_98 says

    I want to say something.. not sure how to say it, not sure if it is even wise to attempt to say it when it is in such a raw state.. but.. here we go…

    I am a brown skinned man, that actually is fairly vocal about racism, and I call it out daily. What JT did was in fact, racist – this can not be denied. I want to say that I appreciate the response from many white folk around these parts, for showing the cultural sensitivity that is needed – a type of sensitivity that white folk, in this society, really are just not known for. So I like to see support like this, it is, in fact, in my personal view, very helpful – takes some of the burden off of us. So I extend a thank you for this post. I actually read (lurk around) your blog quite a lot.. and frankly, I never expected you to talk about it. What you did here, I like.. because I like you style of writing.

    With all that said though… I like to press points of views that I feel are underrepresented. So let me press this one, not in any sort of critical form, just as a “I think you should consider this” form. I also preference this with, I only speak for people who feel similar to me on this issue, there are quite a few, however I, obviously, can not speak for all POC’s….

    My thinking was along this way…

    1) I read up on the incident and said to myself.. “oh god another white man speaking ignorantly.” I tried, really hard.. to not let it bother me. I mean, because, trust me on this, JT’s ideology is fairly common. For realz, I got other sht to deal with in my life anyway.

    2) I wanted to say something about JT’s behavior… but JT, like most white men (Men like Mr. Fincke, who he linked at the bottom of his blog as an opinion of support and to whom I argued with before about things like this. Also like Matt who argued with Communist on twitter) never really listen. So I thought.. why bother? It really is a waste of time.

    3) However, I could not let it go. No matter how much I WANTED to let it go, no matter how much I needed to let it go. I still felt violated – even if I had nothing to do with the event. I personally felt violated by everyfckingthing he wrote on that post – because I have experienced white men like this.

    4) I was afraid… afraid to even post on JT’s blog because I know there are lots of white racist people waiting to pounce on people of color when they speak up. Further, JT’s rhetoric is a magnet for them. So, I did not comment on his blog because I do not want to endure that sht. That, on top of knowing that in the end… JT is probably not educated enough to even understand what I am saying to him. People like JT and Mr. Fincke are stuck in this racism 101 world.. where my words are too complex for them, my life experience is too alien for them, and they are unbelievably ignorant in this area (they really have made litter effort to educate themselves about it). I would say that they would interpret my words under the lense of white supremacy and not even know it. It is because those two act racist whenever racism is discussed – which is not much cause they do not care much about it.

    5) I saw support here on FTB…. So I felt safe enough to post because I knew this place was moderated, and I would not have to deal with extreme white aggression and denialism.

    6) When I posted, I got lots of support.. which was great. It did make me feel better, feel less violate, feel as if there is more hope. I was fairly fine with the response, and I felt that finally I can put this issue behind me. I can move on… not be that angry anymore about this small issue.

    7) I read you blog and your elegant summary – which I agree with, so good job.

    However, and this is the point I wanted to make by writing this response…..

    8) As I finished reading the post… I just got triggered. I don’t know how it happened, I thought I was putting it behind me… but as I read your summary, I just got triggered again. This time, in a more intense version than my anger directed at JT and people like him – of which there are many. I think I just fcking lost it. I could not take this sht anymore, and I am so tired of it. I am so frustrated at the fact that… I can never rest. I am not even allowed the time to be tired? I am not even allowed the time to get over it.. It is just this constant down pour of, as what, questlove said, this message of

    “You ain’t sht”

    That is all this means to me… everyone knows that we ain’t sht. I mean, I ain’t even black, and this sht hits me like this, I can’t even imagine how the ones who get the worse end of racism – the ones with a darker complexion – handle this.

    You got white people making excuses for the Jury finding Zimmerman not guitly, you got FOX news that goes on attack spreading vile racist sht like “black on black crime,” and then you got white people going to a convention that has nothing to do with it and bringing it up, and then you got the JT’s, the Finckes, the Matts. piling on people of color for defending a black womans statements?

    The more I think about this, the more pissed off I get, and I want to walk away from it, like JT can conveniently do… he can actually just walk away from what he did, and he says that he intends to, and… I can’t. I do not have the option of even walking away because I have to re-hash this event. I am forced to confront these event even by people trying to help.

    Ain’t that fcked up? That is how I know, POC’s don’t mean sht to a lot of people. That is also how I know that, I have to TAKE my dignity back by force when necessary. Even when some white suburban dude can take it away so easily in a blog, and then walk away laughing bragging that he got blog hits.. I am still forced to deal.

    So yeah, I feel like I just got fcked over again. I can’t even avoid the topic when I want to. I just clicked on your blog and bam, smacked my right in my fcking mouth.

    Hilarious.

    So, I had to force myself to think why this was… I mean this post was positive and was supportive and on point… so why was I fcking pissed off about reading it?

    I think it was because I told myself I am getting a tougher skin.. that now I can handle it without just loosing it for like 10 minutes before I regain my composure. So like.. I think I am mad at myself for not being strong enough to avoid a fcking emotional breakdown from some white privileged fool on the internet. So not only am I mad at him, I am now mad at myself for letting it bother me, mad that I can’t move past this just yet, mad that even if I do, I have to deal with this again… tomorrow in the real world. The I get mad at people who offer support because I am not even sure I want the support and half the time they do this odd weird racist micro-aggression while they offer support.. I then feel like the only people I am safe around are other people of color. Then, and this is a doozy…. other POC’s are dealing with it the same way. This sort of weak vulnerability that can strike at anytime.. without warning, and then fighting hard to regain your strength, and coming back tenfold and BE stronger… only to have me come in and trigger them cause I can’t deal alone? You know how TERRIBLE that is? Sht.. I get pissed because I know that getting stronger is not enough. POC’s are forced to get stronger or be trampled over, and we still need to swerve to not get trampled over because of forces outside out control…

    I tell you.. it is killer man.

    There is there torrent of emotions going all around, in every direction, and it does not go away. It is always there, we just hardly ever show it. Yet, it is bubbling to the surface, waiting to boil over. Controlling that torrent for as long as we can because we KNOW society does not tolerate people of color losing control.. we will literally lose our lives if we lose control at the wrong time. It is just…..

    I can’t do this.

    I feel like I can’t do this. I know it is a fleeting feeling too.. I know that tomorrow I will be OK. I will look at this post tomorrow and be like “WTF was I thinking when writing this sht out to a bunch of white folk who won’t get it? I must be fcking crazy, I must have emotional issues… This is fcking stupid. I am stronger than this and I won’t let no one take me the fck down.” I tell myself this sht means nothing to me.. this is just “first world problems” I got family at home that gets fcking snuffed, gets their heads cut off, get burned alive for speaking out.. and I am pissed at some white boy whining on the internet.. I can’t handle that? WTF is wrong with me? Other people got bigger problem, I need to get the fck up and work for them, cut dat bllsht and don’t act like some spoiled privileged brat.

    Hah. then I pull myself from my bootstraps and keep it movin.

    Yet I know it is always there.. waiting…

    LOL.

    Sometimes… It sort of bubbles for a bit, and then I tell myself, “there is no use here, no utility in this pity fcking party I am throwing myself.. this accomplished nothing, get back to work”.. and I do. I sweep it off my shoulder and just do my do. Such emotions are better left unsaid, better left… not to be shown – such fragility should not be witnessed – not by anyone who is not a person of color. (I mean look how JT reacted when Bria let it be known.. even for a second.)

    So I wanted to take this small risk.. and just SHOW you all something. Something that I know is a feeling many of us have, and many of us do not show in public. However, I want to put this out there – know this, people of privilege, this sentiment is here in many of POC’s and be very careful where you fcking step. Most people do not like showing this side, heck most people are forced to grow such a thick skin in order to survive oppression like racism, that they actively avoid exploring such feelings because they know.. to explore such things will bring stuff to a boil and they might lose control for a tiny second, in which people use that second to dismiss, and not listen, or maybe they might get killed for showing it… at the wrong place and time.. That is the truth – Trayvon, you deserved Justice.. even though none was granted.

    I present this to you, so that you can listen… listen to something you might never hear again. Take this in, understand that unless you are a POC, or another widely oppressed minority.. you have absolutely can not fathom how deep these wounds go. Even when you say “I know I can’t understand” that still fails remarkably far from an understanding.

    In fact.. I feel like not posting this. However, I feel I want to be generous here.

    Also.. you know I keep hearing stuff like, “I hope JT changes his mind”.. and the abundance of these replies, just seems… off. I mean, this is not about JT as much as people think it is. JT is a small example of a much wider issue, and issue that will not change just from changing his mind. In fact, it just comes off as really odd that even when disagreeing with JT, people still make it about JT. It is not about, “I hope minorities can come back after what JT did”.. it is still heavily concentrated on “changing his mind and making Mr. White Guy a better person.” It is like, white people still, even when attempting to not support other white people.. make it all about supporting other white people.

    You know what scares me the most? Not that JT will not change his mind.. I no longer care if he does. What scares me is that he will change his mind, he will issue an huge apology (keep in mind that this is very unlikely to happen), and he will be welcomed back quite easily – like this never happened. White people will congratulate each other on a “job well done” and “mission accomplished” and no longer be forced to confront the much larger issue because they feel they almost solved it now by changing the white mans mind!

    I have literally seen this happen in my lifetime more than a dozen times. Where a white person does some vile racist sht.. and then all he ever has to do is apologize and “sound sincere” and other white people will be like.. WOW good for you! Now we are done here – lets stop thinking about racism .. cause we just solved it. The event is over.

    Then… POC’s are pretty much socially forced to take that apology or be looked at as responding in ‘bad faith” to a white person that has “truly changed” his ways. Even though all POC’s know that, this will not be the last time this white man commits such an error because he is still filled with white privilege – and he will do this sht again, and he will probably act just as aggressive to people calling him out on it. POC’s are still forced to take such a lofty apology… when we all know that just cause some white guy said sorry.. does not mean this is over, and don’t mean this is OK.. the damage is done. Oh.. but everything is OK because the guy said sorry. I mean.. no.. No it is not OK… and no matter what JT does, it will never be OK, this type of sht.. you can not take back.

    You know what happened the last time some white dude apologized for being racist to me after he realized what he did was wrong? I told him FCK YOU, and I did not accept it. You know what he did after? He acted just as racist as he did before, only this time he used my “rudeness” at not accepting this sort of forced apology as an excuse to spout racist abuse. I told him this is exactly why I no longer am in the business of accepting such apologies.. because such things are really used as a ransom. If not accepted they will continue to be aggressively racist… which lets me know, that the apology was never sincere to begin with.

    I write this because I want to let people know.. this is not going to go away for a lot of people. This kind of stuff sticks with a person for quite a while. I wanted to say that this issue is far more complicated than many white privileged folk around here, yes even allies, can imagine. So I want them to have some self reflection, cause POC’s are forced into this kind of self-reflection daily, and whites should at least attempt to reflect on occasion – maybe then take some initiative and go out and educate yourself before you make the same mistake many whites like JT do.

    And… OK. With that… I think, I can get over this… and I am taking a break from this sht… for quite a while. damn you JT, the recent, of many, manifestations of white privilege… damn you. That sht hits you like a ton of bricks sometimes!

    Ok hommies.. peace out, and good luck – also good work in general FTB, won’t be back for a while, but good work.

    • CaitieCat says

      I read every word, and my only response other than wordless support and listening is: do you have a blog somewhere? because I would read the hell out of a blog you wrote. I totally get if you don’t, and don’t want to take on the responsibility and OMFIPU exhaustion that the prospect brings up (I’m trans*, so I get some of it, in a different way, but I’m also white, so I don’t get it all, in the important way).

      I don’t want in any way for this to feel like pressure to take up the standard and wave it around. But if you choose to? I would Subscribe To That Newsletter.

      Thank you, for taking the time to illuminate this piece of your life, and our (white people’s) effect on it. I appreciate both the candour and the bravery in taking that step. Thank you for the heartfelt and painful and justifiably angry things you’ve said in the various posts around here in the last week.

    • D-Dave says

      Thank-you for your perspective, dezn_98. I grew up living in the pleasant delusion that we are all living in a mostly post-racist, post-sexist world – one with a few fringe elements that need cleaning up, but where the heavy lifting had all been done already.

      The events that were kicked off by the fateful words of “Guys, don’t do that” were a real eye-opener, and many of the bloggers and commenters (especially the ones around the FTB network) have gone a long way to showing just how blind I was.

      This part especially stuck out to me:

      You know what scares me the most? Not that JT will not change his mind.. I no longer care if he does. What scares me is that he will change his mind, he will issue an huge apology (keep in mind that this is very unlikely to happen), and he will be welcomed back quite easily – like this never happened. White people will congratulate each other on a “job well done” and “mission accomplished” and no longer be forced to confront the much larger issue because they feel they almost solved it now by changing the white mans mind!

      That’s a perspective I never would have thought of, and it’s a reminder of how big the problem is – bigger than I thought, and probably still bigger than I realize. I’m doing my best to listen to and learn from the varied voices here and shake free of the comforting lies I grew up with. I can’t say I do or can ever fully understand, what with being born to a group with privilege in most categories… but I think my understanding today is better than it was yesterday. I want the world to be the better place I thought it was and to work towards that goal in whatever small ways that I can, but if I go about it blind I’m just going to make more of a mess of things.

      Thank-you for writing and helping people like me to be less blind. Hopefully in return I will do fewer things that hurt the people around me and to notice & be aware of/call out others more who are inflicting harm. I don’t know that this is a fair trade, but it’s the best I can offer right now, for what it’s worth.

      Best of luck,
      -D

    • Kathryn Dawson says

      dezn_98,

      Thank you so much for your heartfelt post. I mostly just lurk around FTB, but I really wanted to thank you for what you said, and your honesty. I second what CaitieCat and D-Dave wrote. Thank you.

    • says

      I saw your early posts and I have to say, I’m glad that some people here seem to have hit on good moderation policies, to allow you to feel supported here, at least somewhat. And for you to pour your heart out like you just did–listen, you have my full support and admiration for that. And it’s totally okay to have contradictory reactions to something slightly less fucked up than usual. It’s like, it’s nice, but then it reminds you of the scale of the fucked-upness, that this should be that out of the ordinary, and then you have all of those feels, and so on and so forth. Yeah. I hear you.

      Thanks for sharing.

  14. Pen says

    I’m afraid your parable about the angry atheist really didn’t cut it for me. Instead it really highlights the fact that there are just different responses to the same situations. Truth be told, if you just put the parable up and I knew nothing else about the situation, the angry interrupting atheist would just make me groan. For every Christian in the audience who gloated at the inappropriate question I would assume there’s another who’s gloating at the sight of someone losing it in response. On the other hand, most of them were probably there to talk about whether God exists and are just bemoaning the fact that the debate been derailed yet again by yet another person. For every atheist who’s clapping because they’re happy to see the perpetrator of an annoying and inappropriate behaviour getting told off, there’s another who’s thinking ‘this isn’t making us look any better than the original derailer did for them’. On the other hand, most of them probably just wanted to talk about whether God exists and here they are, still derailed.

    From what you’ve written before, Richard, I think you really are being consistent and you would take both situations the same way. I’m consistent as well. I don’t think either irrelevant questions or angry interruptions are ideal at conferences but you get both and you just try to get un-derailed as quickly as possible. I don’t mind JT telling Bria what he thinks or her telling him that he’s wrong, inconsistent of that she isn’t interested in his opinions. I don’t mind everyone telling JT he’s wrong and/or inconsistent as well although I think adding ‘and I’m never going to talk to you ever again’ as a few people have seems a bit much.

  15. hoary puccoon says

    A Hermit @ 13 came up with a similar analogy to one I thought of. If a German gave a talk about the hospitality industry and got a question from the floor about the Holocaust, would JT have assumed the question was innocent? (By the same token, I want to scream, myself, when a German interrupts whatever I’m saying to whine about, “you people bombed our cities.” This has happened to me repeatedly and I find it VERY offensive. On VE Day I was 8 months old. Do they think *I* was the one flying the plane?)

    I deliberately used Germans as an example because they aren’t an ethnic group that generally gets singled out for discrimination. I can’t help feeling if Bria had been a German complaining about a question about the Holocaust, that JT wouldn’t have been nearly as sure he was in the right.

    I really, really hope JT rethinks this. The more I’ve read about the details, the more it looks like Bria was expressing something that really needed to be said.

  16. says

    I actually found it painful to be inside JTs head on that first post…it was a really unrelentingly awkward place to be…sort of like David Brent from the Office going on about things he has no business going on about… And now this…the excruciation goes to eleven on this…an amplified cluelessness…

    great piece of writing…horrible place to spend ANY time…

    • says

      Um, no. That is not what she said. She said “Power differential muddles consent” (muddles, not negates; and no reference to any actual incident). Her point is that he is being exploitative, not that he is committing rape. I disagree with her (somewhat; and certainly, publicly, as I noted at length just last week here regarding civilian policies against what we call “fraternization” in the military), but that’s an argument one can reasonably have (Jen would just be wrong, IMO). But she is right that the SSA does actually prohibit that (as I also discuss in that same link), so he would in fact be violating SSA rules at SSA events specifically. That is not a rape allegation. It’s a violation of company rules. (The only consequence of which would be he would no longer be asked to speak at SSA events. Note my remarks on this point in that same link, where I discuss how I’d regard the SSA policy if I were single.)

      Her initial tweet was “Good thing JT is engaged so I can stop begging him to not use his speaker/staff status to get laid with 18-22 year old SSA members at cons!” (note the specific context: SSA cons). Although as I understood it he is poly and has his fiancee’s permission (I believe that at least was at one time the case), so when his fiancee complains in the same thread that what Jennifer said was untrue, I’m not sure whether she means the sleeping around or that he’s been doing it exploitatively or that he’s been doing it at SSA events (and if their relationship is still open, Jen’s initially expressed hope would be dashed). Jen said she only means he is “abusing his power, acting unprofessionally, and ignoring critique.” Not that he’s raping anyone. Or anything about his being mentally ill, either (I don’t even see where that came from).

      So, uberfeminist: total fail.

    • uberfeminist says

      Missed this thread earlier.

      You are correct. It’s a very public allegation, and implies a rather serious character flaw if true.

      Jen said she only means he is “abusing his power, acting unprofessionally, and ignoring critique.”

      And abusing women in particular.

      Or anything about his being mentally ill, either (I don’t even see where that came from).

      Jen took the time to reveal on Twitter that JT was at one point suicidal and Jen helped him.

      https://twitter.com/jennifurret/status/370286819864084480

      Jen: Especially a friend who I supported through mental illness and suicide attempts. But that means nothing because I told him he was wrong

      It really doesn’t get any clearer than that.

      What “normal person” is going to read this and not think JT is in some way a fucked up dude?

    • says

      Only in a very loose definition of “abusing.” And by no plausible conception, rape.

      So what you said was simply, plainly, totally false.

      I already explained above I don’t see that as “a rather serious character flaw” even if true (it’s a minor flaw at best); Jen thinks otherwise, but we’d disagree, and in any case, that would be a reasonable disagreement about matters of degree and good policy, and not her accusing JT of being a mentally ill rapist.

      And as I explained below, this isn’t what you said, which we were responding to. So not only is what you said “not” clear, your own evidence and statements now prove it wasn’t even close to clear, that in fact you basically lied about what Jen actually said.

      Indeed, JT does have a mental illness, which he has spoken about publicly, and which she did help him with, but that is all she said about that, in no connection at all to raping anyone or even in the context of sex.

      So you didn’t even get that right.

      But there’s nothing at all in her remarks about rape, either.

  17. Cat Rancher says

    I don’t see how you can read those tweets and then go claim that Jennifer implied JT is a mentally ill rapist. I wonder what edition of Hooked on Phonics I missed in kindergarten that might form a basis for making such a claim.

    • uberfeminist says

      Sigh.

      Jen said the man skipped convention rules to hit on younger women. The rules existed because people think women at these events might feel compelled to sleep with conference speakers.

      Jen also said he had attempted to kill himself and suffered a mental illness.

      Jen rolled all these facts in one torpedo and armed USS Twitter-revenge.

      In fact it was so bad that JT’s fiancee told Jen she was out of line. So are you going to agree with Jen or JT’s fiancee?

    • says

      Funny how what you just said here is not at all what you said.

      Maybe you are unaware of the fact that JT has spoken publicly about how he had attempted to kill himself and suffered a mental illness? And that in fact Jen did help him during all that, as she said?

      But then, how did you conflate that remark, with the other one, when they weren’t even uttered in the same context nor connected in any way by her?

      (Nor did she ever accuse him of rape.)

      Whether she is “out of line” is not the issue. You lying here about what Jen said is the issue.

      Don’t think I’ll let you get away with moving the goal posts. If you want to change the conversation to a completely different topic (whether what Jen actually said was wrong in any way), you need to give me a good reason why that completely different conversation would relevant here (given my comments policy).

  18. Drolfe says

    You know what happened the last time some white dude apologized for being racist to me after he realized what he did was wrong? I told him FCK YOU, and I did not accept it. You know what he did after? He acted just as racist as he did before, only this time he used my “rudeness” at not accepting this sort of forced apology as an excuse to spout racist abuse. I told him this is exactly why I no longer am in the business of accepting such apologies.. because such things are really used as a ransom. If not accepted they will continue to be aggressively racist… which lets me know, that the apology was never sincere to begin with.

    If anyone is still reading, let me remind you of this from Dezn above. Emphasis mine. It is not a rule that apologies have to be accepted in good faith.

    Even children’s television shows get this right — but a lot of grown ass people don’t — “I’m sorry is the first step, now how can I help?

  19. EDTA says

    I thought the whole “We have different approaches to expressing our shared opinion, and we embrace it because they can work side by side” matter had been settled years ago, but apparently that’s only true when that opinion pertains to religious beliefs and not other issues. JT may have thought that the response was out of line and his opinion may or may not have merit, but having a public disagreement about proper style is a bad policy in any case. The most important point is that someone set out to correct ignorance. Having a public disagreement about details of proper tone is unhelpful and in almost any case doomed to failure anyway. Most people are pretty settled in their style of argument (especially if they’re not getting paid for all that writing), and when we agree on the message, why fuss about the tone?

    This is just an anecdote and not even about political issues, but I was a moderator on a small forum a few years back, and when I was repeatedly told by my colleagues that my tone was too unfriendly, I just stopped moderating threads and focused on more rewarding tasks. Trying to make nice to people who genuinely annoyed the heck out of me was just too much effort to continue. And critizing a forum moderator for his tone is infinitely more justified than doing so to an activist. I’m afraid that getting the speaker to give up in frustration is the most one could gain from criticizing another’s style of argument, and who would want that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>