“Accidental” racism and intentional brilliance »« Segregation in 2013

“In Bad Faith”

A post by Jamie

It seems to me that whenever someone in the atheist/secular community fucks up, the favourite line of defence is “They didn’t do it in bad faith”. Well, my friends, in case no one has told you before, intent isn’t fucking magical.

Also? That is literally about the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard an atheist say to shield another atheist from any kind of criticism.

Trigger warning for discussion of racist language, colonial history, and extremely sexist bullshit.

Tone police warning for excessive profanity and volumes more to come if you so much as dare try to tell me or anyone else that I would get my point across better without it.

Concern troll warning for Jamie calling Richard Dawkins out for saying something racist and then being an enormous fucking racist dipshit by repeatedly defending it. Wring your hands and clutch your fucking pearls all you need to, it doesn’t change that I’m not accusing him of being A Racist, but of saying and repeatedly defending racist shit while continuing to say it over and over again. Jamie also calls someone out for saying something incredibly fucking stupid about rape, and then spending four days defending it despite being called out by several people. The offender changed his mind about what he had done, so he has no use for your disingenuous declarations of concern, and neither does anyone else. Jamie also calls out pig-headed FEMEN protesters for incorporating heavy doses of cultural imperialism, racism, and Islamophobia in their recent protests “in solidarity with” Muslim women — who they then promptly insult when those very Muslim women start counter-protesting/calling out their bullshit.

Racism apologists warning for the “That’s not racist!” defence — which isn’t a fucking defence for being racist — what was said was racist from the start and the continual defence of it was too. End of story.

This past week, my focus has been on Richard Dawkins — whose surname I propose be used as a unit of measure for exactly how obtuse a person is being — because a series of articles have come forward in which Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are being criticized for promoting racism and Islamophobia to the atheist/secular community. Here’s one of those articles, which I find is well-written. It contains links to the other two (one of which is not nearly as well written but gave momentum to the issue anyway), and it focuses primarily on criticizing Harris for Islamophobia. Rightfully so. When it comes to Islamophobia, Harris is about a million Dawkins thick. Dawkins himself is clearly several million Dawkins obtuse on the very subject.

Of related note, this past week, CFI and a bunch of fucking rocket surgeons published an open letter online to the secular community, urging everyone to use the “bad faith” defence as often as fucking possible, because in their opinion, we need to play nicer with each other—even when some of us think “playing nice” means tone-policing instead of listening to the content of what a person has to say, sexual harassment, rape and death threats, sexist apologetics and denial, and all around ignoring the impact of systemic inequality upon many groups of people, who are all demanding they be treated with dignity and respect. And what do you know? I didn’t respond nicely to that:

See, it’s obvious that to you, it’s still funny to play “devil’s advocate” and pretend that sexism and feminism are still “debates”. And that, Muffin, is an example of one of the principles upon which your organization is built. All this tone-policing you’re promising to enforce online, and all pleading with the entire fucking online English-speaking secular community to play along with, is just your attempt to placate teh wimminz so you can keep on giving each other back-pats for being nice guys in between heated “debates” about shit that does fundamentally fuck-all to challenge established gender inequality — either systemically throughout society, or even within your own movement.

Topless protesters (almost all of whom were white women) from the political organization FEMEN also decided that wearing niqabs and stereotypical jihadist-terrorist-costume-beards while protesting topless all across Europe, with inflammatory slogans painted all across their bare skin, was going to save all the Muslim women in the world from… the veil… even if they choose it independently and actually defend it… I guess. Not that any Muslima has ever asked for FEMEN to defend them using nudity coupled with a blatant malappropriation of their culture. Not that any Muslima ever would. Allegedly, the purpose of the protests were to show “solidarity” with Amina Tyler, who after posting a topless picture on FEMEN’s page, was seriously threatened and has gone under the radar since then. By being incarcerated in a mental hospital. FEMEN has outraged enormous droves of Muslim women, secular Middle Eastern women, even socially conscious white women, literally all over the world as far as I can tell, and of course, I’m upset too. Not that any of us care about the bare tits involved, because what they did would still be an issue even if they were wearing bras or pasties. Read a little more about it and how the tactic leaves much to be desired, especially for women of colour, here. Read even more specific details here. It’s really the tactic that caused a problem, more than anything else, because it serves as a racist, culturally imperialist, Islamophobic function of white privilege and colonialist ideology—the same shit that is at the root of everything else I’ll be discussing today. Moving on.

I also published this post containing multiple screen shots of Richard Dawkins, on his very own Twitter account, using and then repeatedly defending the use of a highly racialized word of the English language, even as people flocked to his page to repeatedly call him out on how racist it is:

Now we observe Dawkins responding to continued call-outs on his racist comments, by feigning ignorance of how the word “barbarians” is racialized and has been for several centuries, and then nonchalantly grinding his choice in jagged language deeper into the open psychological wounds of everyone who has ever had this term hurled at them as a racial slur—the living descendants of peoples who had this term hurled at them by invading white colonists; who then subjected the colonized peoples to genocide, slavery, occupation of their territories, and colonization of their very minds. These are crimes against humanity not forgotten soon enough to make Dawkins’ decision defensible in any manner; and which have been repeatedly followed with re-colonization, re-occupation, attempted eugenics, cultural genocide, re-enslavement, and the widespread destruction of their lands for the extraction of resources running beneath their feet.

No, simply saying “that’s not racist” does not magically undo the racism. No, I am not going to even attempt the impossible feat of proving definitively that Dawkins is A Racist. He said a racist thing — in fact, if you look at the etymology of the word itself, it is clear that it has never not been racist — and then continued to repeat it while repeatedly defending it, which was also racist of him. It seems a never-ending trickle of “race-blind” atheists want so badly for the fact that the slur was racist to begin with and that so was the repeated defence of it, that they wll do all they can to dismiss the problem. Starting with the “bad faith” defence, and ending with the “bad faith” defence, with the “bad faith” defence in between.

The Dictionary Definition Defence

Dawkins pulled this shit immediately when he was called out for using racialized language, and so do his admirers. Here’s a run down of exactly what the problem is with that, which I wrote about at length the last time someone pulled this shit when I called them out for co-opting the concept of rape to call attention to an event that had nothing to do with sexual violence of any kind:

For the record, a dictionary contains entries that describe the meaning of a word in a reportive fashion, usually accompanied by examples of its use in a sentence (or occasionally two if the word has multiple context-dependent meanings, such as words that mean one thing within a nautical context and another within common use). A dictionary neither contains, nor is in and of itself, a defence for such a gross misappropriation of an event as horrific, traumatizing, and often life-altering as rape. A reportive definition is also a completely different animal than a prescriptive summary. When one looks up the meaning of the word co-opt, for instance, one is informed that this means to absorb, assimilate, take over, or appropriate. For example, one might say “You are co-opting the concept of rape when you use it as a metaphor for not-rape“. Upon learning that this is how co-optation is defined, which is arguably done poorly, one still might not understand that co-opting is harmful, or why it is. A reportive definition, such as what is given for the word co-opt, fully de-contextualizes the meaning of the word and falls short of prescribing its use in various contexts. This is a common shortcoming of reportive definitions, and yet, reportive definitions are all one will find in a dictionary. Some other words such as legal terms are only useful in a single context. As such, these words are not quite fully de-contextualized, but nevertheless a great deal of the meaning is still lost in a mere description of its qualities. When one looks up what the word rape means, which seems like an utterly ridiculous exercise given the meaning of this word in both its common use and in widely recognized criminal law, one is informed in a variety of ways that this means either to sexually violate another person (when used as a verb), or the experience of being sexually violated (when used as a noun). Some dictionary entries may even state that the victim is usually a woman, even though this claim may be subject to limited dispute (see Rape Culture 202 for a more nuanced discussion of why the degree of that dispute ought to be limited). Some dictionary entries contain vague definitions that are actually used as euphemisms for rape, and have been for several centuries. To pretend, for the sake of either argument or ego, that rape either can be or ever has been considered anything other than rape is therefore to display ignorance of unquantifiable proportions (more on where that idea is rooted momentarily).

The dictionary definition defence is a barely veiled attempt at “Well ze didn’t say it in bad faith.” In other words, Captain Keyboard didn’t mean to say “rape” in a way that trivializes the most traumatic experiences of virtually every person who has ever been raped. And in the case of Dawkins, apparently most atheists actually expect me to believe that he didn’t mean to say “barbarians” in a way that cuts deeply into a psychological wound shared by every person of colour on the face of the planet. I call bullshit.

A reportive definition on the word “barbarian” won’t tell you how this word has been used by so-called “civilized” societies to justify invading another people’s ancestral territories with the express intent to commit ethnic cleansing against the indigenous peoples or to conduct eugenics experiments on them. A person need not even look this up in a “history” book, because it’s not even there. But talk to a person of colour who is conscious of where they come from, and you’ll get an earful about it. Or perhaps read this post—a 101-level breakdown I’ve written of the entire concept of colonialism (and all the interdependent oppressions it represents). The post draws upon a well of knowledge I’ve gradually gained from listening to indigenous communities, elders, and radical grassroots, who are sharing their histories as frequently as possible, as a form of resistance to genocide. All that listening has put a lot of written work from feminists of colour I’ve been exposed to, into a concrete context I can literally reach out and touch with my bare hands here (and so can you, unless you’re living on a remote island in the South Pacific, where indigenous peoples are still maintaining their traditional ways despite threats to their way of life from the invasive influence of colonialism — in which case, how the fuck are you accessing the internet and why are you literate in English?) Here’s a quote that puts a context on Dawkins’ word of choice, that you will not find in a dictionary definition:

While animism and ancestral worship became immediately condemned as the empty and uncivilized faith of the “Godless heathen”, “savage”, or “barbarian”, a complex and deeply corrupted narrative centring around the material manifestation of an externalized higher power (rather than the inseparability of the material and spiritual, or indigenous peoples and land) became immediately promoted as the key to salvation and civilization of the colonized peoples.

This ought to sound familiar, because we’re seeing it repeated all over again with the continuing war in the Middle East. To make adequate use of the “hiding under a rock” defence that it was in any way excusable to so intellectually sheltered, you would have to be at least several hundred Dawkins dense.

The “Well-Meaning” or “Didn’t Mean It Like That” Defence

Following faithfully in Dawkins’ footsteps, a fucking lot of atheists are making me angry by trying to persuade me that Dawkins didn’t mean it in a racist way. This, too, is a barely veiled “in bad faith” defence. Some of them even say this shit right after (allegedly) reading the entire length of the post I wrote about Dawkins’ racist choice in language and the diatribe that followed about how It’s Not Racist Because It’s OK If He Says It Because Dictionary Definition And Islam Isn’t A Race—both of which I acknowledged, tore to shreds, and threw out the fucking window from a sixth floor balcony in my writing. I’d have preferred in all honesty to have fired it out of a cannon into the fucking sun, but I see I have a long way to go before this argument experiences the awesome wonders of space travel. I also highly doubt that most of them are getting past the first paragraph of that piece of writing, because it’s pretty fucking hard for me to imagine anybody actually reading its full length and still mysteriously concluding that Dawkins didn’t mean to be racist when he abused a heavily racialized word and then repeatedly defended it. Thus, the declaration that to be this obtuse must be henceforth measured in units of Dawkins.

People of all kinds use the “well-meaning” or “didn’t mean it like that” defence when they get called out on saying or doing something super-shitty or outright bigoted. What this defence means is “I don’t have to apologize because intent is fucking magical!” It means “I don’t have to stop perpetrating the same problem or do anything to take accountability for what I’ve said/done because Intent!” It means “Nobody was hurt because when I said/did that super-shitty or outright bigoted thing, I didn’t mean it in a super-shitty or outright bigoted way, so that’s the exact same as it not even happening except the way I intended it to!” If literal bull shit was worth as much in Canada as it is in some remote tribal societies in Africa (where it is used to build houses), this defence would be the written or spoken deed to the 24K gold equivalent (and I promise you, it would be being laid by a golden goose, too).

If I told a rape joke to an outspoken rape survivor such as myself or a few women who are close to me because of our shared politics, and was immediately called out for trivializing their most traumatic life experiences (not to mention my own), they wouldn’t just smile and go “Oh, OK!” if I said “But I didn’t mean it like that!” And there’s no goddamned reason they should ever be expected to just be OK with it. I’m not OK with it. It’s not OK. The same goes for Dawkins abusing racialized language to deny abuse of people of colour by abusing the same racialized language in the first place. No matter which way he meant to use that particular colonial slur, actual harm against real people was being perpetuated by the very act of abusing it—people who are harmed every day of their lives by this same mindset, simply because they didn’t win the birth lottery—and they even told it straight to him, but he insisted instead that it’s not a problem because he sad so. This is all aside from the fact that the original appearance of the offending word was in the middle of a tweet about elephant poaching in Africa. It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to figure out who is doing the elephant poaching in Africa, and it isn’t the white people buying the poached elephant parts on the black market. How could he possibly have meant anything other than blatant racism?

In Bad Faith

The only possible way an evolutionary biologist, of all the fucking people on the face of the planet, could use the word “barbarian” or “barbaric” is in bad faith — whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean, especially when it’s coming from an atheist. In the sense that I am using it here, it means that any defence of this decision is disingenuous, no matter how many attempts are made to disguise what is essentially the same lousy defence repeated several times.

Dawkins clearly didn’t care about the impact of his decision because he was only concerned about being caught saying something racist and being called out for it. This isn’t the first time I’ve directly observed the same horse shit coming from him, and I can be certain it won’t be the last. And this thought process is regurgitated in an exact repetition, on the issue of sexism in the atheist/secular community, in CFI & Co.’s open letter.

This shit has got to change already. It’s up to each and every one of you, because Dawkins sure as fuck isn’t stepping up. The emboldened text within the following excerpt, of an actual exchange I was having with an atheist on this very issue, is another perfect example of how not to go about being on the right side of history. I had just finished explaining that every person who is not related by blood to the people whose ancestral territories we are currently occupying, has inherited social privileges as settlers on that land, which were derived from several successions of genocide against the indigenous peoples by colonial state powers. He responded by claiming that I’m attempting to silence him instead of having a productive conversation.

Me:
I’m sorry to be the first to tell you that being called on your privileges isn’t “being silenced”. If you don’t know what to say (an apology* is a good start), that’s your problem. Though that may feel bad, it’s not because I’m being oppressive to you. The very concept of silencing is also embedded in structures of systemic inequality, and when someone who is holding privileges doesn’t want to hear what someone who is holding the inequality end of that stick is saying to them, and they do things like blame them for their own oppression just to shut them up, THAT’S called silencing.

Atheist:
Your assumption that you’re the first to tell me anything is about as laughable as the suggestion that I should apologise to you.

Me:
Then have a good laugh. Laugh until you cry. Get it out of your system. Then have a good long think about exactly how many other people have explained to you that being called on your privileges isn’t an act of oppression. Then maybe when you’re done that, you can think about how much work you’re investing in denying that any of them have anything valid to say about the subject.

Go right on ahead from there and sign up somewhere to be a part of the men’s rights activism movement. You’re sure as hell not being an ally to anyone else, after all, so I don’t know what better use your energy could be applied to, except for egocentric knee-jerk hate-mongering.

* for the sake of context, the only apology I was suggesting here–and not even directly making a demand for—is for having just finished misgendering me (because they think knowing of my existence through a common contact I haven’t spoken to since early in my transition is equivalent to knowing me well enough to gender me any way they please); although it certainly wouldn’t have hurt for this individual to simply concede that they did not fully appreciate what privilege even meant until I had just finished explaining where theirs (and mine) comes from. I certainly wasn’t suggesting that they owe me an apology for a privilege we share equal parts of, let alone for atrocities we both benefit from that indigenous peoples were subjected to. I hope this fucking dumb-ass is reading this, recognizes it, and has a good long fucking think about it.

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Comments

  1. theetar says

    I propose that we adopt the “half fish” as a unit of unwarranted self importance. You are nothing compared to someone like Richard Dawkins, but you think you are a full fish.

  2. MroyalT says

    Awesome… pure and fcking simple. I don’t know who you are, but you are amazing. Call these people out on their BS. It is about god damn time. This community is so culturally obtuse it is sickening. They have absolutely no sense of the world besides their little quibbling on atheism. As an atheist minority, I am tired of seeing this stuff – and I don’t really associate with the online community because of it. You and crom, and the black atheists, and the feminists are really the only things that keep me here. Would have left a while ago without your voices…

    As a side note – I read this post because of the profanity warning – and you were as clear as day to me! I remember some FTB blogger went on and on about “being better” because he did not use profanity or insults, and he wanted to censor his blog cause of it… After like a huge battle with minorities telling him this is an absolutely silly idea.. he went on unaffected – then a few days later he left the blog. Good riddance. That kind of weird take of “communicate better” is so aggravating for me and I know it is for other people because the message – the core of it – is still the same one with or without the tone police coming in. It is childish to have the inability to read something because you do not like its tone. Glad to see someone just demonstrate this in a post.

    Love everything about it. you hit like every point and more… Do not let anyone tell you different.

  3. says

    You are nothing compared to someone like Richard Dawkins

    I can’t be the only person who is just straight-up embarrassed by self-uncritical hero worship like this. Every time someone criticizes some big name atheist, the fawning sycophants show up and, completely unfettered by the need to make an actual point, engage in this kind of “he’s better than you because reasons” bullshit.

    Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who don’t fawn over a pope? Get your shit together, theetar.

  4. grizzle says

    How is being highly — even at times unnecessarily critical of a religion in any way tied to being racist? Islam is not genetic, its’ a choice. One’s self can control being Islamic.

    Harris wrote an entire book against Christians — does that make him a Christianophobe?

    http://saiu.org/2013/04/03/greenwald-and-hussain-on-sam-harris-and-racism/

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/playing-the-islamophobia-card/

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/islamophobia-again/

  5. says

    grizzle:

    Harris wrote an entire book against Christians — does that make him a Christianophobe?

    How about I just copy/paste the answer for you, since you clearly didn’t get that far in my writing against Dawkins, in the blog post I’ve linked to in this piece:

    Meanwhile, Catholicism is directly culpable for several attempted genocides against indigenous peoples in Canada and the US, right alongside the Anglican church and our respective governments — who helped enact Catholic colonialism into our laws, constitutions, and treaties. Catholicism continues to advance several critical threats to and assaults against the rights of women and LGBTQs in our own countries as well as many more. And though Catholicism exists in Canada and the US embedded into a largely secularized society, its sway as an arm of our respective colonial governments gives it a might equivalent to that of any multi-billion-dollar corporation. Do not even pretend to not know exactly what that means, with the newly appointed US ambassador to Canada being a former agent of Goldman-Sachs. In Canada and the US, a militant opposition to Catholicism almost makes sense—if it weren’t missing multiple other structures that play equally important roles in the same problem, when that is the only militant opposition one harbours as a citizen of either nation. And Catholicism is racialized here as much as Islam is in the Middle East, but because of its import status, it isn’t racialized in the same way. Thus, it isn’t racist to criticize Catholicism in Canada and the US, because it is equivalent to criticizing systemic white settler privilege stemming from genocide.

    Emphasis added.

    In case you missed it when you were busy avoiding doing too much reading. I know that can be difficult when you’re so eager to challenge somebody by comparing systemic racism against people of colour to imaginary systemic racism against white people on a continent where they are (systemically) privileged by virtue of having perpetrated, institutionalized, maintained, and repeated several successions of genocide against people of colour — with added emphasis on indigenous peoples in particular.

  6. AgeOfReasonXXI says

    saying that Dawkins is obtuse and racist won’t get you far in atheist community– not due to “hero-worship”, but because it’s ignorant and idiotic to the extreme. neither would the frequent use of the f-word, btw. maybe you should grow up.

  7. says

    Is theetar a (slightly) renamed version of the poster who got well-deservedly blocked on Pharyngula after repeated trolling and derailing just the other day?

    In all seriousness though, the acceptable response to having said something racist is not to double down and try to argue your way out of it. It’s not to try and pretend that history didn’t happen. It’s not to claim that context is meaningless. It’s to just say, “yeah, I screwed up, I didn’t think about it enough, I’m sorry, and I’m going to try and correct my thinking.” And that’s exactly what Dawkins didn’t do.

  8. says

    saying that Dawkins is obtuse and racist won’t get you far in atheist community

    Turn the car around, Jamie! You won’t “get far in the atheist community” this way! I know that’s your most cherished goal, and AgeOfReasonXXI has demonstrated the truth of hir assertion by the use of two adjectives. Two! That’s twice as many as one!

  9. B-Lar says

    In case you missed it when you were busy avoiding doing too much reading…

    I now have coffee on my monitor.

  10. Dunc says

    neither would the frequent use of the f-word, btw.

    Oooh, the dreaded “f-word”! Yeah, atheists are notoriously sensitive to harsh language… Sorry, I’ve just rolled my eyes so hard I think I’ve pulled something.

    I don’t get it… OK, I’m Scottish, so for me swearing is simply a form of verbal punctuation, but are there really lots of people in North America who are so delicate as to be put off from a cogent argument by the use of the word “fuck”? Is this a kindergarten or something? And has anybody told Comrade PhysioProffe? (Now that I’d like to see!)

    Did you miss the “tone police warning” in bold at the top of the post, or did you just figure you’re such a special snowflake that it doesn’t apply to you?

    Still, I totally love how skilfully you’ve avoided any kind of engagement with the actual substance of the post in favour of pure tone trolling. Nice bodyswerve!

  11. says

    @Dunc – I wouldn’t hold out too much hope. Every time Jamie posts anything, the Slymepit gets turgid and engages in a group masturbatory session over how much they collectively hate him. The boldest among them come here and leave comments so they can go back and get a few bonus strokes from the hive. They’re not actually here to argue, they’re here to get off.

  12. raymoscow says

    To be honest, I never thought about ‘barbarian’ being used to justify racism, imperialism or oppression (or all three), but come to think of it innumerable examples of it being used exactly for that are obvious.

    I guess I’m now slightly less clueless on the subject.

  13. Dunc says

    To be honest, I never thought about ‘barbarian’ being used to justify racism, imperialism or oppression (or all three), but come to think of it innumerable examples of it being used exactly for that are obvious.

    I think you’ll have a rather more difficult time coming up with examples of it being used for anything else. I’m certainly coming up empty.

  14. Holms says

    Is theetar a (slightly) renamed version of the poster who got well-deservedly blocked on Pharyngula after repeated trolling and derailing just the other day?

    I thought the name looked familiar. Checking the Pharyngula thread commenting on the rape of one Rehtaeh Parsons, I find:

    With all this talk of wanting to leave the human species, I thought I was reading comments from the Rapture Ready forum. Funny thing is, the RR forum is actually more reasonable and commenter friendly than the Atheism plus forum and Pharyngula.

    I wasn’t commenting directly on this terrible tragedy, I was merely making the observation that Pharyngula and A+ forum are similar and in some ways more draconian that the rapture ready forums.

    And plenty more besides… again, this is in a thread about a rape victim. Subsequently banned for utter derailment.

    Meanwhile, I must join in with the puzzlement at the squealing fans leaping to Dawkins’ defence. Yes, he’s famous – more famous than any commenter here – but he can still fuck up.

  15. Holms says

    I don’t get it… OK, I’m Scottish, so for me swearing is simply a form of verbal punctuation, but are there really lots of people in North America who are so delicate as to be put off from a cogent argument by the use of the word “fuck”? Is this a kindergarten or something? And has anybody told Comrade PhysioProffe? (Now that I’d like to see!)

    Bear in mind that America is the nation that will censor words like ‘arse’ and ‘hell’ before the watershed, but won’t hesitate to have gunfights and murder in primetime slots, provided that they are not gory. As an Australian, I too am baffled at these priorities.

    Further, rest assured that the Slymers are just as rough and free with swearing as anyone on FTB. This sudden demand for decorum is a pose adopted purely to use as ammunition at the A+ crowd. We can easily confirm that this is merely a pose simply by looking at their forum index page, which contains OH NO SWEARS in the byline of some of their subfora.

    Fucking hypocrisy.

  16. ... says

    Fantastically good to have something out in the open

    “(almost all of whom were white women)”

    I do find North American racial obsessions cute. Especially coming from someone pretending that he cares about racism.

    FEMEN got its start fighting the sex trade in the Ukraine (that’s why they’re “almost all white” for the benefit of people who cannot see past skin colour). They get in the face of some seriously tough customers: the Vatican, the Eastern Church, Islamic nutters, the Putin regime… Takes courage. Takes character. Takes more than the ability to sit around as one of the most well of fraction of a well off fraction and grouse about people who actually stick their necks out.

    Now here’s a name you may vaguely remember: Darfur. People – people like you, actually – were hell bent against interventionism and now four hundred thousand were murdered. Is that “barbarian”? This week we’ve just heard of a Saudi man raping and murdering his own daughter because he was afraid she was no longer a virgin. He got off, under the Shariah, with a fine. Is that “barbarian”? In Nigeria we’ve seen yet another attack on a Christian community. Is that “barbarism”? There’s been recent discovery of the continued Islamic slave trade from Ethiopia to Saudi Arabia? Is that “barbarism”?

    Look. You make a good living with your racket. Just stay out of the way of those of us trying to take on real racism, real oppression, real tyranny. Stay out of our way and we will get along fine.

  17. freemage says

    Okay, so, I’d always learned that ‘barbarian’ came from a Roman insult to the northern tribes of Europe (that eventually brought down the empire). The term was essentially mocking their speech patterns, so it wouldn’t have had any specific racial connotations when used today.

    Except, of course, when it does. Which I didn’t know–I’d heard several other, similar terms (‘savage’ and ‘primitive’ being two off-my-head examples) used that way, but never ‘barbarian’.

    So, if I had used ‘barbarian’ in a discussion of Islam, and then been told that my usage was racist, I’d…. be surprised, then listen to the description of why that was so, maybe do a bit of investigation to confirm what Jamie’s said about it, and then said, “Wow. Didn’t realize that. Sorry for the unintended connotation, and I’m gonna add that to my ‘big mental pile of dustbinned words’. Thanks for the call-out.” Because that’s how a ‘good faith’ person does it when they discover that they’ve inadvertently caused harm while trying to be an ally. Then I’d continue to discuss how some branches of Islam are greatly harming women, and trying to figure out what my privileged ass can do for them, outside of voting for non-shithead politicians.

    Why do so many of my fellow doods have such a hard time figuring this out?

  18. ... says

    There is no point in addressing something completely demented and dishonest. You never bothered to address the points I made easier. There are people like you who make a decent living wittering on about the legacy of slavery and whatnot, and there are those of us who are trying to do something about the slavery that exists right now.

  19. says

    A) Nobody writing here makes a living doing so.
    B) Even if we did, nobody writes about slavery.
    C) If you had done even the slightest research before whipping yourself into a frenzy of self-righteous stupidity, you’d know that Jamie has a long and storied history of physically-present activism, often being violently abused for doing so. But you didn’t, because you don’t actually care, you’re just here to pontificate about some tangentially-related subject.
    D) Your points were spurious and had nothing to do with the article you’re commenting on, and as such do not merit a response either from Jamie or from myself.

    There is no point in addressing something completely demented and dishonest.

    Indeed, which is why I didn’t bother giving you a meaningful response.

  20. says

    I sure hope your badge of honour came with a box of tissues so you have something to dry your white tears with. You know the badge I’m talking about. The one you get for standing next to white feminists — even when they are being complete fucking racists (as if that hasn’t already been a problem for over a hundred years in the feminist movement).

  21. freemage says

    …: You really need to re-read some of Jamie’s other stuff. The point here is that FEMEN jumped whole-hog into a fight that they didn’t have a full understanding of (in comparison to, say, their personal cause of the European sex-traffic).

    And as a result, from Jamie’s perspective, and from some others as well, they inflicted what amounts to friendly-fire damage against the women they were seeking to help. That should bother you, if you care more about providing that help than about getting a cookie for your ‘good faith’.

  22. grizzle says

    I was simply trying to provide some links to show some of the alternative views on the New Atheism/Islamophobia ‘link’ that has suddenly come to light. I wasn’t trying to pick a fight. Not long after I’m accused of ‘avoiding reading’ and other passive aggressive comments. It wasn’t my intent to ‘Troll’ – and I know this entire domain receives quite a bit of that daily – I didn’t want to add to that. I figured someone like Jerry Coyne would have a high enough status amongst the secular crowd that his opinion might at least merit a discussion rather than typical no-name blog posts as a means to counter. I think Jerry brings up some good points in both the articles I linked to above. Espeically in the double standard that Islam gets special treatment when it comes to criticizing. Am I not fee to share this opinion on the “FreeThoughtBlogs Network”?

    But quite simply put, I don’t share your assertion that race is not genetic and I am also still not convinced that highly critical statements of Islam, including calling one a ‘barbarian’ is in any way shape or form racist. I don’t think its racist in any way shape or form.

    That’s all. I’m not trying to Troll this blog. I actually enjoy this blog very much as well as the rest of the network.

  23. spartan says

    “Good job of actually addressing the arguments made in the post, BTW. Very persuasive.”

    You mean ‘arguments’ like: “Racism apologists warning for the “That’s not racist!” defence — which isn’t a fucking defence for being racist — what was said was racist from the start and the continual defence of it was too. End of story.” Looks a helluva lot more like a bald assertion and opinion to me.

    Exactly when does the genetic fallacy kick in on these words? Words typically have more than one meaning and are always imperfect at communicating the thoughts of the speaker, why are you justified in selecting just one meaning? How much responsibility does a speaker have for the misinterpretation of the content of his communication, especially in the case where the receiver substitutes in, oh, just the worst interpretation of the word in question? Do you have an issue with ‘Conan the Barbarian’, does that also open deep psychological wounds supposedly, is that an example of ‘Barbarian’ never ‘not being racist’? How about, ‘son, go fetch me a spade so we can spread this pile of dirt around’, is that offensive? I don’t see why not if you really want to stick with the the vastly overused, ‘intent’s not magic’, after all, who cares what was intended, right? You really want to burden already imperfect methods of communication even further to make sure no one can (mis-)interpret something negatively/offensively regardless of context or intent?

    Yes, elephant poachers are barbarians, as in crude, brutal, savage, not civilized. If you can’t refer to specific Africans, or women or any other minority/oppressed people, using words that have been sometimes used to negatively describe their entire race/gender/ethnic group, then there are very few words available since they have very long histories of oppression and have been referred to using almost every possible negative word.

  24. says

    Am I not fee to share this opinion on the “FreeThoughtBlogs Network”?

    Please explain how it is that you were prevented from sharing this opinion.

    But quite simply put, I don’t share your assertion that race is not genetic

    That’s nice. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re wrong, and that the evidence for race as a sociological phenomenon is literally decades old.

    and I am also still not convinced that highly critical statements of Islam, including calling one a ‘barbarian’ is in any way shape or form racist. I don’t think its racist in any way shape or form.

    How about you present an argument supporting your position? Jamie has done so. You have simply said “I don’t believe you”, but haven’t in any way addressed the specific arguments he makes here.

  25. says

    “Racism apologists warning for the “That’s not racist!” defence — which isn’t a fucking defence for being racist — what was said was racist from the start and the continual defence of it was too. End of story.

    So you only read the bolded parts, I take it? The rest of the article isn’t exactly ‘loren ipsum’, spartan. Jamie supports that assertion within the body of the text. Have trouble reading it in one go? So do I. I suggest taking your time and going through it carefully.

    How much responsibility does a speaker have for the misinterpretation of the content of his communication, especially in the case where the receiver substitutes in, oh, just the worst interpretation of the word in question?

    Words mean things. They have a history – a history that in most cases is still unfolding. The fact that a speaker is unaware of specific negative connotations is, in fact, an incredibly forgivable offence. When that speaker is presented with the context of the word and has it explained to him why it’s harmful, he no longer has the luxury of ignorance as an excuse. When his reaction is to double down and say “well I didn’t mean it that way, so fuck you”, that becomes an entirely different kind of offense altogether. Of course, all of this is stuff that Jamie has already specifically said, so I’m going to conclude that you either didn’t read past the first two paragraphs, or you’re actively invested in not learning.

    crude, brutal, savage, not civilized

    Awesome. Way to bolster the whole “this isn’t racist” argument by trotting out a bunch of other colonial euphemisms. It’s like you want to lose.

    If you can’t refer to specific Africans, or women or any other minority/oppressed people, using words that have been sometimes used to negatively describe their entire race/gender/ethnic group, then there are very few words available

    Translation provided here. Yes, imagine having to think about the words you use to describe people. That must be such an awful burden for you. So much worse than having to deal with the consequences of unthinking racist/colonialist attitudes all the time.

  26. grizzle says

    I provided three links, to save space I didn’t copy and paste the various points made by them as there are quite a few of them. You obviously have not read a single one. And so far you’ve provided absolutely zero counters to any of the points set forth by both Jerry Coyne and Robby Bensinger. So no, you haven’t proven a thing, I’m afraid.

  27. says

    So no, you haven’t proven a thing, I’m afraid.

    I didn’t realize I was attempting to prove anything to you, grizzle. And no, I tend to avoid doing other people’s work for them. You haven’t demonstrated what part of Jamie’s argument you have a problem with (except to say that you disagree with it). You’re asking me to do both sides of the argument and then hold your hand while I try to guess what part of Coyne’s argument you find most compelling. I’m not your dad, and you’re not a 6 year-old. Do your own homework.

    EDIT: I have now read the linked articles. They have nothing to do with the subject of Jamie’s post. At all. Which is why I don’t usually follow links when they’re presented without context like this.

  28. says

    Grizzle:

    Here we see a New Atheist apologist in his natural habitat, the online discussion forum. His mating dance begins with a display of mock naivety about how the movement he subscribes to has been criticized for islamophobia since before the September 11th attacks. In order to prove his worthiness and superiority as a potential mating partner, he airs his frustration with perceived passive aggression before hopping up and down about the importance of his intent. He then puffs his chest up and begins thumping on science textbooks about authority and frozen peaches. Finally, to close his mating ritual dance, even in the apparent absence of a compatible mate, he announces declarations of race realism.

  29. says

    What do you know, I got spartan and grizzle confused because grizzle does nothing to confront it while maintaining his own defenses of the same position adopted by spartan.

    Shucky darns.

  30. smhll says

    Okay, so, I’d always learned that ‘barbarian’ came from a Roman insult to the northern tribes of Europe (that eventually brought down the empire). The term was essentially mocking their speech patterns..

    I believe that in Ancient Rome it literally meant those bearded dudes.

    In more modern usage it tends to mean – those heinously tacky people who aren’t like us. (My personal interpretation.)

    I straight up 100% agree that the terms barbarian, barbaric and barbarism are always Chauvinistic as chauvinistic was defined on the colonialism link. A very small percentage of the time I think those words may not be racist, as one white tribe could use it to put down another white tribe (Roman to Germanic tribes, or English to Irish). (Maybe I need a looser definition of racistm.)

  31. says

    People too, I should add, can be said to be visibly racialized, for instance. I’ve written about how being stealth racialized can sure throw a wrench into things.

  32. spartan says

    Understanding that things can be or become racialized wouldn’t hurt.

    Contrary to Crom’s insinuations, I have read your post here and the one on your blog, and have now just read perhaps the most interesting and relevant one concerning what you mean by ‘racialized language’ from October. I’ll definitely raise my hand as someone who never knew that people react this way to these words, and despite the stupid, unevidenced, and plain incorrect insinuations that I’m a New Atheist champion/Dawkins fellator/(what, no ‘slymepitter’?), I don’t go out of my way to hurt or offend people. But it would help to understand where you are coming from, I’ll not unintentionally hurt people’s feelings more frequently obviously if I agree with you.

    Yes, words have meanings, usually multiple ones. I don’t think the only definition of ‘barbarian’ is ‘derogatory/racist term for conquered and oppressed indigenous peoples used by their oppressors’; I think there is a significant difference between ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and ‘Conan the Wop’. Do you? An amazon search of ‘barbarians’ brings up plenty of results as I’m sure you imagine, are these mostly all racist and offensive? I’m honestly not trying to be antagonistic or mocking here, I’m just trying to determine the boundaries. Or are these okay because they are referring to barbarian=warrior? Is it permissable to say, ‘elephant poaching is barbaric, savage, uncivilized’, or that ‘white American elephant poachers are barbarians’? I’m not sure on this, as you also object to ‘co-opting’ words, so I don’t know if you feel that the negative racist usages of these words has obliterated all other usages or perhaps that it dilutes the racism of its historical usage. I’ve changed my mind many times from what I’ve first thought on lots of subjects, but right now, ‘savage’, ‘brutal’, ‘uncivilized’, all seem like valid words that do not necessarily always ‘mean’ something racist. And I need to think more about what I think of people who cannot hear these other non-racist definitions and connotations when exposed to these words, although to some extent there’s no way around that harm is still harm and it doesn’t necessarily have to be caused logically by something.

  33. says

    ‘savage’, ‘brutal’, ‘uncivilized’, all seem like valid words that do not necessarily always ‘mean’ something racist.

    My main problem with these words isn’t necessarily their racist connotation (although those can be there), but more so their colonialist connotations. One society arbitrarily decided that X and Y and Z were “civilized”, and began branding all cultures that didn’t conform to that formula as “barbaric” and “savage”. They used this language as a justification for destroying, co-opting, or otherwise destroying those cultures, and did this for many generations.

    Now, the same society that birthed that extremely “barbaric” (by the colloquial definition you use) practice have now decided that they would like to use the word, but would like everyone else to ignore the fact that they have this history. They wish us to say “oh no, what they mean is a set of things that they do not believe is arbitrary”, because it is a more “generous” interpretation of their intent. At no point does that society say “wow, we did this for a long time, and maybe we have to check some of the assumptions we’ve made in the past, and that we currently make, about other cultures to see if we actually have a non-arbitrary yardstick for what it means to be “civilized”.

    The fact that “the West” (a.k.a. western Europe and North America) does not wish to engage in this kind of self-reflection, but does wish everyone else fall all over themselves to forgive a society that has committed some of the worst atrocities on the planet – far worse than say, rhino poaching (which is also quite awful, but which is caused largely by financial pressures stemming from, you guessed it, colonialism) – is incredibly hypocritical.

    And then on top of all of that, there is the racism implicit in colonialism that adds a whole other layer of complexity to the conversation – complexity that those perpetrating the racist and colonialist attitudes do not want to have to think about, but that the rest of the world must deal with on an ongoing basis.

  34. Holms says

    Look. You make a good living with your racket. Just stay out of the way of those of us trying to take on real racism, real oppression, real tyranny. Stay out of our way and we will get along fine.

    Something about your complete lack of any name on a blog comment – not even an anonymous internet handle – plus your complete lack of link or other reference to an activism organisation tells me you aren’t doing shit about anything.

  35. spartan says

    Why?

    Couple reasons. The first obvious one is, like you, I don’t banish words and arguments simply because someone on the internet is offended or harmed by it. Most importantly as I said above, it’s difficult to prevent inadvertently hurting someone’s feelings unless I understand specifically the logic behind their objections to these words. And although I again do try and respect others’ feelings and sensitivities, I don’t know that I agree that simply because words have been used in negative ways that it then overwhelms all other usages and ‘colloquial’ definitions; I’m not going to discuss the wisdom of dropping the atomic bomb in WWII with Hiroshima survivors, but that doesn’t mean that topic is verboten simply because it harms those people. Additionally, I’m sure the words ‘appalling’, ‘disgusting’, ‘amoral’, ‘dirty’, ‘violent’, etc, were all used also to describe the victims of colonialism also, and I agree yes people should think about how they describe other people, but there is a very long list of negative adjectives that I would bet have been used and I don’t know that I buy that these words should be abolished because of that. And no, ‘poachers are douche*s’ doesn’t quite capture it.

    Now, the same society that birthed that extremely “barbaric” (by the colloquial definition you use) practice have now decided that they would like to use the word, but would like everyone else to ignore the fact that they have this history. They wish us to say “oh no, what they mean is a set of things that they do not believe is arbitrary”, because it is a more “generous” interpretation of their intent.

    That may very well be the case for many and I can’t ignore that other people do make this kind of argument, but it’s not one that I hold. I don’t want people to ignore the history of how these words have been used, I would like people to acknowledge that these words have other non-colonial, non-racist definitions and usages and therefore wonder what the logic specifically is by which the harm is caused. If someone is harmed by the mere utterance of ‘barbarian’ in all of it’s usages I’m of course sorry that they are harmed but I wouldn’t advocate just based on that that the word be abolished. That is partly because the logic behind why the person is taking offense appeared to involve substituting in a definition of these words that is the worst and making the person who uttered it defend themselves against one definition that may not have been intended, which is the opposite of what we do in 99% of all other communication.

    Thanks for the thorough response, and I had forgotten to add to my post last night, and thanks for not deservedly rubbing my face in it, that I need to check my privilege here, I agree. I’m not looking to have the past wrongs of ‘my society’ forgiven or to have people bend over backwards to placate it. Agreed, colonialism has been barbaric as in brutal and vicious, the act of poaching is also barbaric in the same way. Yes, it is hypocritical to just call colonialized (?)poachers ‘barbarians’ if one is from a colonialist society, as the effects of that colonialism are partly why they are resorting to poaching in the first place, but it doesn’t make the act of poaching any less savage, it just at best makes that barbarism/savagery justified. Thanks for letting me think out loud, I seem to be talking myself to an extent towards agreement with some of yours and Jamie’s points here.

  36. says

    This isn’t fucking rocket surgery. We all have a responsibility to stop hurling racisms in every direction, and that includes you.

    There are more than 600,000 other words in the English language, and you have listed several more accurate non-racialized synonyms yourself, following it up with a heap of more racialized language again. What the fuck is the problem?

  37. spartan says

    The fuck is the problem is that words aren’t forever and in all usages ‘racisms’ based on your mere say-so, and I obviously don’t understand the logic you are using that I should use going forward to determine this word is a racism and this word isn’t; I don’t know which of the synonyms I’ve provided are not racialized and why, haven’t all of these words also been used to oppress and justify it? I’ve asked plenty of I’m sure remedial questions, so let me ask once again: is the word ‘barbarian’ forbidden always in all usages in your opinion? Do oppressed people see the comic book ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and can’t help but have that word, which is being used in a non-colonial, non-racist way, invoke in their mind the other meaning of the word which is harmful and that’s the issue? Is ‘spade’ when used as ‘shovel’ offensive? Is it offensive to refer to the way that tigers hunt and kill their prey as ‘savage’ and ‘brutal’? Does it really need to be said that you are not the arbiter of acceptable usage of the English language? Your 1 vote has been duly noted, and it’s curious that the dictionary definitions that you disdain do not mention, at all, the purported offensiveness of these racialized words when they do note that for all the real slurs you can think of.

  38. says

    The first obvious one is, like you, I don’t banish words and arguments simply because someone on the internet is offended or harmed by it

    Actually, I do stop using words when they are harmful to oppressed groups, so I’m not sure I’m the role model you want to invoke here.

    I don’t know that I agree that simply because words have been used in negative ways that it then overwhelms all other usages and ‘colloquial’ definitions

    The point is that the word has no connotation that doesn’t specifically invoke that history. The fact that you personally don’t think about those things before you say them doesn’t mean that a) they therefore mean something else, and b) that your audience doesn’t hear it. “Barbaric” is a word that is contrasted against “civilized” (as the synonyms you suggested clearly reveal, even you believe that). Who decides what “civilized” means? For the most part, it has been western Europeans who have made that specific appellation, and in general it is usually those with greater power who make that designation against those with less power. That alone should make you mistrustful of the casual, “colloquial” use of the word.

    It is not simply because those words were used to describe these people that they’re problematic – it’s that they were used to define those people, and to license violence, fraud, theft, and genocide against those people. And when someone describes another culture as “uncivilized barbarians”, they are making the exact same argument as their forebears. They just haven’t bothered to put the work in to explore their meaning.

    That is partly because the logic behind why the person is taking offense appeared to involve substituting in a definition of these words that is the worst and making the person who uttered it defend themselves against one definition that may not have been intended, which is the opposite of what we do in 99% of all other communication

    I disagree with all of this. The fact that the speaker is ignorant doesn’t mean that the audience has to pretend they are as well. And when the status quo is perpetuating oppresion-based harm, there needs to be a pushback against casual bigotry. You seem to be arguing that we should instead pretend that once someone says “I didn’t mean it that way”, then that’s the end of the problem. It might be the end of the problem for the bigot, but the oppressed group still has to deal with a culture in which that kind of bigotry runs rampant.

    The other thing that you should think about is that you still haven’t addressed one of the main components of Jamie’s argument, which is that while ignorance may be forgiven a person, once, repeated invocation of bigoted language after you’ve been told the reasons it is problematic is not. At that point you are not ignorant – you are intentionally provocative. There can be no “benefit of the doubt” in cases like that – the speaker has removed all doubt. The language itself is problematic, regardless of intent. The addition of malicious intent to problematic language is a separate issue.

  39. spartan says

    At that point you are not ignorant – you are intentionally provocative.

    Then I’ll just stop, I’m not trolling you and no I’m not being ‘intentionally’ provocative, let’s not pretend like you can read my mind; I think the proper ‘argument’ here is that my intent is not magic. I’m not sure how you think I can discuss what you mean if I’m not allowed to use the words in question in examples, but whatevs. Thanks again to you and Jamie for taking the time to respond, I’ll try and read more on Jamie’s site on this as there seems to be a lot of detail there, and see if it hopefully clarifies for me where and why specifically you’re drawing the lines of ‘problematic’ where you are.

  40. says

    Indeed. You might want to continue educating yourself instead of basically arguing that more-aware people are required to “market” the idea of equality to you, starting with better language choices that reflect a commitment to better treatment of most disproportionately oppressed peoples.

  41. VeganAtheistWeirdo says

    Then have a good laugh. Laugh until you cry. Get it out of your system. Then have a good long think about exactly how many other people have explained to you that being called on your privileges isn’t an act of oppression. Then maybe when you’re done that, you can think about how much work you’re investing in denying that any of them have anything valid to say about the subject.

    You, sir, are awesome.

    That is all.

  42. great1american1satan says

    I’m coming around to a new position now, as the privilege-denying and crappiness of large swaths of the atheist community have blunted my atheist pride down to almost nothing. I still consider religion a terrible thing, but atheism attracts heartless misogynists and libertarians the way catholicism attracts pederasts. Where we’d use the abuse scandals as proof there’s something wrong with catholicism, I feel it would be unfair not to point the same scrutiny at atheism.

    There’s something wrong with atheism. I’m an atheist and not about to change that, but atheism as a cultural phenomenon seems hella fucked up right now. Also like there’s a reason for it, because dudebros who never heard of online atheism seem to be popping up with the same warped attitudes all the time, no consultation required.

    My guy was saying it’s probably because iconoclasts with limited empathy are the most likely to come to atheism in a context where that’s not the dominant belief, but far more secular countries than the US (Dawkins’s UK) seem to produce the exact same breed of jerk.

    If people like that control the brand, do I want to be associated with it? It’s like being a Christian when the LRA is yelling about Jesus next door.

  43. says

    Yep.

    The biggest problems are iconoclasts who don’t realize that they are still culturally Christian and thus harbour all the same prejudices as the roman catholic church.

  44. great1american1satan says

    Cultural xtianity – That’s the first I’ve seen that concept mentioned online (maybe because I don’t get out more), but I was just realizing that recently. I’m culturally xtian (though I’ve been an atheist since I learned about Jeezy at age 4), and I resent the extent to which that garbage has influenced my language and perceptions. Not that it’s the only thing that’s led me down bad paths, but it just leaves a foul taste in my brain.

    I’m always amazed by the smugness of people acting like big rebels, thinking themselves revolutionary or transgressive for saying the exact shit that the kyriarchy (sp?) has espoused forever. Examples: “Oy, I’m so punk I hate faggots and jews.” “I realize this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I think trans* people who want to pass better should get their body fat under 5%…”

    Makes me … cranky.

  45. says

    Totally. Agreed.

    The entire purpose of decolonization is to deprogram all that cultural christian garbage as we become aware of it, not just get mad an rant. But a lot of atheists are all like “ermagerd, aboriginal woo” and not actually making any constructive effort to purge their thought processes of bigotry.

  46. daniellavine says

    Incidentally, etymology of “barbarian” is NOT Roman. How are so many people completely wrong about such a simple point of fact that could be googled in all of two seconds? Greek — ancient Greek — for “foreigner”. But it was a pejorative even for the Greeks. The “joke” was that foreigners’ speech sounded like “bar bar bar bar” and so they called foreigners “barbarians”, those who speak nonsense. This is not hard to look up. If you’re going to call yourself a “skeptic” how about taking the few seconds required to make sure the information you’re passing on is…you know…accurate? At any rate, we can see that Jamie is right here — there was never a time at which “barbarian” was not a racist term since its invention.

    Jamie, awesome article. Sorry about the mostly off-topic post.

    grizzle@29:

    Not long after I’m accused of ‘avoiding reading’ and other passive aggressive comments.

    You were accused of “avoiding reason” because as Jamie already pointed out you came in with an objection that was already addressed in Jamie’s post without acknowledging as much. It looks a lot like “avoiding reading” to anyone who is paying attention.

    Now that’s racist…

    LOL. Geez, hope the man isn’t holding you down too hard, calling you a “whiner” and all. That must really hurt. I never knew how bad us white folks had it.

  47. moap says

    Anyone who uses barbarian is racist.

    Anyone who uses sinister in a negative context is antilefthandedpersonist.

    Anyone who uses hilarious is homophobic.

    Or maybe if you stopped playing word games and focused on the content of the message that monotheistic lunatics (I’m an anti-moonist anti-birdist person! GASP!) blew up an irreplaceable ancient library and someone said it was barbaric. If he said it was sinister would you be writing about the original meaning of the latin roots of the word and how offensive it is to left handed people?

    I guess I care about substance more than style.

    Is it worth alienating your natural allies for English linguistic purity?

    *English is not my first language so the apparent hatred over language mistakes is very disconcerting. Should not the content instead of the mode be what matters?*

  48. says

    I guess I care about substance more than style.

    Well it’s pretty clear that you don’t, because you’ve said absolutely nothing about the substance of the post. Cool story though.

  49. says

    Moap

    The offense in the word sinister is simply incomparable to the offense in the use of a racialized slur. There’s no “right-handed privilege”. There aren’t hate movements walking about berating left-handed people.

    English may not be your first language, but obtuse certainly seems to be. I give you a rating of 5.6 million Dawkins on that one.

  50. says

    There aren’t hate movements walking about berating left-handed people.

    I see no signs of it now (then again, I don’t see any overt homophobia in my immediate universe, so make of that what you will), but there certainly used to be a LOT of hatred of left-handed people. In some schools, children who were found to be left-handed had their left hands tied to their chairs to force them to write with their right hands. Just sayin.’ But yeah, if Moap really cared about “substance more than style,” he’d understand that words mean things (“substance”), so it’s important to use the right ones.

  51. says

    That has distinctly less to do with outright hatred of left-handedness and a lot more to do with the institutional structures of Western schools, in that they are analogous to prisons, and measure every student’s abilities by the exact same parameters, no matter what their individual differences.

    The fact that you can cite abuses experienced by left-handed children in schools isn’t evidence of systemic oppression against left-handed people. Plenty of other kinds of people can cite all sorts of abuses in the same settings, that have nothing to do with which hand they use to write.

    P.s. I’m conditionally ambidextrous in many respects because my teachers wouldn’t let me write with my left hand. I may not have been tied down, but my abilities and intelligence were measured by right-handedness and all sorts of other criteria I couldn’t fulfill for various reasons. I know all about what it’s like to be a fish whose intelligence is assessed by how well it can climb a tree.

  52. says

    Even granting that in some circles being left-handed was (& perhaps still is?) associated with “Devilry” and that in many respects modern society is simply ill-fitted for left-handed people (I suspect I would find a dearth of left-handed can openers at, say, Walmart, and my left-handed brother can tell you all about how annoying writing left-to-right can be with a pen or pencil), it seems to me that as long as you are privileged in other key respects in contemporary (North) American societies you can get by just fine.

    Whereas if you’re less privileged in those other key respects…

  53. says

    Re-reading my comment seconds after posting, I feel like I should clarify that it is not my opinion that, in North American society, being less privileged on racial/gender/&c axes will expose you to prejudice/oppression/&c on account of being left-handed.

    I say that because the ellipsis at the end of my last sentence makes even me think I was about to make that very claim.

  54. GregB says

    The fact that “the West” (a.k.a. western Europe and North America) does not wish to engage in this kind of self-reflection, but does wish everyone else fall all over themselves to forgive a society that has committed some of the worst atrocities on the planet – far worse than say, rhino poaching (which is also quite awful, but which is caused largely by financial pressures stemming from, you guessed it, colonialism) – is incredibly hypocritical”
    ——–
    ——–

    You say these words–as the owner of a blog called The CROMMUNIST Manifesto???

    Ah, such delicious irony.

    ——–
    ——–
    “Actually, I do stop using words when they are harmful to oppressed groups, so I’m not sure I’m the role model you want to invoke here.

    I don’t know that I agree that simply because words have been used in negative ways that it then overwhelms all other usages and ‘colloquial’ definitions

    The point is that the word has no connotation that doesn’t specifically invoke that history. The fact that you personally don’t think about those things before you say them doesn’t mean that a) they therefore mean something else, and b) that your audience doesn’t hear it. “Barbaric” is a word that is contrasted against “civilized” (as the synonyms you suggested clearly reveal, even you believe that). Who decides what “civilized” means? For the most part, it has been western Europeans who have made that specific appellation, and in general it is usually those with greater power who make that designation against those with less power. That alone should make you mistrustful of the casual, “colloquial” use of the word.

    It is not simply because those words were used to describe these people that they’re problematic – it’s that they were used to define those people, and to license violence, fraud, theft, and genocide against those people. And when someone describes another culture as “uncivilized barbarians”, they are making the exact same argument as their forebears. They just haven’t bothered to put the work in to explore their meaning.”
    ——–
    ——–

    I see. So, when are you changing the name of your blog?

  55. GregB says

    You do not understand that hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people feel they and their families were
    historically, brutally, viciously oppressed by C_ommunism, which is what your name is: obviously a
    (what..sly? silly? attempted clever?) play on words.

    “Words matter”, etc. after all.

    Or, are you going to dictate to THEM that there feelings and experiences are without value and meaning?

    (Or, alternately, these absurd word games and precious, self-righteous claims assigning insult where there is none could be thrown out the window and into the garbage heap where they belong…you don’t suppose THAT might be doable, now, do you?)

  56. says

    which is what your name is: obviously a (what..sly? silly? attempted clever?) play on words.

    That’s seriously the limb you want to climb out on, eh? Have fun.

  57. GregB says

    That’s all you got?

    For millions of people alive today (not 18th Century slaves), that word is a direct synonym for misery and horror (and you very well know it).

    So, called out on it, you can’t admit your error, but instead just shrug your shoulders?

    Not very impressive (though understandable).

  58. says

    So, called out on it, you can’t admit your error, but instead just shrug your shoulders?

    You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that you saying something stupid requires me to respond with something smart. Or that I have even the slightest desire to “impress” you.

  59. says

    You ought to be ashamed of associating yourself with the cause of the notorious Oliver Cromwell, military dictator, regicide, and theocrat extraordinaire! How dare you make light of the pain and oppression experienced by the Irish Catholics who were the targets of his near-genocidal mania for power??

  60. GregB says

    I invite you to point out the “stupidity”; till then, it’s evident to all you’re just trying to avoid the obvious
    glaring problem with juvenile insults.

    That’s okay; I’ll here invite you to recognize your error and apologize.

    I know–check that, I *hope* (can’t really be sure) that you didn’t “intend” to bring forth such illusions to the victims of Communism–but, *intent doesn’t matter*!!!

    You’ll feel better when you repent, so I hear. Though, of course, now that your error has been pointed out, if you persist in not acknowledging the problem, this raises things to an entirely different level…

  61. GregB says

    @SallyStrange: Excellent point! There may be no limit to the number of historical horrors we can drum up from that name, and no end to the supping at the victim-cup. It may well be too late for an apology, or such may be too meager to fit the crime.

  62. VeganAtheistWeirdo says

    I find the irony of his comments pretty damn funny. One of those who cry “McCarthyism!” upon being told sexist language is uncool…railing against the evils of communism.

    Greg, pretending you don’t actually understand why your analogy is bullshit just isn’t a compelling reason for Ian to respond to it. I recommend you try wikipedia or do some googling. While you’re at it, look up sarcasm.

  63. GregB says

    @self-described Weirdo: Somebody used the MC word? Not me. Heck, I don’t recall being told a durn thing by Mr. Crommunist, except that he’d prefer *not* to explain to the flock exactly *why* he’s not a base hypocrite, willing to snipe at a brave guy like Dawkins from the safety of his blog-dom and with his screeching, foul-mouthed pet chihuahua “Jamie” yipping along side.

    I’m not pretending. It’s obvious he’s caught with his pants in a snicket, and doesn’t like being
    hoist with his own petard (did I forget “triggers” for those who have been castrated, or once were pricked in the bum? apologies!).

    A common human failing, but he can repent! In fact, his errors made explicit, shown for all the world to see…he must!

    It must be really tough to learn how easy it is to have one’s own silly notions turned against oneself, I understand.

    There’s simply no way to deny the allusion, and if you want to spin absurdities about well-worn innocuous terms (innocuous to mature adults, that is) like “barbarian” then the clear reference to the disaster that is historical Communism easily fits the bill. Sorry ’bout that.

  64. says

    I just need to add that the demand for a name change on this blog is utterly stupid. As I understand it, it’s a word play on Ian’s surname.

    A little bit about my own surname at birth: it means “son of Jen” (pronounced yen). I have little doubt in my mind just how many thousands of people experienced oppression at the hands of those to whom I owe this name — those from whom I descended, on that side of my family.

    If the blog name needs to be changed, then the surname I was assigned at birth needs to be forever abolished. How about that?

    Or how about you not tell Ian to change the name of his blog, given that he’s working against racism with it, whereas what Dawkins did was working with racism. These two ideas are not equals.

    And p.s. the other side of my family is Slavic and Jewish. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to figure bout why I’m not sitting in Warsaw speaking Polish right now, or perhaps living in the Taiga speaking a dialect of Russian, but instead find myself English-speaking and born in Canada.

  65. says

    D’oh! How embarrassing, Mythbri. Clearly Crom is modeling himself after Crom. And, since Crom is a god and Crommunist says he’s an atheist, he’s a RANK HYPOCRITE and needs to change the name of his blog!

    Though, I have to say, Crom is pretty cool, as gods go.

    Oh no! I’m a hypocrite too! I hereby abandon the atheist community! Bye everyone!

  66. spartan says

    Just curious, from the ‘Yes, Virginia, There Really Is Islamophobia” post from Ed on Dispatches today:

    “We can, we should, we must criticize the barbarism of reactionary Islam. ”

    Problematic?

  67. GregB says

    @#84 “As you understand” Ian’s intent?!?! Have you understood *not one thing!* posted by our brave anti-racist?!? Is YOUR understanding the only thing that matters on this blue planet?

    How freakin’ privileged of you.

    INTENT DOESN’T MATTER! INTENT DOESN’T MATTER! INTENT DOESN’T MATTER!

    Gosh, *some* folks get to make play time with horrible ideologies that enslave millions, while *others* get barbecued for using mundane words like “barbarian”.

    Amazin’ all this shuckin’ and jivin’…

  68. GregB says

    @#85 No SSSStrange, you got it wrong…you SHOULD be embarrassed, but not for the reason you presume.

    You should be embarrassed for not understanding how people, millions upon millions of them, could find this fellow’s obnoxious toying with their suffering under Evil Communism (by making a DIRECT allusion to it) UTTERLY REVOLTING.

    At least, to the extent that the use of the word “barbarian” might, certainly.

    [Alternately, you could admit, as do the grown-ups, that this Jamie person's entire post is hog-swallop, the screechings of a privileged knucklehead...but that would be asking for too much I'm sure!]

  69. VeganAtheistWeirdo says

    Sigh. Jamie’s post wasn’t “screechings.” Your comments, however, have the tenor of a small dog. Yap yap yap!

    You really want someone to spell out for you the idiocy of your anti-”Crommunist” rantings? Fine.

    1. Jamie’s argument (drastically and inelegantly simplified in deference to you, Kent) is that some words have an inherently derogatory origin or history (barbarian); some words which have a specific primary meaning (rape), when used in a metaphoric manner, serve to trivialize that meaning. Whether or not the person using these words is doing so in bad faith, there is no compassionate, positive reason to continue to use them once their nature has been pointed out to the speaker/writer. No excuse.

    2. Communism is a word describing an ideology. Communist is a word describing one who subscribes to communism.

    3. Ian is not labeling anyone a communist. If he could be argued to be labeling anyone, it would be himself, but that is moot because the fucking blog name is Crommunist Manifesto, not communist anything. Stay with me here.

    4. Even if one were to grant that Ian had evoked communism with this title, communist does not have the same mechanism of marginalization that we have been discussing, because it refers directly to one’s ideology. It is not a slur made up to describe someone who espouses communism–it’s the word chosen by them, for fuck’s sake.

    5. Finally, if you wish to produce evidence that “hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people feel they and their families were historically, brutally, viciously oppressed by” communism–rather than, say, corrupt or psychopathic dictators and their authoritarian and totalitarian political systems which were modeled (to varying degrees of failure) on communism–please include direct quotes.

    You should probably do it elsewhere, though. I’m pretty sure everyone in this thread has already tuned you out for your stupidity.

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