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Jun 20 2013

Abused meme roundup: “Witch Hunts”

In light of the recent furore* over CFI’s bafflingly vacuous response to Ron Lindsay’s behaviour, some prominent members of the freethinking community have decided to pull back their participation in an organization that they see as not adequately representing their values. Some have even gone so far as to encourage others to do the same. This is pretty much boilerplate activist behaviour: someone says or does something unacceptable, you don’t patronize or support them anymore. We applauded it when Chick Fil A’s Dan Cathy made homophobic statements and people stopped buying his chicken. We applauded it when Rush Limbaugh said… well, basically the stuff he always says, but this time we paid attention.

And yeah, maybe boycotts don’t always work, and maybe they’re often impractical what with megacorporate ownership of pretty much everything, but they’re a pretty non-controversial method of expressing displeasure with someone or some entity whose actions you strongly disagree with.

Unless, of course, you’re criticizing CFI and Ron Lindsay, in which case it’s a “witch hunt”.

The image of a witch burning

Now, to be sure, this is not the only circumstance under which I’ve seen this comparison dredged, unwillingly, into a place it doesn’t belong. It is, however, a distressingly common circumstance to see people decry any and all criticisms of or actions taken against someone who is on ‘their team’ as a “witch hunt”. Oftentimes they will invoke the ghost of old Joe McCarthy, and generally bloviate about how innocent people are being dragged through the muck by (fill in the blank).

The substance of the complaint is more or less as follows: anyone who fails to sufficiently toe some line of ideological purity is hounded and has their character assassinated by hardliners who attack the poor, innocent victim for reasons that are entirely political. This is the same kind of persecution once turned against innocent women who were accused of witchcraft.

There are, shockingly, people who don’t immediately recognize how stupid this argument is. And because I am in the business of explaining why stupid arguments are stupid, here is a really simple ‘how-to’ guide for recognizing whether or not something is, in fact, a witch hunt:

  1. Is there a witch?
  2. Is there fire involved?

If you answered ‘no’ to either of those questions, then it’s not a witch hunt.

Let me flesh out a bit what I mean here.

Is there a witch?

The main thing to remember about witch hunts is that witches aren’t real. There are Wiccans, but that’s a different thing, and nobody is talking about Wiccans here, so shut up and let me finish. Witches do not now, nor have they ever existed. The things attributed to witches were, without fail, not actually caused by witches. So when your crops failed, that wasn’t witches. When a baby was born with a deformity, that wasn’t witches. When the priest was caught molesting someone, it wasn’t a witch that had conjured a demon to possess him; he’s just a molesty asshole.

In summary, witches = not real.

The Wicked Witch of the West

Real scary, but not real real

So, every time someone accused someone of being a ‘witch’, they were levelling an accusation that could not possibly be true. 100% of women who were burned at the stake – or drowned or exiled or mutilated or hanged or whatever – were innocent of the crime. By definition. That is what made the witch hunts so bad. It wasn’t just the punishment, it wasn’t just the accusation – it was the fact that all of the accused and all of the convicted were innocent.

If, by way of contrast, people had real and reliable evidence of the existence of witchcraft: people had been observed to ride brooms, people could reliably cast spells, etc. etc., then hunting witches would probably have been reasonable. We, as a society, hunt murderers because murderers exist. We are careful to make sure that we have sufficient proof, or at least we try to, but we recognize that it is reasonable to seek out murderers for punishment because murder is a bad thing. While some countries do still believe in witches, we in North America and most of Europe have done away with that practice because we recognize that witches aren’t real (or, if real, not harmful).

In the Joe McCarthy era, ‘witch’ was replaced by ‘Communist’. People were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers by the United States Congress. Charges were either invented out of thin air, or someone’s name was mentioned by someone else who had been coerced into revealing everyone they’d ever spoken to. The harm inherent in ‘being a Communist’ was never fully fleshed out – it was just asserted that being a Communist was a bad thing and that everyone who was one should be ferreted out punished.

Once again, however, the standard for evidence was ludicrously low. It was not the case, for example, that someone was charged because they had an established membership in The Communist Party, or had given televised speeches about the need for the destruction of capitalism, or had in some way distinguished themselves as a Communist. Instead, being known to Communists was enough to brand you. People were compelled to testify based on little more than innuendo and the paranoia of a man from Wisconsin.

So, in the absence of a ‘witch’, being a person who a) has engaged in activity that is either impossible or whose harm cannot be demonstrated; and b) is so accused based on flimsy or non-existent evidence, something cannot be a witch  hunt. It can be a hunt, to be sure, but the ‘witch’ is the part that makes the hunt unjust.

Is there fire involved?

The second requisite element of a witch hunt is the stake that someone gets burned at. If people hunted for non-existent witches, ‘found’ them, and then said “okay cool, we were just checking”, we would consider witch hunts no more sinister than Easter egg hunts. Women accused of witchcraft were not merely identified as witches – they were murdered or exiled or otherwise had violence leveled against them. There were real, and terrifying, consequences to being identified as a witch, and those consequences were backed by a system of law and the power of the state.

A picture of Joe McCarthy and his list

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 people who have abused this meme in the last 5 minutes”

Again, during the ‘Red Scare’, people weren’t identified as ‘Communists’ for the purposes of the census, or as popular polling. We ask people if they’re members of the Communist Party now. It’s no longer a big deal. And that’s because being a Communist is no longer a punishable offence. You would be tried, blacklisted, have your business bankrupted, and probably do some jail time for being a Communist during the McCarthy era. That was not just due to social disapproval – that was the power of the U.S. government forcing you to testify and punishing you if they didn’t like your defence.

This is different, to return to the ‘murderer’ example, from a jail sentence for having killed someone. Whether you agree with the retributive justice model or not (I’m not a big fan), societies have generally been willing to set some sort of standard of punishment for transgressions that they deem unacceptable. We generally have no problem with this, as long as the charge is fair and there is some sort of due process before we invoke the power of the state. If murder was instead punished by, say, a community-organized boycott of the murderer’s business, we would likely have far less objection if there was no formal trial.

The fire, meaning the presence of some kind of official power to punish the ‘guilty’, is also a necessary component of a ‘witch hunt’. In the absence of the fire, identifying ‘witches’ is not what makes the witch hunt a bad thing.

So when you want to use the “witch hunt” example to describe a thing you object to, you should be able to demonstrate two things: that the subject of the censure is, in fact, being treated like a ‘witch’, and is being threatened with ‘fire’. In the absence of either of those elements, your accusation is specious.

Does loss of reputation qualify as ‘fire’?

I want to take a moment here to discuss the greyest area in the above argument. Many of those who claim that a “witch hunt” is happening point to “smears” or “demonization” as the harm being done to the target/victim. The assertion is that the damage to one’s standing in the community is the ‘fire’, either in and of itself or because it leads to the loss of employment or inclusion.

The easiest way to dispel this meme is to point to the number of times those same critics turn a blind eye to the various “smears” turned against their opponents: the misogynistic language, the accusations of collusion or conspiracy, the outright falsehoods about “doxxing” or “trying to get soandso fired” or whatever is the fashionable nonsense of the time. This is not, to me, a satisfying response. Presumably, there is some perpetually scandalized person out there who thinks that it’s wrong when “both sides” do it, and who is thereby allowed to make as many wild “witch hunt” accusations as ze wants.

A screencap from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Does she weigh more than a duck?

I should also point out, before I delve too deeply into this topic, that my a priori instinct is to answer this question with a simple ‘no’. Loss of reputation does not seem, to me, to be tantamount to having the state take action against you. This is largely a question of degree, rather than of type. I will, however, grant for the moment that there are some forms of harm that can be done to someone’s reputation that makes them suffer meaningfully and unnecessarily. People who, for example, are accused and then acquitted of sexual crimes against children may suffer real and tragic consequences that are unjust. Spreading a rumour that someone is a child molester can have real long-term consequences, and I do not think it is okay to make that kind of scurrilous accusation.

That being said, there is a giant chasm between ‘spreading a rumour that someone has committed a crime’ and ‘criticizing someone for shitty behaviour’. In too many of these “witch hunt” accusations, the ‘victim’ of the “hunt” is being taken to task for something specific that ze has said or done. In the case of Rush Limbaugh, the boycotts were fueled by remarks that were overtly and intentionally misogynistic. In the case of Dan Cathy, his remarks revealed an underlying homophobia. It’s important to note here that Cathy did not say “I hate gay people” – he didn’t have to. People judged both the content of his words and the outcomes of his actions and decided they were unacceptable.

It is worth noting that defenders of both Limbaugh and Cathy decided that they were the victims of a “witch hunt”, rather than simply men who were being made to deal with the social consequences of their statements and actions. For the same reason that most people would deny that the boycott campaign of Chick Fil A or the move to dissuade sponsors from Rush’s shows constitute a “witch hunt”, I am unpersuaded by the attempt to equate any damage done to a person’s reputation as being tantamount to the kind of harm required to qualify as the ‘fire’ element of the “witch hunt” equation.

I have further discussed the differences between ‘labelling someone based on their behaviour’ and ‘smearing someone’ in another post that I encourage you to read.

The irony of “witch hunt” as an anti-feminist meme

Before I bring this post around to the button of the argument, I want to pause for a moment and appreciate the irony of “witch hunt” accusations being used to defend men against accusations of misogynistic behaviour. While it is not true that men were never accused/convicted of witchcraft, the charge does seem to have been predominantly leveled against women. In many contemporary cases, the ‘witches’ that are hunted are women who have the temerity to rebel against the social order or against the patriarchy.

A picture of a burning bra

The bra was probably a witch

Maybe it is putting too literal a spin on it, but I do appreciate the collision of symbolism when it is the same anti-patriarchy behaviour that is now branded as “witch hunting”. I also note that it is often the case that people who push back against the patriarchial aggression of others who are accused of “hunting witches”, a second-tier level of irony that I’ve always found particularly delicious.

The CFI/Ron Lindsay affair as a witch hunt

I do not wish to dwell too long on Mr. Lindsay’s specific behaviour. Those who are more directly impacted than I am have said more (and better) than I could hope to, so there’s no real value in me piling on. What I do wish to do, however, is explain why calling for a boycott of CFI fails to meet either of the requirements of a “witch hunt”.

Ron Lindsay and CFI are not ‘witches’

Mr. Lindsay’s original speech is a matter of public record, as is his reaction to the criticism it engendered. The reasons why people are upset with it have been meticulously explained (although that does not seem to perturb the flood of people claiming that there’s nothing wrong with what he said). The failure to respond adequately to criticism by both Mr. Lindsay and the organization he helms are not imagined or unprovable slights – they’re evident for all to see. The task before those who would label it a “witch hunt” is to refute the argument of the harmfulness of the events, not to simply throw up their hands and say “witch hunt! dogma! groupthink!”

There is no ‘fire’

If we are perfectly happy to accept boycotts against Rush Limbaugh and Dan Cathy (and countless others), there is nothing special about the ‘fire’ that is being directed against CFI or Ron Lindsay – although, to be sure, Limbaugh and Cathy are both far more noxious and harmful than Ron Lindsay’s belligerence or CFI’s careful silence. Even if we are not okay with making that comparison, the fact remains that boycotts are voluntary actions that are only as effective as the community allows them to be.

Neither Skepchick nor FtB nor any blog network has the power to unilaterally force anyone to do anything. Indeed, FtB doesn’t even have the power to unilaterally force its own members to do anything. Despite the hand-wringing over the imagined “party line” that these networks force their members to carry, there is zero evidence to support such a claim. The worst thing that could possibly happen to anyone who published a full-throated defence of CFI is that they would be asked to leave the network**.

The ‘fire’ currently affecting CFI and Mr. Lindsay was started by their own hand, and there are very specific things they could have done (and probably still could do) if they wanted to put it out. None of these remedies would require anything bigger than the swallowing of pride, which is what makes the accusation of “witch hunts” all the more galling. I’ll bet the people on trial would have loved a remedy so simple.

So beyond the specific issue that is currently en vogue, it is important generally to recognize that the idea of a “witch hunt” requires some constituent elements in order to qualify. Namely, there has to be a ‘witch’, and there has to be a ‘fire’. In the absence of those things, what you are complaining about is likely just a normal method by which communities express their displeasure with unacceptable behaviour. It therefore becomes highly suspect when the only time you express outrage at this practice is when it is levelled against a position you support.

There. Now nobody will ever mis-use that expression ever again.

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*Has anyone else noticed that we exist in more or less a permanent state of furore? Kind of good news if you’re in trouble with the freethinking community – you’re only going to be Public Enemy #1 for a few minutes. Well, unless you’re in the crosshairs of the subcommunity of obsessive weirdoes who don’t ever let anything go, whether real or imagined.

**To be sure, I would eat my fucking hat if that ever actually happened, right before I quit FtB and joined up with SkepticInk or something. There really is zero coercion or threat associated with blogging here.

147 comments

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  1. 1
    smhll

    Despite the hand-wringing over the imagined “party line” that these networks force their members to carry, there is zero evidence to support such a claim.

    But sometimes a few bloggers here actually agree pretty much about feminism. Something something something hive something.

    /Joe Biden smile

    Thanks for writing. As a non-believing woman, I don’t like the invocation of “witch hunt”, which has a painful history. I tend to jump first to the definition of witch hunt that relates to hunting for witches, rather than the 1950s definition that relates to hunting for communists. However, after reflection, I think Lindsay and Shermer (?) a while ago probably intended to reference the McCarthy period. (And that’s charitable as I can be right now.)

  2. 2
    jackal

    No no no. If you’re posting lies and sending degrading photo-shops and threats of violence to your target in order to hound them out of the movement, that’s Freeze Peach. If you’re posting detailed criticism and sending letters requesting an apology for well-documented events, it’s Which Haunts!!1!

    Seriously though, another great post, cogent and coherent. If the opposition doesn’t understand why the current calls for apology or boycott of CfI don’t constitute a witch hunt, it’s only because they refuse to absorb your argument.

  3. 3
    tajparis

    Goddam, I love this blog!

  4. 4
    leftwingfox

    Great article.

    I’m still unpacking the idea of the blacklist though. The Hollywood blacklist wasn’t actually a government invention, but rather a pre-emptive voluntary action by the studios to avoid the possibility of unspecified future government action against them. So theoretically, anti-feminists might well find themselves “blacklisted” by secular organizations seeking to avoid controversy, or actively engage women in the organization.

    That might just be me splitting hairs though. Without threat of government sanctions, the blacklist is only as powerful as the economic/political power of the enforcers. MRAs and the Slyepitters might THINK feminism is an all-powerful force, but sadly, such is not the case. In addition, there is a much wider range of opportunities outside CFI for a non-profit CEO to find alternate means of work, plus the bar for entry to creating a non-profit organization is a hell of a lot lower than the economic bar for creating a whole new entertainment studio.

    Ultimately, any blacklist of anti-feminists are going to affect a handful of organizations at best, not the whole of the industry. It’s also easy to blame an imaginary blacklist for not finding work, even if you lost your job for spectacular incompetence.

  5. 5
    Gretchen Robinson

    then there’s the Clarence Thomas “witchhunt” charge, in which he made himself out to be the victim of Anita Hill who was depicted as a vindictive crazed feminist. David Brock called her “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” And that did the trick to get the white guys to side with the black male against the black woman.

    Anita Hill was vilified and disbelieved and Clarence the Clown got to be a SC justice where he he didn’t speak from the bench for decades and votes ultraconservative.

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/07/07/262539/pay-no-attention-to-the-thomas-scandals/

  6. 6
    Crommunist

    there is a much wider range of opportunities outside CFI for a non-profit CEO to find alternate means of work

    Yes, but that’s not really the point. Even if Mr. Lindsay had only this option, he is not being “blacklisted” for being a member of an organization or for who he associates with. They’re saying “this specific thing he did makes me trust/like him less”. That’s a very different animal.

  7. 7
    leftwingfox

    Even if Mr. Lindsay had only this option, he is not being “blacklisted” for being a member of an organization or for who he associates with. They’re saying “this specific thing he did makes me trust/like him less”.

    Sorry, You’re right. His original statements were criticized, but it’s the way he made those statements, and how he’s reacted to that criticism that has turned this into a Big F’n Deal.

    My point is that even if feminists started withdrawing support from skeptical organizations that take on anti-feminist stances in general, it might technically be a “blacklist”, but a feeble shadow of the Hollywood blacklist invoked by the concept of the McCarthyite “witch hunt”.

  8. 8
    johngreg

    This post is one of the longest nonsense arguments I have read in a very, very long time.

    The phrase “witch hunt” is metaphorical, figurative, and allegorical.

    The “witch” is the target, whomever (even whatever) that may be.

    The “fire” is the vilification/denunciation.

    Surely you are educated enough, and smart enough to understand that.

  9. 9
    Crommunist

    The “witch” is the target, whomever (even whatever) that may be.

    The “fire” is the vilification/denunciation.

    Under your definition, all criticism or identification of an unacceptable position is a “witch hunt”. You might be fine with that definition, but it lack enough precision to be useful as a descriptor.

  10. 10
    mythbri

    The phrase “witch hunt” is metaphorical, figurative, and allegorical.

    Except for when it’s not, in the historical real-life meaning that Crommunist illustrated, and today in the context of Christian and other religious zealots around the world using the accusation of witchcraft to kill children and undesirables.

  11. 11
    johngreg

    Cromm said:

    Under your definition, all criticism or identification of an unacceptable position is a “witch hunt”.

    Well, I did not actually define witch hunt as a verb or noun so much as clarify its grammatical specificity; however, depending upon how such “criticism or identification of an unacceptable position” is carried out, yes, your description of my definition is applicable.

    You might be fine with that definition, but it lack enough precision to be useful as a descriptor.

    Bafflegab.

    I know that FfTB has, by and large, especially when it suits the argument, eschewed dictionaries as tools of Slyme and Evilosity in the world, but two definitions from FreeDictionary are applicable to the kind of “witch hunt” that surrounds (Sau)Ron Lindsey, and other dissenters of the general FfTB / Skepchick ideology/dogma:

    1. An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

    2. An intensive, often highly publicized effort to discover and expose those who are disloyal, subversive, etc., as in a government or political party, usu. on the basis of slight or doubtful evidence.

    As they say, YMMV.

  12. 12
    Crommunist

    I know that FfTB has, by and large, especially when it suits the argument, eschewed dictionaries as tools of Slyme and Evilosity in the world, but two definitions from FreeDictionary are applicable to the kind of “witch hunt” that surrounds (Sau)Ron Lindsey, and other dissenters of the general FfTB / Skepchick ideology/dogma:

    Jeeeeezus. It’s like reading a card from a game of “Asshole Madlibs”.

    Please define for me what “subversive activities” are being “uncovered”, or what the “doubtful evidence” is. Or grit your teeth and actually READ the article, since I specifically address the content of both of those definitions at several points in the OP.

    Or, leave and STFU forever. That would work for me too. Just saying.

  13. 13
    johngreg

    I will respond later (if allowed); I have to go to the dentist. He’s down in your neck of the woods, I think.

  14. 14
    John Horstman

    @4: Also, blacklists are not necessarily a bad thing. Convicted child-rapists are barred from professions where they gain authority over children (or even have regular contact with them); this is a good thing. Spammers and scammers are barred from many e-mail services (to the best of the ability of the filtering technology available). Assault someone at a bar and one may find oneself banned from the local establishments – as one should be, because, at least when one is drinking, one’s clearly a threat to the safety of others. Blacklists are only bad when they’re unjustified, when one is blacklisting witches.

  15. 15
    Sivi

    Re: furores, it happens in every community, from the SWFA, to unions, school clubs, etc. Maybe it’s happening more as the old guard in these organizations rub up against younger or more diverse (not white dudes) members, but I don’t think it’s unique to atheist/skeptic circles.

  16. 16
    Jacob Schmidt

    The phrase “witch hunt” is metaphorical, figurative, and allegorical.

    The “witch” is the target, whomever (even whatever) that may be.

    The “fire” is the vilification/denunciation.

    Surely you are educated enough, and smart enough to understand that.

    So a whole bunch of people are just really shitty at making analogies? That’s all I got from this.

  17. 17
    Chaos Engineer

    1. An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

    2. An intensive, often highly publicized effort to discover and expose those who are disloyal, subversive, etc., as in a government or political party, usu. on the basis of slight or doubtful evidence.

    So, for example, would you say that Ron Lindsay is on a “witch hunt” to purge women who disagree with him from the CFI, by accusing them of being man-hating feminist radicals, on the basis of slight and doubtful evidence?

    If that’s what you’re arguing, then I kind of see your point, but I really think that this sort of hyperbole isn’t helpful. CFI isn’t all that powerful in the grand scheme of things. If people get purged from that organization, then it’s upsetting but it’s not the end of the world. There are lots of other secular organizations that will still welcome them and be glad for their support.

    I’d like to reserve the phrase “witch hunt” for situations where there’s a real risk that people’s lives will be ruined.

  18. 18
    axelblaster

    Cromm,

    I enjoy almost every the Philosophy blogs – or, bloggers with background in Philosophy- in the atheosphere. Even when I’m not convinced by their arguments, I leave with a different understanding of the issue in question.
    Is not this post. I’ve given you several tries, You are not only long-winded, but the impression I get is of someone unwilling to concede a valid point if it deviates from their desired agenda. You keep coming across as a Sophist.
    I wish I had constructive criticism to offer, so maybe I’m the problem (personal taste). Sorry.

  19. 19
    axelblaster

    Well, I was under the impression that you were a Philosopher. 2X Sorry.
    Who has egg on his face? ME.

  20. 20
    Susannah

    . . . so shut up and let me finish.

    Gasp! !!! How dare you?!

    /snark

  21. 21
    Holms

    I know that FfTB has, by and large…

    What is ‘FfTB’? You repeated it, so I doubt it is a typo.

  22. 22
    Crommunist

    You are not only long-winded, but the impression I get is of someone unwilling to concede a valid point if it deviates from their desired agenda

    I have literally no idea what this means. Can you give me a specific example?

  23. 23
    Jacob Schmidt

    FfTB: Free from Thought Blogs

    That’s an old (internet time) insult actually; I thought it had died out by now.

  24. 24
    Crommunist

    What is ‘FfTB’?

    It’s a contraction of “Free from Thought Blogs”, and is a shibboleth that idiots use to identify fellow idiots, much the way that Christians used the fish symbol in the early 1st millennium A.D.

  25. 25
    Randomfactor

    Trivial aside: Anyone else here seen the movie “Witch Hunt,” with Dennis Hopper? Witchcraft/magic exists, and it’s extensively used in Hollywood to produce movies. And a politician decides to purge the nation of this pernicious evil as a part of his national campaign…Hopper plays a detective named Lovecraft…

  26. 26
    johngreg

    Cromm said:

    Please define for me what “subversive activities” are being “uncovered”, or what the “doubtful evidence” is.

    Well, for one thing that was not my word, that was the word used by FreeDictionary for the more formal first definition of “witch hunt” — the second defintion is right on the mark, aside from the government reference. I agree that the word subversive, in its specifically government oriented meaning, is a bit strong. Nonetheless, the kind of vitriol being thrown Lindsey’s way often comes pretty darned close to describing his acitivities as being subversive to the dogma/ideology held by those who oppose him, and, in my opinion, the so-called evidence, which amounts to little more than interpretation of meaning and intent on Lindsey’s behalf, is specious.

    And I did read the article. All of it. I think you mischaracterize, misinterpret the phrase witch hunt, and use a lot of specious data to back up your point, and like most of the FfTB/Skepchick axis, I think you wholly mischaracterize Lindsey in order to support your dogma and ideology.

    But that is just an opinion, and what I find most interesting is that most of the angry feedback Lindsey is getting from the FfTB/Skepchick axis only supports his claims: agree with us or shut up and fuck off. Not exactly a recipe for progressive debate.

  27. 27
    mythbri

    I think you mischaracterize, misinterpret the phrase witch hunt,

    How? By explaining that it is a real thing that happens in history and also really happens today?

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/witch-hunt-africas-hidden-war-on-women-1642907.html

    Witchcraft is not real. Therefore, by definition, the people accused of it cannot and did not do the things their accusers claim.

    Ron Lindsay said some things and was criticized for it.

    These are not the same things.

  28. 28
    Crommunist

    Nonetheless, the kind of vitriol being thrown Lindsey’s way often comes pretty darned close to describing his acitivities as being subversive to the dogma/ideology held by those who oppose him

    For instance?

    I think you mischaracterize, misinterpret the phrase witch hunt

    No, I explain what it means, and why not everything qualifies as a witch hunt. The fact that you assert this as a mischaracterization is not in any way a reasonable or compelling argument. I went to great pains to explain exactly why I define the phrase that way. Either demonstrate where my explanation is in error, or cease making this faux criticism.

    what I find most interesting is that most of the angry feedback Lindsey is getting from the FfTB/Skepchick axis only supports his claims: agree with us or shut up and fuck off.

    It is in interesting bit of hypocrisy to see on one hand “everyone is misinterpreting that Ron Lindsay has said”, and then in the same comment, no less completely misrepresent the series of clear criticisms of Lindsay’s statement that have been made, repeatedly, by multiple people (many of which I link to in the OP). It’s also funny to see it described as “vitriol”, but that’s a whole separate bit of hypocrisy.

    Also, sharp-eyed readers will note that I predicted this exact comment in the OP:

    “The failure to respond adequately to criticism by both Mr. Lindsay and the organization he helms are not imagined or unprovable slights – they’re evident for all to see. The task before those who would label it a “witch hunt” is to refute the argument of the harmfulness of the events, not to simply throw up their hands and say “witch hunt! dogma! groupthink!”

  29. 29
    jackal

    johngreg, I get the feeling you’re not arguing in good faith. Pro tip: don’t want to look like a troll? Try not flinging around casual insults like “FfTB.” That sort of thing demonstrates an a priori bias against FT Bloggers.

    Nonetheless, the kind of vitriol being thrown Lindsey’s way often comes pretty darned close to describing his acitivities as being subversive to the dogma/ideology held by those who oppose him, and, in my opinion, the so-called evidence, which amounts to little more than interpretation of meaning and intent on Lindsey’s behalf, is specious.

    “Subversive?” First he’s have to be an underling in the movement he was subverting. Or we use your own dictionary game,

    sub·ver·sive [suhb-vur-siv] Show IPA
    adjective
    1. Also, sub·ver·sion·ar·y [suhb-vur-zhuh-ner-ee, -shuh-] Show IPA . tending to subvert or advocating subversion, especially in an attempt to overthrow or cause the destruction of an established or legally constituted government.

    Feminism isn’t an established or legally constituted government, therefore, unless criticisms of RL include the word “subversive”, your characterization of the the opposition is wrong.

    Furthermore, if you’re gonna level accusations like “vitriol” and “specious” interpretations, you’re going to have to provide us with some quotes. Which parts of which blog posts and open letters used vitriolic attacks and specious interpretations?

  30. 30
    evilDoug

    I haven’t seen the slightest shred of evidence that there has been any “hunting” of Lindsey. I haven’t seen anyone talking about sifting through his old speeches or old posts saying “look! look! here is evidence against him!” On the contrary, I have seen many people who have criticized him for his speech at WiS2 remarking about good things he had said and done in the past.
    The tradition of all witch hunts is to seek the occult – that which is hidden. No one needed to do any hunting: Ron climbed upon the stage, did a very public performance of The Lindsey Plop*, and got a lot of really bad reviews.

    “everyone is misinterpreting that Ron Lindsay has said”, which Lindsay tried desperately to rectify by issuing numerous careful clarifications. Or not. I think “assertion against evidence” is apt.

    *plop – onomatopoetic; sound of accompanying formation of a cow pie

  31. 31
    johngreg

    Hi gang.

    I am at a BBQ and will have to wait until tomorrow to respond.

    Cheers.

    Have a good evening.

  32. 32
    Forbidden Snowflake

    But that is just an opinion, and what I find most interesting is that most of the angry feedback Lindsey is getting from the FfTB/Skepchick axis only supports his claims: agree with us or shut up and fuck off.

    “Agree with us or shut up and fuck off” is, of course, Newspeak for “if you don’t share our goals, we won’t be working with you”, when the latter comes from women to whose cooperation the addressed party is believed to be entitled.

  33. 33
    mythbri

    I am at a BBQ and will have to wait until tomorrow to respond.

    Oh my god I can’t wait!

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m4qefrMGBY1rwcc6bo1_400.gif

  34. 34
    Chaos Engineer

    Nonetheless, the kind of vitriol being thrown Lindsey’s way often comes pretty darned close to describing his acitivities as being subversive to the dogma/ideology held by those who oppose him, and, in my opinion, the so-called evidence, which amounts to little more than interpretation of meaning and intent on Lindsey’s behalf, is specious.

    Wait a minute – are you saying that Lindsey is the target of a witch hunt? That’s just bizarre! I thought you were saying that he was part of a witch hunt.

    I know it’s not in the definitions you posted, but “witch hunt” has always carried the implication that the leadership of a community is persecuting members, or at least doing nothing while some members persecute others.

    If the members of a community are persecuting the leaders, then we call that a “revolution” or an “uprising”, or a “bloodless coup” if it’s done peacefully. If someone where foolish enough to think that Ron Lindsey were being persecuted then they’d want to use one of those words. Maybe they’d call it a “failed coup” since he stayed in power.

    Finally, if the members of a community decide to change their leadership using an established process, and the old leaders aren’t persecuted, then that’s just called “choosing new leaders”. I don’t know of a metaphorical name for the process so we’re forced to use plain English to describe it. So we’d say something like, “Some members of the CFI thought that Lindsey was out-of-touch with the community. Of those members, some asked Lindsey to change his style of leadership, while others felt that the Board should appoint a new CEO. In the end, nothing was done.” I know that’s not as exciting as saying, “Lindsey was the victim of a witch hunt!” but at least it’s got some basis in reality.

  35. 35
    SallyStrange

    The one thing that really bothered me was Michael Shermer’s use of the phrase “Secular Malleus Maleficorum” as a title for one of the subsection of the essay he wrote about how Ophelia was totally wrong to say that he said a sexist thing.

    To me, the phrase “malleus maleficorum” is far more specific than the generic “witch hunt,” which is far more common and frequently used in a very metaphorical sense. It anchored the reference squarely in the realm of concrete, non-metaphorical, historical fact. As I said at the time, it was rather akin to a person accused of racism complaining about being metaphorically lynched by his critics. Or a person accused of anti-semitism likening his critics to Nazis. It’s not only overblown and counterfactual, it totally undermines the contention that there’s no prejudice to see here, just keep moving.

    There’s this ongoing dynamic:

    A: [Something sexist]
    B: That was sexist!
    A: You’re on a witch hunt! Stop oppressing me!
    B: Criticism is not oppression, stop pretending you’re like the victim of a witch hunt!
    A: Oh yeah? Well if it’s not oppression to be called a misogynist, then it’s also not oppression to be called a fugly fat cobweb cunt! It’s criticism! So shut up!
    B: No, “cobweb cunt” is not criticism!
    A: Is too! Freeze peach!
    B: Is not! Abusive speech inhibits the free exchange of ideas!

    *descent into semantic bickering about what constitutes criticism vs. abuse, free speech, etc. Meanwhile the initial issue – that something sexist was said – is forgotten.

  36. 36
    oolon

    I bought a copy of the Malleus Maleficarum when interested in occult writings as a teenager. Bloody boring like most occult writings, the interest didn’t last long… But you cannot do much better than the section on why women are more susceptible to evil and superstition than men for an example of religiously inspired misogyny- http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/mm/mm01_06a.htm

    Pretty unfortunate to invoke that text as a defence against being thoughtlessly sexist.

  37. 37
    johngreg

    Cromm said:

    For instance?

    I do not know what Cromm’s rules on links are, so I’ve removed the http colon slash slash bit from each link.

    Well, for instance:

    - Watson’s rant on Lindsey: skepchick.org/2013/06/so-much-for-center-for-inquiry/

    - Ophie’s bafflegab rant on Lindsey: freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/06/a-failure-to-communicate/

    - Greta’s rant on Lindsey: freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/06/17/open-letter-to-cfi-withdrawing-support/

    Now, of course, you are not going to agree that these are rants or contain vitriol. You are probably going to crommsplain to me that these are well reasoned critiques. But, as we all know, that is a matter of opinion, not empirical fact.

    No, I explain what it means…. or cease making this faux criticism.

    Balls. You attempt to redefine the phrase and action of witch hunt to match and fit your predetermined dogma and ideology and your argument. And there is no such thing as faux criticism. That’s just a nonsense phrase.

    Look, outside observers are increasingly aware, and baffled by, the increasing disdain for dictionaries, empirical fact, and academic explications of phrases, words, and other grammatical or prosaic phenomena that do not fit the preconceived FfTB/Skepchick/A+ agenda, dogma, and ideology, except when such definitions and explications fit the dogma etc., but sometimes you really do go too far in trying to redefine reality. Yes, yes, we all know your faithful flock will Hear Hear! you to the end of time, until they turn like rabid wolves on you for some imagined ephemeral slight — witness Ellenbeth — but that is meaningless. You stand or fall on the depth, accuracy, and specificity of your own rhetoric, not the bleeting of your sycophantic sheep.

    It is in interesting bit of hypocrisy to see on one hand “everyone is misinterpreting that Ron Lindsay has said”, and then in the same comment, no less completely misrepresent the series of clear criticisms of Lindsay’s statement that have been made, repeatedly, by multiple people (many of which I link to in the OP). It’s also funny to see it described as “vitriol”, but that’s a whole separate bit of hypocrisy.

    Huh? I honestly do not understand what it is you are trying to say there. For one thing, I do not beleive I ever said “everyone is misinterpreting that Ron Lindsay has said”, so who is that a quote from? For another thing, that paragraph of yours just does not make cognitive sense as far as I can tell.

    “The task before those who would label it a “witch hunt” is to refute the argument of the harmfulness of the events….”

    Which is something many folks not in the FfTB/Skepchick axis have done, though, of course, the FfTB/Skepchick axis simply ignores and refutes, almost invariably with no evidence but only opinion, such commentary.

    The bottom line is, whether or not Lindsey was in the wrong, the general response from the FfTB/Skepchick, axis is not one that promotes skepticism (yes, yes, I know fearless leader Lord PeeZus has divorced himself from skepticism; nonetheless….), critical thinking, or debate and discussion. And without skepticism, critical thought, and debate and discussion, we are alll mired in the swamp of groundless emotional blather and meaningless anecdata.

  38. 38
    Brony

    I have noticed a pattern among posters like johngreg. It goes something like this,

    *”General statements of mere opinion about the authors comments”

    Wait, that’s not a pattern, that’s laziness and likely cowardice.

    This is a common tactic among people who just have to spew emotions at something that they don’t like and have not really found anything real to disagree with. Otherwise they would have cited relevant portions and connected them to their ideas, followed by saying why the opinion was accurate.

    I judge people based on what they choose not to address as well as what they choose to address. There are often things hidden in the empty spaces…

  39. 39
    Brony

    Just to be clear it’s the initial point I am referring to. Everything following is Motivated Reasoning and digging deeper.

  40. 40
    smrnda

    I’m a mathematician, so I understand a bit about precise definitions. Mathematical terms and concepts have precise, unambiguous meanings. Busting out a dictionary when you want to decide if a graph is a “cage” is a useful act.

    One of my best friends I’ve known for the longest time is a linguist – dictionaries of terms used by humans in other areas are always going to lack the precision of mathematical terms since we don’t come up with a word and a definition at the same time – our definitions are an attempt to capture what a word means, which is largely something that evolves over time and is affected by context, and the definitions are affected by who chooses to write them. Citing a dictionary can be useful, but the definitions in a dictionary are at best approximations of what words mean when people use them; you can’t shut down a debate on whether or not something is a ‘witch hunt’ by a dictionary definition – what Crommunist is doing here is tying the metaphor to the historic reality of witch hunts, as well as (the HUAC and McCarthy) the first widespread use of the terms as a metaphor for something that was not literally hunting witches and burning them at the stake. He’s doing the right thing, from a linguistic point of view. The dictionary is only the beginning of exploring the term, not the end all and be all.

    On vitriol, no joke, there was some vitriol in some writings about Lindsey, but if I decided to have a conference about programming in LISP and, in my opening remarks, I talked about how nobody in industry uses LISP, that it’s slow, cumbersome, a relic of the past, and something that only people who want to be contrary and use convoluted tools to solve simple problems and is mostly a waste of time, I’ve just started a conference by stating that I think the conference isn’t worth having. I’d deserve some vitriol for that.

  41. 41
    Jacob Schmidt

    Now, of course, you are not going to agree that these are rants or contain vitriol. You are probably going to crommsplain to me that these are well reasoned critiques. But, as we all know, that is a matter of opinion, not empirical fact.

    VS

    The bottom line is, whether or not Lindsey was in the wrong, the general response from the FfTB/Skepchick, axis is not one that promotes skepticism (yes, yes, I know fearless leader Lord PeeZus has divorced himself from skepticism; nonetheless….), critical thinking, or debate and discussion. And without skepticism, critical thought, and debate and discussion, we are alll mired in the swamp of groundless emotional blather and meaningless anecdata.

    “‘Well reasoned’ is just a personal opinion. Now start reasoning better!”

    Really? Come the fuck on, john. If you have grounds to demonstrate that lack of reasoning in Greta et al. rants, then show it. You don’t get to dismiss someone else’s reasoning based on personal opinion than ask us to reason better (well you can; you just look ridiculous).

    You attempt to redefine the phrase and action of witch hunt to match and fit your predetermined dogma and ideology and your argument.

    “Witch Hunt”, as you’ve said, is a metaphore. Unless the situation meets certain criteria (the criteria met by actually witch hunts or their modern equivilent), it’s a shitty metaphore whose only use is to obfuscate and exaggerate. Surely this point hasn’t flown right over your head?

  42. 42
    johngreg

    smrnda said:

    Citing a dictionary can be useful, but the definitions in a dictionary are at best approximations of what words mean when people use them

    Well, in my opinion, as a professional wordsmith, I think dictionaries are a little more useful and specific than you state, but in general I think you have a good point.

    … you can’t shut down a debate on whether or not something is a ‘witch hunt’ by a dictionary definition

    Precisely. And I am most certainly not trying to shut down debate; I would never try to shut down debate or discussion. In my opinion, debate and discussion are a fundamental source of progress, change, and knowledge.

    … what Crommunist is doing here is tying the metaphor to the historic reality of witch hunts, as well as (the HUAC and McCarthy) the first widespread use of the terms as a metaphor for something that was not literally hunting witches and burning them at the stake.

    This is where we differ, because when Cromm says things like “Is there a witch? Is there fire involved? If you answered ‘no’ to either of those questions, then it’s not a witch hunt.” And then goes on to ignore legitimate instances of witches and fires metaphorical, figurative, and allegorical, he is actually trying to redefine witch hunt to some form of specificity that it does not own.

    He’s doing the right thing, from a linguistic point of view.

    Except that he’s not.

    The dictionary is only the beginning of exploring the term, not the end all and be all.

    Sure. But trying to redfine the phrase to mean something it doesn’t is a worse crime, so to speak, than to insist on only a dictionary definition without leeway and connotative as well as denotative determination.

  43. 43
    daniellavine

    we are alll mired in the swamp of groundless emotional blather and meaningless anecdata.

    Wow, Johngreg just perfectly described his own posting style.

  44. 44
    daniellavine

    Johngreg, do you disagree that “witch hunt” can be used to label any form of public criticism by your own criteria? If you do, please state the criteria under which “witch hunt” is an invalid characterization of public criticism.

    If you agree that “witch hunt” can be used to label any form of public criticism then wouldn’t you also agree that this term is utterly vacuous and its only function is to serve as a form of emotional appeal or propaganda?

  45. 45
    johngreg

    … it’s a shitty metaphore whose only use is to obfuscate and exaggerate. Surely this point hasn’t flown right over your head?

    No it has not flown right over my head. It is that, in this, and some other instances, we disagree as to whether or not it is an inappropriate (shitty) metaphor. In my opinion, it is an exact and wholly applicable metaphor that nonetheless carries a small yet insignificant degree of exaggeration with it.

  46. 46
    johngreg

    daniellavine said:

    Johngreg, do you disagree that “witch hunt” can be used to label any form of public criticism by your own criteria?

    I am somewhat confused by your question, as it seems to answer itself. Obviously, in using my own critieria, which I generally base on dictionary and other grammatical and rhetorical definitions and usage, I would then label something a witch hunt if I thought it was a witch hunt.

    If you do, please state the criteria under which “witch hunt” is an invalid characterization of public criticism.

    I think the phrase witch hunt would probably be invalid under several circumstances; how could I list them all? But in this instance, I do not think that calls for apologies, firing, and other forms of cowtowing to the horde qualify as public criticism; they are more like public flagellations-in-expectation.

    If you agree that “witch hunt” can be used to label any form of public criticism then wouldn’t you also agree that this term is utterly vacuous and its only function is to serve as a form of emotional appeal or propaganda?

    ??? Obviously the answer to that is sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

    I am not trying to ignore or sidestep your questions, but I find them to be somewhat confusing and poorly worded.

  47. 47
    PatrickG

    Referencing johngreg #11, because I really have no desire to engage with this person.

    However, I must say I did a bit of a spit-take when I saw this.

    two definitions from FreeDictionary are applicable to the kind of “witch hunt” that surrounds (Sau)Ron Lindsey, and other dissenters of the general FfTB / Skepchick ideology/dogma:

    1. An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.
    2. An intensive, often highly publicized effort those who are disloyal, subversive, etc., as in a government or political party, usu. on the basis of slight or doubtful evidence.

    So wait, the SlymePit has, in fact, by johngreg’s own definition, engaged in a Witch Hunt! There’s simply no doubt about it!
    Seriously, how does someone post such nonsense without causing their computer to issue loud beeping sounds and melt itself into slag in protest?
    I take it back, I’ll engage, albeit only with snark.
    @ johngreg, #42

    as a professional wordsmith

    Have you considered smithing actual thoughts instead?

  48. 48
    SallyStrange

    I think the phrase witch hunt would probably be invalid under several circumstances; how could I list them all?

    So, are you capable or incapable of listing, say, 2 – 3 examples of public criticism that do not meet the criteria for being called a “witch hunt”?

  49. 49
    johngreg

    You seem to have kind of borked your C&P of the second definition. Anyway….

    Actually, now that you point it out, I have to admit it might be fair to say that the Pyt’s program of highlighting the entertaining hypocrisy, mendacity, and general fanatical ideology of the FfTB/Skepchick/A+ axis might indeed be called a witch hunt, especially if we go with the first definition; however, to see/experience/undergo such posited harrassment (to irritate or torment persistently; to wear out; exhaust; to impede and exhaust (an enemy) by repeated attacks or raids), requires that anyone outside of the Pyt, who claims to be harassed by the Pyt, must actually come to the Pyt and search through over 100,000 posts for such supposed harassment (as Ophelia does). So, it becomes rather a stretch to call it harassment when it requires the target to search for it, in our home, in the first place — I mean, to use the oft-repeated FfTB analogy, the Pyt is like our home, and if you want to visit our home, you are a guest in our home, and while you do indeed have the right to be offended by whatever we do in our home, you certainly do not have the right to tell us what we can or cannot do in our home. Right? Right.

    On a side note, it would be pleasent if the FtTB/Skepchick/A+ axis could make up its collective mind as to whether or not it is right and justifiable to use dictionaries to support arguments. At the moment it seems that every other day it is; every other day it isn’t.

    Ah well, if wishes were horse….

  50. 50
    johngreg

    Sally asks:

    So, are you capable or incapable of listing, say, 2 – 3 examples of public criticism that do not meet the criteria for being called a “witch hunt”?

    OK, let’s see now.

    1. I don’t think my criticism of Cromm’s post is a witch hunt.

    2. I don’t think (Sau)Ron Lindsey’s opening remarks criticising the “Shut up and listen” meme was a witch hunt.

    3. I don’t think the criticisms here of my opinions are a witch hunt.

    4. I don’t think Cromm’s post is a witch hunt.

    There, that’s four. Happy now?

  51. 51
    mythbri

    (Sau)Ron Lindsey (sic)

    Hoo hoo hoo! Ha ha ha! Eee hee hee heeeee!

    *Wipes away tears of laughter*

    That’s a good one.

    Soooooooo funny!

    http://perfectlycursedlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/laugh-gif.gif

  52. 52
    Jacob Schmidt

    For one thing, I do not beleive I ever said “everyone is misinterpreting that Ron Lindsay has said”, so who is that a quote from?

    That would be this: “…the so-called evidence, which amounts to little more than interpretation of meaning and intent on Lindsey’s behalf, is specious.

    The only way that Lindsay’s own words would count as specious evidence would be if we were misrepresenting him. If you don’t think we’re misrepresenting his words, than what is your complaint about using his words as evidence?

    It is that, in this, and some other instances, we disagree as to whether or not it is an inappropriate (shitty) metaphor. In my opinion, it is an exact and wholly applicable metaphor that nonetheless carries a small yet insignificant degree of exaggeration with it.

    In spite of your whine about our detrimental effects on the prevalence of critical thinking, that’s the second time you’ve asserted opinion in lieu of reasoning and critical thinking.

    On a side note, it would be pleasent if the FtTB/Skepchick/A+ axis could make up its collective mind as to whether or not it is right and justifiable to use dictionaries to support arguments.

    This shit is just funny. You can use the dictionary all you want. Given the connotation that some phrases have, your words may be inappropriate, like comparing criticism that resulted in very little damage done to the target (he still has his job and his salary; many people are defending him, including the CFI board) to the mass murder of witches (real or imagined), the blacklisting of communists (real or imagined), or shipping of any political opponents (real or imagined) to the gulags (it was almost always imagined, btw).

  53. 53
    SallyStrange

    OK, let’s see now.

    1. I don’t think my criticism of Cromm’s post is a witch hunt.

    2. I don’t think (Sau)Ron Lindsey’s opening remarks criticising the “Shut up and listen” meme was a witch hunt.

    3. I don’t think the criticisms here of my opinions are a witch hunt.

    4. I don’t think Cromm’s post is a witch hunt.

    There, that’s four. Happy now?

    Okay, so now can you list the salient differences between these examples and, say, the criticisms leveled at Ron Lindsay?

  54. 54
    SallyStrange

    Also, I sprained my eyeballs rolling them at the “(Sau)Ron” thing.

  55. 55
    Crommunist

    I do not think that calls for apologies, firing, and other forms of cowtowing to the horde qualify as public criticism; they are more like public flagellations-in-expectation.

    So apologies offend your delicate sensibilities? Someone being asked to apologize for saying or doing something hurtful is beyond the pale? No wonder you see witch hunts everywhere.

  56. 56
    Forbidden Snowflake

    So, it becomes rather a stretch to call it harassment when it requires the target to search for it, in our home, in the first place

    That is demonstrably false. Regardless of what you think of the value of the ideas originating in the slime pit, there is no denying that they are propagated outside of the pit through Twitter and any comment section that tolerates the ranting of the pit’s members.

    and while you do indeed have the right to be offended by whatever we do in our home, you certainly do not have the right to tell us what we can or cannot do in our home. Right? Right.

    Anyone most certainly does have the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do in your home, AND to shun you and recommend others do the same if they find what is going on inside your glass house unethical.

  57. 57
    johngreg

    Sally asked:

    Okay, so now can you list the salient differences between these examples and, say, the criticisms leveled at Ron Lindsay?

    Yes, I think I can.

    In my opinion the differences amount, in part, to the seemingly organized group effort to react with as much hostility as possible and with a list of demands on how Lindsey must act in the future, rather than just plain stated criticism. Most important, in my opinion, are the calls for a sort of grovelling admission of guilt, and in particular the calls for his being fired. That strikes me as a signal act of witch hunting if ever I saw one. It is not the criticism; it is the demands for behavioural change, fawning apology, and for his being fired. Those are the elements that make it a witch hunt.

    If the disagreements with Lindsey’s speech had been simply disagreements, however angrily stated, and had also included some kind of offer for discussion and clarification, then indeed I would not at all call it a witch hunt.

    Cromm said:

    So apologies offend your delicate sensibilities? Someone being asked to apologize for saying or doing something hurtful is beyond the pale? No wonder you see witch hunts everywhere.

    No, calls for apologies do not offend my delicate sensibilities — what’s with all this attack mode and exaggeration of my statements crap anyway? — especially where it is agreed in general that someone acted improperly or in some way that is more or less universally agreed upon — universally as in all parties directly involved — to be improper/bad/whatever … then no, not at all, a request for apology is warranted; is justified.

    But, in this instance, it is not just a case of any sort of universal agreement that he was in the wrong. And the co-called calls for apology were in themselves ourtrageously extreme in that they more or less demanded that he grovel and admit to errors he did not make and apologize for statements and insults he did not make.

    There are lots of people who feel he was not only within his rights as the provider/host of the conference to say whatever he wanted to say, but was also quite right in the content of what he had to say; that the so-called memes of “shut up and listen” and “check your privilege” do, in most instances of when and how they are used, amount to nothing more than attempts to shut people up and to stifle debate and discussion, and to eliminate progress.

    Of course we all know there is a great deal of disagreement about that, but so it goes. Such disagreements should be discussed, debated, and resolved through mutual conversation, not via some kind of raging holy writ of demands from on-high.

    Crom, a question for you: How on earth is stating that the so-called memes of “shut up and listen” and “check your privilege” are damaging to dialogue, debate, and discussion hurtful? Seriously, how is that hurtful?

  58. 58
    johngreg

    Forbidden snowflake said:

    That is demonstrably false.

    OK, so, demonstarte it. Please.

    Anyone most certainly does have the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do in your home, AND to shun you and recommend others do the same if they find what is going on inside your glass house unethical.

    Oh. OK, so the Pyt is quite within its rights to tell PeeZus, Ophie, et al, to not censor, edit, moderate, or ban commenters, and to tell the world to shun FfTB whenever its various hosts commit such acts? Hmm. Good to know.

  59. 59
  60. 60
    Crommunist

    what’s with all this attack mode and exaggeration of my statements crap anyway?

    Your lack of self-awareness and your high tolerance for your own hypocrisy (coupled with your ironic crusade against hypocrisy in others) is breathtakingly hilarious.

    and in particular the calls for his being fired.

    I have to confess that I haven’t actually seen any calls for Ron to be fired, but assuming that they actually exist (and you’re not just making them up), if someone does something that angers a large part of their constituency, you’re saying that there is no circumstance under which saying “they should fire that guy” is a reasonable response? If the CEO of Starbucks was caught sexually harassing his subordinates? If a prominent athlete said that the Holocaust was made up and the Jews are responsible for 9/11, you’re saying “naw, that guy’s the victim of a witch hunt?”

    If your answer is that those hypotheticals are not reasonable grounds for someone to be dismissed, then your standard, while consistent is bizarre. If not, then you’ll have to explain why the CFI thing specifically is over the line, but the hypotheticals aren’t.

    But, in this instance, it is not just a case of any sort of universal agreement that he was in the wrong.

    There are lots of people who feel he was not only within his rights as the provider/host of the conference to say whatever he wanted to say

    There are a lot of people who didn’t think Michael Richards did anything wrong. There are lots of people who think that Dan Cathy and Rush Limbaugh were totally justified. Are they victims of “witch hunts”, or is your requirement that all parties agree that something was wrong a ridiculous red herring?

    Crom, a question for you: How on earth is stating that the so-called memes of “shut up and listen” and “check your privilege” are damaging to dialogue, debate, and discussion hurtful? Seriously, how is that hurtful?

    You want me to explain it after it’s already been explained by a bunch of other people? Why don’t you start by telling me where the fault lies in the pieces that I have linked to that specifically spell out what the problem is?

  61. 61
    Jacob Schmidt

    Godwin time.

    But, in this instance, it is not just a case of any sort of universal agreement that he was in the wrong.

    There isn’t any sort of universal agreement that the Nazis were wrong. Jesus fuck is that argument ever stupid.

    And the co-called calls for apology were in themselves ourtrageously extreme in that they more or less demanded that he grovel and admit to errors he did not make and apologize for statements and insults he did not make.

    Considering that a lot of the criticisms quoted him or CFI directly, this is asinine. And honestly, “I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have said that. It won’t happen again,” isn’t grovelling.

    There are lots of people who feel he was not only within his rights as the provider/host of the conference to say whatever he wanted to say, but was also quite right in the content of what he had to say; that the so-called memes of “shut up and listen” and “check your privilege” do, in most instances of when and how they are used, amount to nothing more than attempts to shut people up and to stifle debate and discussion, and to eliminate progress.

    Ooh, an appeal to popularity. Sorry cupcake, “Lot’s of people agree with him” isn’t any sort of argument (Godwin time x 2: lot’s of people agreed with the Nazis).

    I think the phrase witch hunt would probably be invalid under several circumstances; how could I list them all?

    With categories, as in, “If the scenario doesn’t meet criteria X, Y, and Z, it’s not a witch hunt.” Honestly, this isn’t hard.

  62. 62
    SallyStrange

    In my opinion the differences amount, in part, to the seemingly organized group effort to react with as much hostility as possible and with a list of demands on how Lindsey must act in the future, rather than just plain stated criticism. Most important, in my opinion, are the calls for a sort of grovelling admission of guilt, and in particular the calls for his being fired. That strikes me as a signal act of witch hunting if ever I saw one. It is not the criticism; it is the demands for behavioural change, fawning apology, and for his being fired. Those are the elements that make it a witch hunt.

    If the disagreements with Lindsey’s speech had been simply disagreements, however angrily stated, and had also included some kind of offer for discussion and clarification, then indeed I would not at all call it a witch hunt.

    Ah, so saying, “This is wrong,” is OK, but saying, “And it ought to change” is not.

    Okay dude.

  63. 63
    SallyStrange

    Note that the “calls for Lindsay to be fired” meme appears to be almost entirely fiction.

  64. 64
    Stephanie Zvan

    I don’t know whether this link is what Forbidden Snowflake meant, but it will do.

  65. 65
    johngreg

    Cromm said:

    If the CEO of Starbucks was caught sexually harassing his subordinates? If a prominent athlete said that the Holocaust was made up and the Jews are responsible for 9/11, you’re saying “naw, that guy’s the victim of a witch hunt?”

    So, you equate Lindsey saying that the memes are damaging is equivalent to holocaust denial and sexual harassment? Interesting.

    you’ll have to explain why the CFI thing specifically is over the line, but the hypotheticals aren’t.

    Well, I guess because one of those hypotheticals is an actual crime, and the other is simply provable and incontrovertible nonsense? Would that do? I mean, geez, has Lindsey now committed a crime? Is it incontrovertibly provable that the memes do not stifle debate? That saying the memes are harmful is somehow a magically sexist offense equivalent to a crime? What?

    There are a lot of people who didn’t think Michael Richards did anything wrong. There are lots of people who think that Dan Cathy and Rush Limbaugh were totally justified. Are they victims of “witch hunts”

    Well, you provide no specifics, so I cannot answer your question except to say that anyone can be a victim of a witch hunt. The label witch hunt does not focus on the supposed wrong-doings of the target, it focusses on the actions of the, for lack of a better word, complainant or accuser.

    You want me to explain it after it’s already been explained by a bunch of other people?

    Yes, certainly. You said it was hurtful; your claim. I want to see your reasons for saying so.

    _________________
    Jacob Schmidt said:

    There isn’t any sort of universal agreement that the Nazis were wrong. Jesus fuck is that argument ever stupid.

    So, Lindsey is now guilty of attempted genocide and extremist racial hatred, and various other war crimes? Interesting.

    Considering that a lot of the criticisms quoted him or CFI directly, this is asinine.

    Yes, some did. But a lot of the criticism also accused him of telling women that their voices are unnecessary, that he thinks they are unimportant, that he does nothing to support women or feminism, and that his attitude is one of stop being bitches and shut the fuck up.

    With categories, as in, “If the scenario doesn’t meet criteria X, Y, and Z, it’s not a witch hunt.” Honestly, this isn’t hard.

    I already listed four instances. Can you read? Or do you just want more?

    OK, for the hecklers, some more:

    5. Katie leaves Skepchick and criticizes Watson: canadianatheist.com/2013/06/20/leaving-the-skepchick-network/

    6. Wachs leaves Secular Women and criticizes them: mycatsaremygods.com/2013/06/16/i-resign-my-membership-from-secular-woman/

    ________
    Sally said:

    Ah, so saying, “This is wrong,” is OK, but saying, “And it ought to change” is not.

    I never said any such thing. Don’t put words into my mouth. There is nothing wrong with saying “this ought to change”. There is much wrong with demanding wholesale behavioural change, grovelling apology for sensationalized supposed wrong-doing, and demands for his being fired.

    Note that the “calls for Lindsay to be fired” meme appears to be almost entirely fiction.

    Bukkshit. It is a frequently recurring demand/ideation appearing in almost every blog comment thread in FfTB/Skepchick that discusses the Lindsey affair. Alternatively, I could say that that is just your opinion and *floosh* it can be disregarded.

    I’ve got other things I have to attend to now — more rainy BBQs; lucky me. So, if there are more comments requiring my response, I’ll probably have to get to them tomorrow.

    Have a good night all.

    Hey Cromm, you playing the Kings Head soon? I oughta come down and see if we can actually have a conversation face-to-face instead of just yammering and hammering away at each other online.

  66. 66
    johngreg

    Stefunny said:

    I don’t know whether this link is what Forbidden Snowflake meant, but it will do.

    Sheesh. At least try Stefunny. There are several things wrong with your supposed evidence backing up the snowflake, some of which are:

    1. Most of the links just link back to sensationlistic and somewhat hysterical posts on the FfTB network.

    2. The external links point to the Pyt, our ‘net home wherein (according to most of the FfTB/Skepchick/A+ axis) we, as the home owners, can do and say whatever we want to. None, I repeat, none of your links post to what the snowflake claimed were external instances of supposed harassment from Pyt people.

    C’mon Stefunny, you can do better than that can’t you?

  67. 67
    johngreg

    I thought I’d just pop in a wee note from my BBQ — we’re doing fresh lamb burgers tonight, with homemade mint sauce, and local, well, V-Island goat cheese and some neighbourhood lettuce, onions, and cukes — to acknowledge that I know most of you folks dislike me, actually, many of you actually hate me and think I am some kind of evil devil, anti-feminist, rape-enabling, foul, weird ugly old white dude with too much privelege who has nothing to say that anyone left alive would want to bother listening to. And so it goes.

    But, and however, none of that is actually true. I am not anti-feminist; I am not hateful; I do not use gendered epithets; I do not try to silence opposing opinions. Etc.

    And, for the record, I do not actually hate any of you, as some of you hate me. Some of you piss me off, some of you make me laugh; some of you leave me, hmmm, rather befuddleed, but I do not hate any of you. Shit, I do not even hate Watson, PeeZus, or Stefunny.

    Anyway, this is an interesting discussion because it brings to light different perceptions and points of view.

    Let’s carry on — if Lord Cromm so allows.

    Now, back to the BBQ.

    Cheerio.

  68. 68
    mythbri

    Stefunny

    Lord Peezus

    Ophie

    (Sau)Ron

    Oh! Oh, stop it, johngreg! My sides! They ache from the laughter!

    I fear I shall die laughing if you don’t stop the hilarity with the name parodies that are OH SO FUNNY!

    Please! The wit – it is blinding, and the comedy – it is priceless!

    http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view2/1371421/hyde-laughing-o.gif

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-KSB6lZfHL0k/UX-itoraKeI/AAAAAAAALh0/to-I16Zl_84/s1600/Ricky-Gervais.gif

    http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m0fn35viXq1r6v6va.gif

  69. 69
    johngreg

    Oh! Oh, stop it, johngreg! My sides!

    Granted, oh fellow thespian. Granted.

    I shall never again besmirch these hallowed halls with my pathetic ersatz wit.

    ….

    By-the-by, at the moment, we are with totally unanticipated glee and expectation, adding some fresh-caught local prawns, briefly drowned in a mixture of lickerishly liquor (Sambuca and genevre), and some taters a la ME, in which I’d thinly sliced red skinned potaties, with skins on, finely sliced, and immersed in a compote of garlic, salt-free Island butter, a pinch of freeze-dried chives, and a hint of both sage and oregano … FIRE UP

    Hmm.

    Glorious.

  70. 70
    Nepenthe

    Obviously, in using my own critieria, which I generally base on dictionary and other grammatical and rhetorical definitions and usage, I would then label something a witch hunt if I thought it was a witch hunt.

    *blinks a couple of times*

    People pay you to write? Really? Do you pay an editor in booze? Because that right there is a three shot sentence, vodka neat.

  71. 71
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Stephanie: yes, that was the link that I was trying to embed. Serves me right for not previewing.

    And now…

    Oh. OK, so the Pyt is quite within its rights to tell PeeZus, Ophie, et al, to not censor, edit, moderate, or ban commenters, and to tell the world to shun FfTB whenever its various hosts commit such acts? Hmm. Good to know.

    The slime pit is within its [moral: I'm not talking about legal rights] rights to disagree with any blogger’s moderation policy, and to state this disagreement in any space it is allowed to use.
    What it doesn’t have a moral right to do:
    1. Spread lies about people
    2. Harass people on social networks
    3. Invade people’s online space in violation of their moderation policies and then creating sockpuppets to do it again, once banned
    4. Impersonate people on social networks and in comment sections [and don't give me that shit about satire: it's not "satire" if you steal avatars and replace lowercase i's for uppercase L's to make your nym look identical]
    5. Make physical threats [not just "I'm gonna X"; "somebody ought to X", where X is a violent act, counts as a physical threat]
    6. Probably some other shit that I’m currently forgetting

    There is much wrong with demanding wholesale behavioural change, grovelling apology for sensationalized supposed wrong-doing, and demands for his being fired.

    I still don’t understand what is wrong with all these things, given that the “or else” implied is merely “or I’ll stop considering you to be my representatives”. Seriously, am I “witch hunting” if I say “if my government continues disregarding civil rights, I’ll emigrate” or “if this pub continues to play music too loud, I’ll stop patronizing it”?
    johngreg says to Stephanie:

    1. Most of the links just link back to sensationlistic and somewhat hysterical posts on the FfTB network.

    2. The external links point to the Pyt, our ‘net home wherein (according to most of the FfTB/Skepchick/A+ axis) we, as the home owners, can do and say whatever we want to. None, I repeat, none of your links post to what the snowflake claimed were external instances of supposed harassment from Pyt people.

    1. “Sensational and somewhat hysterical”? Awesome, now I know what your emotional response to the links is (pity you haven’t listed any substantial disagreements, other than the fact that they have FTB-cooties).
    However, let’s see:
    The first link goes to a post which is mostly a compendium of slime pit memes, and is embedded purely for context.
    All the other links are either to specific comments (so, not actually to posts) containing narratives which originated at the slime pit, or to she slime pit, demonstrating that said narratives in fact originated there and also some hysterical hate speech S.Z. stumbled on while looking at the origins of the narratives.
    All of the above demonstrates the following:
    1. Stephanie can see stories made up about her in the slime pit and spread by its members in the FTB comment sections and in other places on the net.
    2. If she is interested in tracing the origins of said stories, she in fact has to read through some hate speech written about her.
    Even without point 2, point 1 alone means that you’re wrong when you say that “anyone outside of the Pyt, who claims to be harassed by the Pyt, must actually come to the Pyt and search [...] for such supposed harassment”.
    Since you are apparently too lazy to read the linked post for comprehension, here’s a tip: the last paragraph makes the same point in a nutshell, so you can at least read just that.

    By-the-by, at the moment, we are with totally unanticipated glee and expectation, adding some fresh-caught local prawns, briefly drowned in a mixture of lickerishly liquor (Sambuca and genevre), and some taters a la ME, in which I’d thinly sliced red skinned potaties, with skins on, finely sliced, and immersed in a compote of garlic, salt-free Island butter, a pinch of freeze-dried chives, and a hint of both sage and oregano … FIRE UP

    Are you one of the fuckers who post pictures of their lunch on Facebook? Really, I’m glad you’re having fun at your picnic, but reading this description before breakfast was kind of gross.

  72. 72
    Forbidden Snowflake
    There isn’t any sort of universal agreement that the Nazis were wrong. Jesus fuck is that argument ever stupid.

    So, Lindsey is now guilty of attempted genocide and extremist racial hatred, and various other war crimes? Interesting.

    Nice flail, dude, but you haven’t actually addressed the actual argument: that requiring universal agreement that something is wrong before demanding action is an unreasonable standard, because universal agreement does not exist even on the most extreme examples one can think of.
    At least if the next narrative out of the slime pit is “FTBullies compared R. Lindsey to Nazis!!!!”, we won’t have to visit the pit to know how it originated.

  73. 73
    oolon

    Note that the “calls for Lindsay to be fired” meme appears to be almost entirely fiction.

    Yup after a lot of bluster on many other threads about this particular Slyme-myth it is clear that nearly all the letters say apology would be an acceptable option. Now if there was a call for him to be fired then it would need to go to the board in those letters as they are the only people with the power to fire him. So while some people are angrily suggesting in comments he be filleted and Krusty the Clown could do a better job that is not particularly serious a suggestion John. It comes nowhere nearly close to the Slyme-claim of a “campaign to get him fired” … but this fact probably won’t bother John too much.

    Oh and the *only* letter found that did unambiguously call for his firing was linked to by M.A.Melby, so they are too bloody lazy to back up their own assertions as well.

  74. 74
    oolon

    Picked out the firing bit and commented, now looked at the rest of the comments… Why am I surprised by John Gregs Slimey disingenuousness? So desperate for little tidbits of “FfTB” iniquity he purposely “interprets” peoples extreme examples of when someone/group did something wrong and not everyone agrees it to be wrong to be equating Ron Lindsay with them. John Greg, motivated reasoning has fucked your head up.

    What’s with all this shit?

    cowtowing to the horde
    grovelling admission of guilt
    demands for behavioural change, fawning apology

    Why can John not talk about apologies without assuming Lindsay needs to don the cone of shame and walk through the tunnel of flagellating feminazis before he can be pure again? In fact no one wants a “grovelling” or “fawning” apology they want a “righteous” and “brave” apology … Says so much about John that he equates apology with failure.

    What people want is an affirmation that he understands why people are angry with him, humiliation is not required. In fact as many have said I’d not see it as a humiliation as I’d need to think less of him for making the apology. The only person here who would think less of him is John as apologies are for wimps. Who wants a fake apology?

  75. 75
    Don Quijote

    Is this johngeg supposed to be taken seriously?

  76. 76
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Hmmm, johngreg wants Crommunist to explain the harm done by Lindsays dismissal of privilege and ‘shut up and listen’ despite the fact that he linked to explanations in the OP. It must be a coincidence that he doesn’t accept the explanations offered by women. But a man, he is willing to listen to.

  77. 77
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    By the way, I have stated that Ron should be fired. He welcomed Justin Vacula, but none of the audience members whom he offended. That, to me, was a contemptuous act. Very much a middle finger to the audience. Ron strikes me as one of those people who is not happy about feminists taking over the atheist movement. If you truly are welcoming to women and other marginalized people, then you need to listen to their concerns. Too many people, such as Ron and johngreg say they want to include women, but that appears to only apply up to a point. Start talking about the crappy treatment they are receiving, or the bullying, threats, and cyberstalking and suddenly the welcome mat is yanked away.

  78. 78
    oolon

    @Tony, a few people from the conference claimed Vacula imposed himself on Ron. Sounds like him! Makes for a bit of a different spin on the whole “he welcomed the Vac but not anyone else” rumour. Unless you know anything more?

  79. 79
    Sili

    I know most of you folks dislike me, actually, many of you actually hate me and think I am some kind of evil devil, anti-feminist, rape-enabling, foul, weird ugly old white dude with too much privelege who has nothing to say that anyone left alive would want to bother listening to. And so it goes.

    What makes you think we care enough to hate you?

    You’re very good at making up perceived accusations to paint yourself as a martyr, though. I’m sorry, but we don’t have any lions.

  80. 80
    Sili

    a few people from the conference claimed Vacula imposed himself on Ron. Sounds like him! Makes for a bit of a different spin on the whole “he welcomed the Vac but not anyone else” rumour. Unless you know anything more?

    Thanks. That at least shows to Lindsey to be just arrogant and ignorant.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Dublin and how Nugent & al. will reäct.

  81. 81
    johngreg

    So, what do you all think of Lindsay’s apology?

  82. 82
    mythbri

    What do YOU think of it, johngreg? Was it more fawning or more groveling, do you think?

  83. 83
    Jacob Schmidt

    So, Lindsey is now guilty of attempted genocide and extremist racial hatred, and various other war crimes? Interesting.

    Jesus fuck, I didn’t think you were that stupid. If you can’t distinguish between an extreme analogy involving nazi’s and calling someone a nazi, why the fuck do you think we’re gonna take your whine about “witch hunt” seriously?

    No. The point is that things that should be universally reviled aren’t. That Lindsay’s actions are defended by some or even many is fucking meaningless.

    I already listed four instances. Can you read? Or do you just want more?

    I’m beginning to think you can’t. You asked how to list all the instances that don’t count as witch hunts. I told you to simply define the category “non-witch hunts”. Your response here is incoherent.

  84. 84
    Sam N

    Is JohnGreg drunk? Slightly insane?

    It’s these sorts of threads that have convinced me that the vast majority of FTB criticisms don’t hold water.

    Let him argue away if you don’t tire of him. I can’t think of a better way to persuade people his criticisms are vacuous. With his bizarre mix of insults and phony grace. And the asides indicating he’s a very busy person having such fun, that at a barbecue he feels compelled to check in on an internet argument…

  85. 85
    SallyStrange

    Well, I guess because one of those hypotheticals is an actual crime, and the other is simply provable and incontrovertible nonsense? Would that do? I mean, geez, has Lindsey now committed a crime? Is it incontrovertibly provable that the memes do not stifle debate? That saying the memes are harmful is somehow a magically sexist offense equivalent to a crime? What?

    This is notable because one of the few points of actual factual disagreement (as opposed to basic irrational backlash against loss of privilege) between the FTB & SP factions is that there’s a widespread acceptance in the FTB camp that sociologists who present studies showing that some words, when deployed in certain ways, can be as harmful as stick and stones. The standard SP response is that they’re just words, they don’t cause harm, therefore claims of harm relating to identity slurs (gendered slurs, mostly, for some reason they don’t share reactionary racist Americans’ passion for using “n*****” without repercussion) are evidence of lying or delusion.

    Curious that all of a sudden johngreg is endorsing the FTB position. Wait, what am I saying, it’s not curious at all. He’s shifting his principles to make them match the situation. It’s convenient for him to accept that mere words can cause harm when it’s HIS interests being harmed by mere words. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of sociological claptrap.

  86. 86
    hjhornbeck

    Sam N @84:

    I can’t think of a better way to persuade people his criticisms are vacuous. With his bizarre mix of insults and phony grace. And the asides indicating he’s a very busy person having such fun, that at a barbecue he feels compelled to check in on an internet argument…

    I wonder if johngreg will be heading to the gym in 26 minutes next.

    johngreg @69:

    I shall never again besmirch these hallowed halls with my pathetic ersatz wit.

    johngreg @81:

    So, what do you all think of Lindsay’s apology?

    Ah good, at least you’ve given up the attempts at wit. They weren’t helping your case.

  87. 87
    johngreg

    mythbri said:

    What do YOU think of it, johngreg? Was it more fawning or more groveling, do you think?

    I thought it was somewhat appropriate for the most part, but more apologetic than necessary — a wee bit kiss-ass, but not overly so.

    I think he should have reiterated or restated, with emphasis, his opinion that R. Watson is little more than a toxic self-aggrandizing fluff artist … but, well, that’s just my opinion.

    He did not give in to the fundiefanatics like Greta, or that ultimate psychopath, Marcotte, which is a good thing.

    However, he did present himself as more in error than I believe he was. Clearly he is trying, to some degree, to repair his public image, rather than reinforce his honest opinions.

    Nonetheless, I think it was a constructive statement that should help to move things forward, as it were.

  88. 88
    thecynicalromantic

    I’m actually really surprised that I’ve seen as few people as I have calling for Ron Lindsay to lose his job. There seems to be some weirdly widespread idea that people (or at least highly educated white dudes) ought to be able to keep their jobs, no matter how much they fuck them up.

    These people are just living in such a completely and utterly and unrecognizably different universe from the rest of us. In instances where I have sucked at my job and been unable to perform them to standard, which has happened on an occasion or two (“calming down clients after my boss has yelled Fox News talking points at them for two hours” was simply not a skill set I could develop within a reasonable time frame), I have generally lost them.

    One of the basic job requirements for CEOs, being the public face of a company, is to not cause easily-avoidable PR disasters by randomly upsetting large parts of your support base for no discernible reason whatsoever. Ron Lindsay fucked that one up, the same way that the head of Susan G Komen Foundation fucked up when she suddenly decided to yoink their longstanding partnership with Planned Parenthood because she thought it had Democrat cooties. She lost her job. Out here in the real world pretty much any CEO who publicly and deliberately pisses off their supporters for no reason is going to lose their job. Retaining one’s job as a CEO is not a right. It is a privilege afforded on the basis of doing it competently (or it should be; the number of incompetent CEOs retaining their jobs seems to be a fairly significant factor in how fucked up our economy is, and even in those cases it tends to be internal incompetence that is easily hidden from other people).

    So yeah, fuck it, Ron Lindsay should probably lose his job. There’s a certain level of sucking at your job at which anyone should lose their job. I thought that was how our precious meritocratic capitalism was supposed to work?

  89. 89
    SallyStrange

    a toxic self-aggrandizing fluff artist

    fundiefanatics

    ultimate psychopath

    Alert: johngreg doesn’t actually have any idea what any of these words mean.

  90. 90
    mythbri

    Almost this entire thread is about johngreg’s confusion about words and definitions, so this doesn’t surprise me.

  91. 91
    oolon

    Johns being surprisingly polite for him, all of a sudden that is… Given he was arguing FTB were out for Lindsays head and many are now posting appreciation for his *apology* … This rather destroys his argument on its own. Will he admit to that though? Even more importantly will he not jump to the most extreme anti-FTB position *next* time? Both very doubtful…

  92. 92
    SallyStrange

    I’m trying to imagine what johngreg’s ideal apology would have looked like…

    “I’m sorry that I offended that a toxic self-aggrandizing fluff artist, Rebecca Watson, and her fundiefanatic friends and followers. I was right to say what I said, but you people are really making a nuisance of yourselves, so here is my apology, which, in case you are wondering, is only minimally sincere. If you want to know what my true feelings on the subject are, ask johngreg because my thoughts on this matter are identical to his. Thank you, goodnight.”

  93. 93
    johngreg

    Actually, Sally, I chose those words for precision. I know perfectly well what they mean.

    As to ideal apologies, I don’t think Lindsay should have apologized at all. I think his opening remarks were accurate and appopriate to the conference, though I agree that the placement was poorly chosen — it would have been better placed as a closing, rather than opening speech.

    You know, you folks really do a pretty darn good job of proving not only my points, but Lindsay’s too: Flagellate the evil dissenter; sinner, sinner, burn, burn!

  94. 94
    johngreg

    One of those evil, mean, wicked, nasty Pyt people summarized the Lindsay affair as this:

    FTB to CFI: “We are cutting all our ties with you. You’re despicable. We’re leaving.” (Slams door.)

    FTB: (Muffled shouting from outside.) “We have left now. Did you hear us slamming the door?”

    CFI : “Okay.”

    FTB: “We’re gone.”

    CFI: “Yup.”

    FTB: “We’re going to boycott you. And all our friends will too.”

    CFI: “Sorry if we hurt your precious feelings.”

    FTB: (Comes hurrying back in.) “Apologies accepted. Will you organise WiS3, please? Pretty please?”

    CFI: “But you were boycotting us?”

    FTB: (Nervous laughter.) “Oh that. No, we’ve always been at war with Oceania.”

    Personally, I think that’s apropos.

  95. 95
    SallyStrange

    Actually, Sally, I chose those words for precision. I know perfectly well what they mean.

    No you don’t.

    Greta Christina is not a “fundiefanatic.” Rebecca Watson is not a “self-aggrandizing fluff artist”. And Amanda Marcotte is most definitely not “the ultimate psychopath.” As with “witch hunt,” you’re expanding the commonly-used definitions here to the point that the words or phrases in question become functionally meaningless because there is no practical distinction between, say, “opinionated, abrasive writer,” and “psychopath.”

    And the response to Ron Lindsay’s apology clearly demonstrates that whatever was going on, nobody was “witch hunting” him.

  96. 96
    Jacob Schmidt

    “Apologies accepted. Will you organise WiS3, please? Pretty please?”

    Heh, what? You really do live in another universe, don’t you?

  97. 97
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    The original post explains why the metaphor of “witch hunt” does not belong, johngreg.

    More accurate is the metaphor of someone trying to leave an argument and being hauled back:
    – “We’re leaving.”
    – “How dare you?”

    Thank you for playing “words mean what I want them to mean!” You are wrong. Go away and quit bothering us.

  98. 98
    johngreg

    Sally said:

    Greta Christina is not a “fundiefanatic.” Rebecca Watson is not a “self-aggrandizing fluff artist”. And Amanda Marcotte is most definitely not “the ultimate psychopath.”

    Well, I guess it’s just a matter of opinion.

    Or hyperbole.

    And the response to Ron Lindsay’s apology clearly demonstrates that whatever was going on, nobody was “witch hunting” him.

    Nonsense.

    Schmidt said:

    Heh, what? You really do live in another universe, don’t you?

    Well, I didn’t write it, it’s a quote, so I guess the author of that comment is the one to whom you should direct your vinegar.

  99. 99
    Jacob Schmidt

    Well, I didn’t write it, it’s a quote, so I guess the author of that comment is the one to whom you should direct your vinegar.

    Then you disagree with the characterization? Otherwise, it is indeed you to whom I should direct ‘vinegar’ (Why is vinegar bad? I like vinegar. Sure, pure acetic acid is horrible, but diluted to 5%, it’s delicious).

  100. 100
    johngreg

    Jacob, I think it is an entertaining, though obviously not intended to be wholly accurate or literal, summary, intended as humour. I do feel that it is an appropriate example of, for one example, Benson’s attitude toward the whole mess.

    My point here, aside from disagreeing with Cromm’s factually incorrect reshaping of the phrase witch hunt is just to express a different opinion. I am continually bemused by how hostile FfTB hosts and commentariat are to differing and/or dissenting opinions. Seriously, isn’t that what skepticism — PeeZus’s current divorce notwithstanding — critical thinking and intelligent discussion should be all about? Differing opinions bandied about in an attempt at expanding knowledge?

  101. 101
    johngreg

    Sally, by-the-by, in regards to your comment “Note that the ‘calls for Lindsay to be fired’ meme appears to be almost entirely fiction“, you might want to have a gander at this:

    link (with http stuff removed): mycatsaremygods.com/2013/06/23/walking-away-from-those-that-are-becoming-that-feminazi-stereotype/

  102. 102
    SallyStrange

    Sorry, johngreg – I take it back. The “Lindsay must be fired” meme isn’t “almost entirely” fiction. Let’s be generous and say it’s about 50% fiction.

    It’s not a matter of opinion – unless you have, once again, reinvented the definition of commonly-used words, “fundiefanatic” isn’t applicable to Greta Christina, and “psychopath” is not applicable to Amanda Marcotte. “Self-aggrandizing fluff artist” is, I suppose, a hyperbolic opinion, but opinions have content, and if you dig down on that one, you’ll find that the claim of “fluff artist” is inaccurate – it’s not that RW doesn’t have content in her writing and speaking, but that the content is objectionable.

  103. 103
    Jacob Schmidt

    I do feel that it is an appropriate example of, for one example, Benson’s attitude toward the whole mess.

    The woman who said the apology was written like Lindsay had a gun pointed to his head came hurrying to accept the apology? This is what I mean. It’s like you live in your own little world.

    Seriously, isn’t that what skepticism — PeeZus’s current divorce notwithstanding — critical thinking and intelligent discussion should be all about? Differing opinions bandied about in an attempt at expanding knowledge?

    Differing opinions are all fine and dandy, so long as they’re justified. “I think you’re wrong” on it’s own isn’t good skepticism, it’s a waste of time.

  104. 104
    johngreg

    Sally said:

    It’s not a matter of opinion – unless you have, once again, reinvented the definition of commonly-used words, “fundiefanatic” isn’t applicable to Greta Christina, and “psychopath” is not applicable to Amanda Marcotte.

    Well, fair enough on the Marcotte hyperbole. She’s probably not a psychopath, just twisted. But I’m not sure if I agree with you regarding Greta. From where I sit, she seems pretty darned fanatical. As for RW, I would agree that she used to have content in her writing and speaking, but I have trouble finding it these days. She seems hell-bent on the snark, the hosility, regaling folks with blathers on how hungover she is, and burning as many bridges as she can.

  105. 105
    johngreg

    hosility = hostility

  106. 106
    Forbidden Snowflake

    LOL @ guy accusing others of “witch hunting” who apparently thinks A. Marcotte is worse than Hitler.

    Seriously, isn’t that what skepticism — PeeZus’s current divorce notwithstanding — critical thinking and intelligent discussion should be all about? Differing opinions bandied about in an attempt at expanding knowledge?

    No, skepticism is not “all about” teaching the controversy. It’s also about telling factual claims apart from matters of opinion, and about reaching a fucking conclusion every once in a while, after which some viewpoints are no longer considered valid.

  107. 107
    johngreg

    … thinks A. Marcotte is worse than Hitler.

    Huh. Where did I say that?

  108. 108
    Forbidden Snowflake

    I didn’t claim you said the exact words, but it does directly stem from your calling her the ultimate psychopath. Unless “ultimate” and “psychopath” are more of those words that mean whatever you want them to mean.

    Lemme guess:

    Obviously, in using my own critieria, which I generally base on dictionary and other grammatical and rhetorical definitions and usage, I would then label something a witch hunt someone the ultimate psychopath if I thought it was a witch hunt she was the ultimate psychopath.

    P.S. I see that you’ve decided to stick with something more untestable and less over-the-top testerical. I guess that’s some kind of progress.

  109. 109
    SallyStrange

    From where I sit, she seems pretty darned fanatical.

    Uh huh, well, clearly “from where you sit” is the most useful part of that phrase. The view from where you sit is not a view of reality. Fanatical about what? $10 says you’ll never answer that.

    ***

    In other news, Stephanie Zvan has provided some useful background about the genesis of EllenBeth Wachs’ mythmaking about the alleged campaign to get Lindsay fired: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/06/23/the-campaign-to-replace-ron-lindsay/

    Surprise, surprise, the idea that there’s a concerted effort to fire Lindsay is definitely more than 50% fiction. With regards to the suggestion that RW or Melody Hensley replace him, that appears to be more a joke than anything else – made by a grand total of two people.

    Amusing in that thread to watch an anti-Skepchick guy express dismay about the fact that people are converging on acceptance of Lindsay’s apology. Who are the drama hounds again??

  110. 110
    johngreg

    Sally dear, you are an entertaining liar.

    For one thing, all it takes to render the move to get Lindsay fired not fiction at all is one indivdual. And, as there is certainly more than one individual who wants Lindsay fired, it is therefore not fiction at all. Not 50%; not 10%, not any percent.

    For another thing, it was not about “concerted effort”, it was about some people wanting to have Lindsay fired for his blasphemy, which you incorrectly claimed was fiction, but now that you have discovered it’s not fiction, you’re playing this childish game of degree.

    You gotta try better cupcake.

    GollyJamborees, but you folks is entertaining. A finer example of cognitive dissonace, dogma, and blindered sycophantcy cannot be found. Yeehaw and woah doggies!

  111. 111
    jesse

    Crom–

    late to the party. Oh well. Not to derail, but speaking as someone who is from the areas where the Witch Trials took place…

    The funny thing is that while all the victims were innocent, the authorities of the time actually had what they thought was pretty concrete evidence that witches existed. I mean, it wasn’t any worse, and considerably better, than for the existence of demons or whatever. Absent a germ theory of disease, or some pretty basic knowledge of physics (much of which would explode onto the scene just about 50 years later) yeah, crops failing because someone cast a spell looks pretty reasonable.

    Then you have a combination of political strife in Salem Town (the area that would be a major port in the not-too-distant future of the 18th century) and Salem Village (present-day Danvers), a tinge of racism, and religious rigidity of thought — remember the Puritans were there for a reason — and you have a pretty terrible mix that leads to people being accused of witchcraft. New England suffered it’s witch hysteria sometime after the “burning time” in Europe, which was largely driven by religious warfare. (See: 100 years War).

    And nobody was burned at the stake in New England. Pressed to death and hanged. (The guy who was pressed to death, legend has it, was pretty badass too: when asked to enter a plea he refused, and so they put weights on him. When asked again — remember this is just to enter a plea — he said, “more weight.”)

    But yes, your post is well taken. My family knows damned well what accusations in the McCarthy period could do. And the consequences of a little loss of street cred among the community of skeptics — whether you call it witch hunts or not — is ultimately not much and not so big in the scheme of things. But I am an old cynic.

  112. 112
    SallyStrange

    “Liar” according to johngreg: A person who admits error when given information she didn’t have previously, then updates her opinion again upon receiving even newer information.

  113. 113
    oolon

    John Greg needs to have a word with his fellow pittizens as they are not helping his goal post move. One person calling for firing is now enough to back up their position? The drama llamas at the pit have been using terms such as “campaign” in relation to the firing and “FfTBs” want him fired. It takes just *one* person making a personal statement for guilt by association to make it the whole group now? I thought the pitters spent most of their time whining about “guilt by association” when it applied to them. Anyway certainly no “campaign” …

  114. 114
    SallyStrange

    Maybe even 4 or 5 people, Oolon! I saw a couple of comments here and there indicating that some people thought outright firing, regardless of apology, would be called for. I mean, we could even be talking about a solid dozen here.

  115. 115
    Dan L.

    Johngreg@46:

    I am somewhat confused by your question, as it seems to answer itself. Obviously, in using my own critieria, which I generally base on dictionary and other grammatical and rhetorical definitions and usage, I would then label something a witch hunt if I thought it was a witch hunt.

    You must realize this answer is completely vacuous.

    I think the phrase witch hunt would probably be invalid under several circumstances; how could I list them all?

    If it’s only “several circumstances” then it should be no problem to list them all. But there’s no need for that either — you could just state the criteria by which you determine whether the phrase is invalid. Which is what I asked in the first place.

    But in this instance, I do not think that calls for apologies, firing, and other forms of cowtowing to the horde qualify as public criticism; they are more like public flagellations-in-expectation.

    I disagree. If you want to convince me otherwise you’ll have to actually make an argument rather than merely asserting your desired conclusion.

    ??? Obviously the answer to that is sometimes yes, and sometimes no.

    Obviously you didn’t read the question if that is your answer. If “witch hunt” can be applied to any form of public criticism whatsoever then it is indeed a vacuous criticism. But you already said there were situations in which it is invalid, you just refuse to state the criteria by which we could make such a determination.

    How cowardly of you. But it’s about what I’ve come to expect.

    I am not trying to ignore or sidestep your questions, but I find them to be somewhat confusing and poorly worded.

    Yes, we realize you are easily confused. Try reading more slowly and carefully. Eventually you’ll get it.

  116. 116
    johngreg

    Sally said:

    “Liar” according to johngreg: A person who admits error when given information she didn’t have previously, then updates her opinion again upon receiving even newer information.

    Ah, ya, you’re probably right. I should not have called you a liar. I retract that statement. You are not lying, you are misrepresenting the figures, and implying a falshood, i.e., that something that is in no way fictional at all is somehow 50% fictional. In this particular instance, something is either fiction, or it is not fiction. And, if you read around the ‘net on several FfTB blogs, at Skepchick, and other athiest/feminist blogs, you will quite quickly see that in fact there are dozens of people who were demanding Lindsay’s expulsion. Sometimes the word “fired” is not used, but is clearly implied with such comments as “I will no longer provide financial support to CFI if Lindsay is not removed”, and similar types of statements.

    Dan L. said:

    But you already said there were situations in which it is invalid, you just refuse to state the criteria by which we could make such a determination.

    Not refusing, I just misunderstood your sloppy prose.

    My criteria for a situation wherein it would be invalid to label as a witch hunt would be an instance where just a small handful, perhaps only one or two, people calmly stated rational criticism directed at what someone had said or done with a request for clarification, and/or discussion/debate, and/or a retraction.

    Conversely, my reason for calling the FfTB/Skepchick axis’s reponse to the Lindsay thing a witch hunt is that there were dozens, perhaps even hundred of people overreacting with real outrgage in many places on the ‘net, accusing Lindsay of major misogyny and sexism, and misrepresenting his opening remarks as “women is bitches and should just shut up”, and dozens of commenters and a few blog hosts demanding that Lindsay be fired, all for simply saying something that the more dogamtically ideology-bound overreacters disagreed with. And that is a witch hunt: outrageous overreaction, from a very large group of people, combined with ludicrous extremist misrepresentations and demands. To read what Lindsay actually said, and to then peruse the opponent intentional misrepresentations and misinterpretations of what he said is total disconnect time.

  117. 117
    Forbidden Snowflake

    No, calls for apologies do not offend my delicate sensibilities [...] especially where it is agreed in general that someone acted improperly or in some way that is more or less universally agreed upon — universally as in all parties directly involved — to be improper/bad/whatever … then no, not at all, a request for apology is warranted; is justified.

    My criteria for a situation wherein it would be invalid to label as a witch hunt would be an instance where just a small handful, perhaps only one or two, people calmly stated rational criticism directed at what someone had said or done with a request for clarification, and/or discussion/debate, and/or a retraction.

    1. So does popular consensus regarding the criticism make it more or less of a witch hunt? You can’t have both “universal agreement” and “just a small handful” of people expressing criticism.
    2. What does “all parties directly involved” mean in this case? All WIS2 attendees? All CFI members/donors/employees?
    3. Would you say the slime pit is engaging in a witch hunt against Ophelia Benson?
    4. Would you say that Todd Akin was subjected to a witch hunt?
    5. Would you say that Chic-fil-A was subjected to a witch hunt?
    6. So what is Greta Christina fanatical about?

  118. 118
    Dan L.

    Not refusing, I just misunderstood your sloppy prose.

    If your writing is what you consider “good prose” then I have no choice but to take this as a compliment.

    My criteria for a situation wherein it would be invalid to label as a witch hunt would be an instance where just a small handful, perhaps only one or two, people calmly stated rational criticism directed at what someone had said or done with a request for clarification, and/or discussion/debate, and/or a retraction.

    So in other words, when there is a great deal of consensus that someone has made an error or a gaffe then that situation is necessarily a witch hunt. Criticism only fails to be a witch hunt when the criticism itself is unpopular. An interesting position.

    Surely you must have defended Limbaugh and Deen in the recent witch hunts against them, then?

    Conversely, my reason for calling the FfTB/Skepchick axis’s reponse to the Lindsay thing a witch hunt is that there were dozens, perhaps even hundred of people overreacting with real outrgage in many places on the ‘net, accusing Lindsay of major misogyny and sexism, and misrepresenting his opening remarks as “women is bitches and should just shut up”, and dozens of commenters and a few blog hosts demanding that Lindsay be fired, all for simply saying something that the more dogamtically ideology-bound overreacters disagreed with.

    Perhaps you should be defending the pope and the Catholic church generally since there seems to be a great deal of consensus that they are doing harm. More than merely “dozens” or “hundreds” of detractors — thousands, perhaps even millions criticize the Catholic church! Often in quite strident tones. Some of them go so far as to call it “full of child molesters” even though the rate of sexual abusers among clergy are not demonstrably higher than in other professions.

    By your own criteria, this invalidates all measured and/or reasoned criticism of the Catholic church. The CC is simply a victim of a “witch hunt” by your criteria.

    And that is a witch hunt: outrageous overreaction, from a very large group of people, combined with ludicrous extremist misrepresentations and demands. To read what Lindsay actually said, and to then peruse the opponent intentional misrepresentations and misinterpretations of what he said is total disconnect time.

    You’ve done nothing to establish that these “intentional misrepresentations and misinterpretations” are the norm — or, for that matter, intentional. You’ve done nothing to rebut the arguments that “what Lindsay actually said” was itself worthy of criticism.

    That some people may have taken the criticism too far should be taken as read: “some people” always do. After all, some might say that you and your buddies have taken your criticism of Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson, and FtB in general too far. Some might even describe the campaign to malign these people and organizations as a “witch hunt” — there are dozens of you engaged in “extremist misrepresentations” and “outrageous overreactions” at just about every word and action of the people and organizations mentioned.

    Seems to me what you’re doing is exactly what you and other ‘pitters tell us what we must not do: judge all “critics” according to the actions of the most extreme among them. If you could point out specifically what was “outrageous” or a “misrepresentation” from the several FtB posts criticizing Lindsay’s talk that might be worthwhile but you’ve decided to insinuate instead. And use a hell of a lot more words than are necessary to do so. That’s a sure sign of “sloppy prose” right there.

  119. 119
    Dan L.

    Johngreg@116:

    Incidentally, here is you literally refusing to state your criteria:

    I am somewhat confused by your question, as it seems to answer itself. Obviously, in using my own critieria, which I generally base on dictionary and other grammatical and rhetorical definitions and usage, I would then label something a witch hunt if I thought it was a witch hunt.

    You understood the question fine. You declined to answer it at the time because you hadn’t yet formulated a waffly bullshit answer to it.

    The waffly bullshit answer you’ve settled on is pretty piss-poor. Perhaps you should have let it stew a few more hours.

  120. 120
    Forbidden Snowflake

    johngreg explains why he couldn’t reply to Dan L. to his satisfaction:

    Not refusing, I just misunderstood your sloppy prose.

    Reminder for those watching at home – this is what johngreg considers “sloppy prose”:

    [P]lease state the criteria under which “witch hunt” is an invalid characterization of public criticism.

    It’s always someone else’s fault, right, johngreg?

  121. 121
    daniellavine

    You are not lying, you are misrepresenting the figures, and implying a falshood, i.e., that something that is in no way fictional at all is somehow 50% fictional.

    So does the fact that “The Red Badge of Courage” is fiction mean that the Civil War never happened? Or is this just “sloppy prose”?

  122. 122
    johngreg

    Snowflake asked:

    1. So does popular consensus regarding the criticism make it more or less of a witch hunt? You can’t have both “universal agreement” and “just a small handful” of people expressing criticism.
    2. What does “all parties directly involved” mean in this case? All WIS2 attendees? All CFI members/donors/employees?
    3. Would you say the slime pit is engaging in a witch hunt against Ophelia Benson?
    4. Would you say that Todd Akin was subjected to a witch hunt?
    5. Would you say that Chic-fil-A was subjected to a witch hunt?
    6. So what is Greta Christina fanatical about?

    1. Neither, really. In this case, it is more the style of overreaction, than the numbers (although numbers obviously play a role), that makes me feel it was a witch hunt.
    2. Ya, not a well chosen phrase. I think I meant all WiS2 attendees, and indivduals and/or groups who are involved with and/or are financial supporters of CFI. I think that while it is sort of entertaining, and obviously provides an outlet for anger, frustration, and disappointment, the number of complainers who were not WiS2 attendees, and indivduals and/or groups who are involved with and/or are financial supporters of CFI should have held back on making demands on what Lindsay should or should not do, and how CFI should or should not censure him.
    3. I would say some members of the Pyt are engaging in a witch hunt against Benson, yes.
    4. I do not know who Todd Akin is.
    5. I am not familiar enough with that — and I do not intend to get sidetracked by that sort of irrelevancy.
    6. Her brand of often-contradictory feminism.

    Dan L. said:

    So in other words, when there is a great deal of consensus that someone has made an error or a gaffe then that situation is necessarily a witch hunt. Criticism only fails to be a witch hunt when the criticism itself is unpopular.

    That is not what I said; your are putting words in my mouth and misrepresenting my comments.

    So I missed Dan Ls. initial demand that I state some criteria. Big deal. I’ve done that now, and the two of you, Snowflake and Dan L., are just trying to find ways to misrepresent what I said and to derail from the original topic, which is my argument that what happened to Lindsay was a witch hunt, and that Cromm’s argument against it being a witch hunt was based on several nonsense points.

  123. 123
    Jacob Schmidt

    You are not lying, you are misrepresenting the figures, and implying a falshood, i.e., that something that is in no way fictional at all is somehow 50% fictional. In this particular instance, something is either fiction, or it is not fiction.

    What amuses me is that johngreg came here to lecture us on language, yet fucks up simple expressions. “Mostly fiction”, “partly true”, “almost right”, etc, are commons turns phrases because (among other reasons) very few ideas have only one clause. The idea about the campaign to get Lindsay fired is usually stated with several clauses: (1) that people are asking for him to be fired, (2) that there are many people doing so, and (3) that he shouldn’t be fired. Given that the 2nd clause is what’s emphasized, and given that it seems to be bullshit (several are not many), this idea seems to be mostly false, with some grains of truth mixed in.

    Now, if it’s said that only clauses 1 and 3 are true, I agree. That’s not the meme that’s been spreading around, however.

  124. 124
    daniellavine

    Johngreg@122:

    That is not what I said; your are putting words in my mouth and misrepresenting my comments.

    I’m doing neither. I attempted a paraphrase to make sure that I had understood the criteria as you expressed them. Since I have apparently got you wrong let’s try again. Here’s what you gave for criteria:

    My criteria for a situation wherein it would be invalid to label as a witch hunt would be an instance where just a small handful, perhaps only one or two, people calmly stated rational criticism directed at what someone had said or done with a request for clarification, and/or discussion/debate, and/or a retraction.

    And here is my paraphrase:

    So in other words, when there is a great deal of consensus that someone has made an error or a gaffe then that situation is necessarily a witch hunt. Criticism only fails to be a witch hunt when the criticism itself is unpopular.

    What specifically is inaccurate about my paraphrase?

    As a follow up question, consider: does criticism of the Catholic church constitute a witch hunt by your criteria? Criticism of Rush Limbaugh? Paula Deen? George W. Bush? I can’t see how you could avoid such conclusions.

    Waiting for your impassioned defense of the Bush administration. Any time now.

  125. 125
    daniellavine

    Bear in mind, Johngreg, so far I’m only engaged in mild reductio of your criteria. They seem to me so ridiculously stringent as to invalidate just about any sort of real-world criticism of anything worth criticizing — for reasons that should be apparent from my reductios. But I’m slowly learning that your sort never see what’s apparent.

  126. 126
    Jacob Schmidt

    That is not what I said; your are putting words in my mouth and misrepresenting my comments.

    What you said was worse:

    My criteria for a situation wherein it would be invalid to label as a witch hunt would be an instance where just a small handful, perhaps only one or two, people calmly stated rational criticism directed at what someone had said or done with a request for clarification, and/or discussion/debate, and/or a retraction.

    By this statement, any criticism by more than a small handful, any criticism that’s irrational, or any criticism that isn’t stated calmly is a witch hunt. You than add the criteria that said criticism must also request clarification/debate/retraction. If that’s not what you meant, you’re leaving out important criteria/criterion.

  127. 127
    Jacob Schmidt

    So I missed Dan Ls. initial demand that I state some criteria. Big deal.

    Incidentally, I commented to you about it twice. How’d you miss it?

  128. 128
    SallyStrange

    You are not lying, you are misrepresenting the figures, and implying a falshood, i.e., that something that is in no way fictional at all is somehow 50% fictional. In this particular instance, something is either fiction, or it is not fiction.

    Well that’s the thing. I qualified my language in my initial statement precisely because I figured that there would be a few people calling for Lindsay’s firing or resignation. The idea that there was a concerted campaign to get him fired was fiction, based on the nugget of truth that a few commenters were/are in favor of him being fired. Hence the phrase, “almost entirely fiction.”

    If had meant to communicate that the the idea of a campaign to fire Lindsay was 100% fiction, then I would have just said that it was fiction, and not qualified it in any way. When you presented EllenBeth’s blog post, it made it seem that the demand for Lindsay’s firing was more widespread than I initially thought. Turns out that wasn’t really the case, and reality was more in line with my initial estimation, i.e. exactly what you define as a ‘not-witchhunt” since the number of calls for outright firing regardless of any further actions seemed to be dwarfed by the number of calls for him to apologize, or for him to be fired IF he could not bring himself to apologize.

    Precision in language is great, johngreg. You should try it sometime. It would save you a lot of time and bother, if this thread is any indication.

  129. 129
    Jacob Schmidt

    They seem to me so ridiculously stringent as to invalidate just about any sort of real-world criticism of anything worth criticizing…

    I don’t think johngreg is trying to invalidate anything. I think he’s failing at being a pedantic troll (he’s got the “troll” right; it’s his pedantry that’s weak) in order to mock Crommunist/us. Johngreg did state that the slimepit is engaged in a witchhunt against Ophelia, and he seems all for that.

  130. 130
    johngreg

    Jacob said

    Johngreg did state that the slimepit is engaged in a witchhunt against Ophelia, and he seems all for that.

    I did not say the Pyt was so engaged; I said some of the members are so engaged. I also did not say whether I was for or against it. For the record, some of the, for lack of a better term, anti-Benson rhetoric and ‘shops are, I think, first rate examples of her angry nonsense (parallel logic indeed), whereas some others go too far.

    However, I am not in any way, shape, or form, responsibile for what others post there. I can disagree with it, and say so, but it’s not up to me, or any one individual (aside from the host, who has the option to direct things, but rarely ever does), to determine what is and is not allowed. As most of you know, and despise, it is an open forum where almost anything, except that which is clearly illegal, is allowed.

    Lastly, as has been repeated here and there, if Benson didn’t make such an obvious and concerted effort to track and search this stuff out, she wouldn’t be plagued by it — unless, as is probably the case, her sycophantic followers alert her to anything bad said about her on the ‘net. Her friends do her no favours.

    Back On Topic.

    Defining witch hunts is fluid, is context-dependant, is, to some degree, intent-dependent, and is most importantly, situationally-dependent, and obviously often determined by which side of the argument one sits. It’s an envelope; a push-me-pull-you. Arguing for absolutes in definition is moot.

  131. 131
    Forbidden Snowflake

    the two of you, Snowflake and Dan L., are just trying to find ways to misrepresent what I said and to derail from the original topic

    The original topic was “what counts as a witch hunt”, and we are still discussing it. Hardly a derail.
    And nobody misrepresented you. I caught an apparent contradiction in your words (“universal agreement” vs. “small handful of critics”), and you backpaddled, contradicting both your previous statements:

    1. Neither, really. In this case, it is more the style of overreaction, than the numbers (although numbers obviously play a role), that makes me feel it was a witch hunt.

    It seems by now that you aren’t using any solid criteria or making any attempt at consistency. Seems like you make up your stand based on emotion (which, in turn, is based on bias and preexisting battle lines) and then retcon principles to go with your chosen position. Oh, and then, for added irony, you accuse others of “cognitive dissonance” and “blinkered sycophancy”.
    It’s hardly a coincidence that your definition of a witch hunt:

    And that is a witch hunt: outrageous overreaction, from a very large group of people, combined with ludicrous extremist misrepresentations and demands.

    has such a high emotional/factual terms ratio. “Groundless emotional blather”, indeed.

    3. I would say some members of the Pyt are engaging in a witch hunt against Benson, yes.

    …and do you see anything wrong with that?

    4. I do not know who Todd Akin is.

    An American politician who got very widespread and angry criticism for stating his belief that it’s biologically impossible to conceive through rape. It was not long before the 2012 US election, and he lost his seat, probably in large part due to the criticism. Does that seem like a witch hunt to you, from what I’ve described?

    5. I am not familiar enough with that — and I do not intend to get sidetracked by that sort of irrelevancy.

    Given your inability to provide consistent, useful definitions of “witch hunt” and “not witch hunt”, tossing examples and asking in which category they belong seems like a valid alternative.

    6. Her brand of often-contradictory feminism.

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Imagine you heard a theist call Richard Dawkins a fanatic. When you asked him to specify what he meant, he said “Dawkins is fanatical about his often-contradictory atheism”. Would you accept that answer? I sure as shit hope not. So here’s a rule of thumb: supply your accusation against GC with as much specifics and evidential support as you would (probably, hopefully) demand from a theist calling Dawkins a fanatic.

  132. 132
    johngreg

    Snowflake, what you are describing as my defintions of the phrase witch hunt, are more in line as being criteria I use personally to decide if and when I think something is or is not a witch hunt.

    I think the most accurate actual definition of the phrase is the second one from my earlier post:

    An intensive, often highly publicized effort to discover and expose those who are disloyal, subversive, etc., as in a government or political party, usu. on the basis of slight or doubtful evidence.

    Your other questions/arguments I have already answered.

    And, yes, I am going to pass on the Greta thing because I do not want to go rambling through the unpleasantness of her shame/rape/porno blog to find evidence of what I consider to be her fundiefanaticism.

  133. 133
    Jacob Schmidt

    I did not say the Pyt was so engaged; I said some of the members are so engaged.

    See? Pedantry. Despite his statement already in the thread making my paraphrasing shortcut obvious, he feels the need to correct.

    Yes johngreg, I know what you said. Given the innocuity of the subject matter (and the ease with which one could double check your comment), I felt precision was unnecessary.

    For the record, some of the, for lack of a better term, anti-Benson rhetoric and ‘shops are, I think, first rate examples of her angry nonsense (parallel logic indeed), whereas some others go too far.

    Then you’re for some aspects of the witch hunt. You’re reaffirming my point here. What are you trying to argue?

    (and what is with the contempt for “parellel logic”? as far as I remember, it was a laymen term for “analog”, as in “it’s a matter of analogy”)

    However, I am not in any way, shape, or form, responsibile for what others post there

    Didn’t say you were.

    Defining witch hunts is fluid, is context-dependant, is, to some degree, intent-dependent, and is most importantly, situationally-dependent, and obviously often determined by which side of the argument one sits.

    All language is fluid as such. It’s inherent in the medium, though there are things we can do to limit such variability. Why don’t we voluntarily abide by some simple rules (like making sure there’s a witch and fire) so that the term doesn’t continue to be the meaningless whine of the self important “persecuted”?

    That’s the whole bloody point. Unless those two conditions are met, the metaphor “witch hunt” is supposed to draw on becomes inapplicable, and it’s just whiny blather.

    Arguing for absolutes in definition is moot.

    Says the guy who tried bringing in the dictionary as dispositive.

  134. 134
    Nepenthe

    I’m surprised that anyone is bothering to engage with John Greg at this point. He already has given an explicit definition of “witch hunt”: something that I, John Greg, think is a witch hunt and no, you may not ask how I decide that is a secret.

    This is probably how John Greg decides everything. “Why do I dislike Greta Christina? I’m not going to tell you. She just is bad.” Femnist baaaad, hyperskeptic man gooood.

    I mean, can any of you on the other side not think–off the top of your head, with no need to dig through their complete works–of why you disagree with Justin Vacula or Abbie Smith or any of the major players in the Deep Rifts? I doubt that Mr. Greg here has put any time into thinking about his position. It’s a wonder his knee hasn’t knocked all his teeth out.

  135. 135
    mythbri

    An American politician who got very widespread and angry criticism for stating his belief that it’s biologically impossible to conceive through rape. It was not long before the 2012 US election, and he lost his seat, probably in large part due to the criticism.

    To clarify and expand on this, Todd Akin said that “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down” in the context of a discussion of his position on abortion, when asked about exceptions for rape and incest.

    So along with displaying his incredible ignorance of biology, he also implied that women who become pregnant as a result of rape clearly aren’t victims of “legitimate” rape, which implies that they either secretly wanted it or were lying, or both. Thus erasing the plight of women who forcibly become pregnant (and completely dismissing the plight of women who are pregnant but don’t want to be).

  136. 136
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Defining witch hunts is fluid, is context-dependant, is, to some degree, intent-dependent, and is most importantly, situationally-dependent, and obviously often determined by which side of the argument one sits.

    So in other words, since witch hunting is one of the accusations the slime pit likes to lob against its enemies without fully understanding what they mean (see: “censorship”), you would like to keep it handy and not hinder its availability by precision.

    As most of you know, and despise, it is an open forum where almost anything, except that which is clearly illegal, is allowed.

    Actually, the slime pit is despised on result rather then on principle. As in “yuck, that forum that always talks about kicking people in the cunt”, rather than “yuck, that forum where content is not moderated and all speech is allowed”.

    An intensive, often highly publicized effort to discover and expose those who are disloyal, subversive, etc., as in a government or political party, usu. on the basis of slight or doubtful evidence.

    This definition is about searching disloyal members within the ranks of an organization. How do outsiders or semi-outsiders telling an organization “you don’t represent us” fit in? Once again, how does the “slight or doubtful evidence” thing fit in when the facts are known to all (protip: having different standards of behavior than you is not the same as judging on scant evidence).

    Lastly, as has been repeated here and there, if Benson didn’t make such an obvious and concerted effort to track and search this stuff out, she wouldn’t be plagued by it — unless, as is probably the case, her sycophantic followers alert her to anything bad said about her on the ‘net. Her friends do her no favours.

    So it’s her own fault for… what? Going on twitter? Reading the comments on her own blog? On Nugent’s blog? Generally not being indifferent to being lied about in the public sphere?
    But of course it has to be her fault somehow, because if it weren’t, then what the your pals at the slime pit are doing may be terrible behavior. And even you may be in the wrong for being being pals with them. And that would be a painful thought to think, so we can’t have that.

    And, yes, I am going to pass on the Greta thing because I do not want to go rambling through the unpleasantness of her shame/rape/porno blog to find evidence of what I consider to be her fundiefanaticism.

    Ah, so she’s too horrible for you to present evidence for your accusations against her. Always somebody else’s fault.

  137. 137
    daniellavine

    Defining witch hunts is fluid, is context-dependant, is, to some degree, intent-dependent, and is most importantly, situationally-dependent, and obviously often determined by which side of the argument one sits. It’s an envelope; a push-me-pull-you. Arguing for absolutes in definition is moot.

    -Johngreg

    When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

    -Humpty Dumpty

  138. 138
    composer99

    Given that the intellectual heavy lifting has already been done in the OP and, with respect to johngreg’s claims, in the comments, I feel like all I have to offer is snappy snippy peanut-gallery commentary, or props to other people engaged in same.

    So daniellavine gets awarded a ba-boom tss.

  139. 139
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Sally Strange:

    Fanatical about what? $10 says you’ll never answer that.

    Well, I tried to get an answer out of johngreg, but the best I could get was a clear refusal to answer. So I guess you win the bet.
    *sigh*
    $10 were donated in your name to WFP.

  140. 140
    johngreg

    Jacob said:

    Pedantry.

    No, accuracy. There is an important distinction between “the Pyt does such and such”, and “a few members of the Pyt do such and such”. I’m sure you wouldn’t be happy if I said the entire FfTB network gets off on unicorn shame/rape porn, when in point of fact Greta is probably just about the only one on the network that does.

    Then you’re for some aspects of the witch hunt.

    If you actually think humourous ‘shops are a witch hunt, then OK, I support it. Personally, I think describing humourous ‘shops (that the subject must go out of their way to view) as a witch hunt, is ludicrous.

    Why don’t we voluntarily abide by some simple rules (like making sure there’s a witch and fire)….

    Well, we are abiding by such rules; a lot of people think there is a “witch” and a “fire”; however, if you demand a literal witch, and a literal fire, as Cromm does, you are being silly, and ignoring all dennotative and connotative definitions and descriptions of the phrase witch hunt simply to suit your politics.

    Says the guy who tried bringing in the dictionary as dispositive.

    Wrong diction there. What do witch hunts have to do with disposing or settling legal cases or wills? I bring in the dictionary definitions as important and useful to correct diction and description. Not absolute, but certainly not to be ignored and discarded either.

    Snowflake said:

    Well, I tried to get an answer out of johngreg, but the best I could get was a clear refusal to answer.

    Well, ya, that is technically true, isn’t it. I guess my weak defense is that at least I’m not the angry atheist/feminist posting shame/rape unicorn porn. I mean, really? Fucking unicorns who cum in colours while being raped and shamed? Lovely feminist stuff that is. Personally I think making light of rape and shame, and trying to legitamize it because it is some individual’s particular kink is in itself shameful, and is no different from taking pleasure out of tasteless rape jokes. I am amazed that no one has taken Greta to task for so blatantly condoning rape and shame. Sally, you who argued so vociferously against rape jokes of any kind, where do you stand on Greta’s legitimizing rape and shame porn?

    [Aaaaaaaand we're done. I've let this absurd derail drag on long enough. Welcome to the block list, johngreg. Wish I could say it's been fun, but it's been mostly boring, hypocritical, and fatuous. - C]

    if you demand a literal witch, and a literal fire, as Cromm does, you are being silly

    Astute readers (or even casual ones) will notice that I didn’t do that, but lying is more fun than reading so…

  141. 141
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    If you actually think humourous ‘shops are a witch hunt, then OK, I support it.

    Sorry to semi add to the derail, Crom, but “humorous?” Dude, I’ve seen a bunch of them and even in my younger, nastier days, they wouldn’t have raised a single chuckle. /goes to make a “Look at all the chuckles I don’t give” meme

  142. 142
    daniellavine

    If you actually think humourous ‘shops are a witch hunt, then OK, I support it. Personally, I think describing humourous ‘shops (that the subject must go out of their way to view) as a witch hunt, is ludicrous.

    From the same guy who said this:

    Defining witch hunts is fluid, is context-dependant, is, to some degree, intent-dependent, and is most importantly, situationally-dependent, and obviously often determined by which side of the argument one sits. It’s an envelope; a push-me-pull-you. Arguing for absolutes in definition is moot.

    Not even getting into the fact that it’s not just ‘shoops that are part of the “witch hunt” in question this is a staggering instance of motivated reasoning.

  143. 143
    SallyStrange

    WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE POOR UNICORNS!!???!?

  144. 144
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Holy shit, he just went of the deep end in that last one… Well, given the nature of johngreg lies about GC and the fact that he restated a lie (“subject must go out of their way to view”) that was already refuted early in the thread, I suppose the decision to pull the plug now was a right one.

  145. 145
    Jacob Schmidt

    One last comment on the derail.

    Personally, I think describing humourous ‘shops (that the subject must go out of their way to view) as a witch hunt, is ludicrous.

    Ahahahaahahaha, oh my god. That was your description. I don’t think you could’ve given me a more amusing response.

  146. 146
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Thank you, C! That was tedious.

    Also, thank you for your admirably clear analysis of the correct use of the metaphor “witch hunt” so I can now instantly see when people are throwing it around loosely.

    “You had to admire the way perfectly innocent words were mugged, stripped of all true meaning and decency, and then sent to walk the gutter for [him].”
    —Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

  147. 147
    smhll

    1. Neither, really. In this case, it is more the style of overreaction, than the numbers (although numbers obviously play a role), that makes me feel it was a witch hunt.

    Is “style” something that can be objectively measured, or do you just know it when you see it?

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