A Week In The Life Of Jamie

Jamie

 

An enormous confetti bomb of white privilege and transphobia has exploded through my entire life in the past week, and as I’ve been doing a lot of pretty important writing about it, I’d like to share some of it with you here. There are two core issues at work here. The first concerns SlutWalk, and the second concerns the environmental movement. In both cases, the best of the worst of white privilege and transphobia have precipitated. All in one week! If you’re having a bad day, I’d advise against reading this post until you’re in better spirits.

Also, profanity warning, and trigger warning for racism, mega radfem transphobia, and misogyny.

[Read more...]

Some Extremely Effective Grassroots Protest Methods & Exactly Why They Work

A post by Jamie

 

Last week, I wrote about an annoyingly pervasive blight of unchecked male privilege at grassroots protests, which is actually angry-making when the protest concerns an attack against women’s rights. But when that attack against women’s rights involves multiple layers of outright racism on top of that (racialized women’s rights being particularly vulnerable already, due to the effects of systemic racism on the upholding/deprivation of justice for women of colour), it’s enough to make me utterly livid. I am referring to men walking up to either a pro-life demonstration being attended by a grassroots pro-choice counter-protest, or to an isolated pro-choice demonstration, and playing the Devil’s advocate on one or both sides (but usually just the pro-life side) for hours and hours of mental masturbation. I call them Philosophy Dudebros and for several reasons, they just don’t mix with grassroots. This post is about (some of) what the grassroots are doing for pro-choice demonstrations and counter-protests, and exactly why they are doing it. Understanding effective pro-choice tactics and the reasons why they work, in addition to an understanding of intersectional influences (such as the effects of racism or colonialism in the dialogue on both sides of the issue), one can easily apply that knowledge to their activism on other social justice issues.

Keyboard Warrior Warning: Cut the shit, Sonny. I don’t have time for another three days of your dudebro-ing. This post is about actual activism. In fact, I don’t think anyone does, and that rather generously includes you too.

Tone Police Warning: I’m not apologizing for profanity, for the manner in which I’ve characterized different groups of people with egregiously harmful political leanings, or how aggressive my tactics are as an activist. Get used to it. Maybe grow a backbone in the interim.

[Read more...]

Philosophy Dudebros & Grassroots Don’t Mix

A post by Jamie

Hi-dee-ho, there, FreeThoughtBorg. I know a lot of you are eager to-be activists and even more of you have a lot of philosophy under your belt buckles. But you may not know yet that being Philosophy Dudebro in a grassroots action is terribad form. And if you don’t yet know this, you need to know this. Thus, I am writing to address you today with why that is, using my experiences over the past year in pro-choice activism to provide a context. For anyone who can’t guess from the choice in terminology alone, a Philosophy Dudebro is any guy who walks up to either a demonstration being attended by a grassroots counter-protest (think pro-life and pro-choice in the same space) or a grassroots demonstration on its own (think isolated pro-choice demo) with the expectation of unlimited time, energy, and attention for playing around with thought experiments and endless debate (see also: not protesting; pointless exercise; mental masturbation). Both pro-lifers and men who consider themselves pro-choice (but who haven’t checked their male privilege at any time in the past decade) do the Philosophy Dudebro thing, and it’s equally antagonizing no matter where on the issue your politics align. Some so-called “pro-choice” Philosophy Dudebros can’t even stop themselves from their pointless exercise when they finally stop engaging the pro-lifers.

Trigger warning: This post makes brief mention of graphic depictions of genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and abortion—one of these things is not like the others—in the context of these histories being blatantly misappropriated by “pro-life” campaigns to “unmask the genocide” and “end the killing”. It’s disgusting. It’s beyond words. In fact, it’s just plain obscene. This is why I treat the entire pro-life movement as a hate movement of Westboro Baptist Church calibre.

Tone Police warning: I’m using a fair amount of profanity in this post because I am aggressively challenging the blood-boiling sexism embedded in this issue. This choice is deliberate but well-controlled and not at all impulsive. I am not going to play nice with people who critique the tone of my delivery, so just don’t bother.

[Read more...]

SFU hosts dangerous anti-science crank group

Vancouver is a city in which one must be willing to put up with quite a bit of pseudoscientific woo-woo nonsense. There are reflexology and acupuncture and naturopathy clinics on every commercial block, each hawking their distinctive, heady mix of scientific ignorance and pure unadulterated bullshit. One learns to mutter epithets under one’s breath and make snide comments as one passes these storefronts, because short of passing a law or de-lobotomizing your fellow Vancouverites, there’s not much else that can be done.

But every now and again, there is an event so egregious, it warrants a more serious response:

The Vaccine Resistance Movement is hosting ‘Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013′, a major, interactive symposium on vaccines, to take place on Tuesday, March 12th at SFU’s downtown campus. Veteran researchers & nutritional experts will be joining us on stage, and via satellite from across North America. We will also be conducting a round-table discussion with parents of vaccine-injured children, the first of its kind ever mounted in such a conference. This is your chance to finally stand up as a community, and make your voices heard.

Guest speakers will include leading Immunologist & author Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych, Ph.D., Cellular Disease Specialist & naturopath Gary Tunsky, April Renée, a remarkable mother speaking out in memory of her daughter, Casi, who tragically succumbed to vaccine injury, and preeminent Medical research journalist & esteemed author, Neil Z. Miller.

Self-determination of the body is an inalienable right, and yet we, as families, are facing increasingly intense pressure from the Vaccine lobby & big Government to comply with vaccine mandates, pressured, from all sides, into submitting to herd immunity-type policies. Are we any healthier today than our ancestors because of it? Does does the science really add up? And if pushed to the brink against our will, how can we protect those we cherish most? We intend to find out.

Join us for what promises to be a ground-breaking, historic event, a meeting of extraordinary minds, to uncover the truth behind the deception. We are anticipating a lively discussion. The paradigm shift toward self-sufficiency & self-awareness begins with you.

The “Vaccine Resistance Movement” is Canada’s own version of Australia’s “Vaccine Information Network” or the various anti-vax groups in the United States. Its primary raison d’être is to undermine public confidence in vaccines by spreading blatant misinformation about vaccines, their efficacy, and their safety record. They seek to exploit the healthy (and abundantly justified) distrust people have for pharmaceutical companies, in tandem with the average person’s lack of scientific expertise, in order to push an anti-vaccination agenda under the guise of “promoting vaccine choice”.

They have chosen to host an all-day “summit” in Vancouver. If that were the beginning and end of it, there wouldn’t be much to do. After all, even anti-science cranks have the right to free speech. In this case, however, they are hosting their event at Simon Fraser University, an institution that is supposed to model intellectual rigour and responsible communication of facts to the public they are obligated to serve. By allowing the VRM to spew their dangerous nonsense from SFU’s pulpit, the university is violating its own mandate.

The most baffling component of SFU’s clear irresponsibility and evident lack of oversight is the fact that Vancouver has very recently been in the throes of an epidemic of vaccine-preventable disease. This is not a situation in which we have allowed ourselves to become complacent due to the faded memory of outbreaks of these diseases. Nor is it a case where there was some ambiguity as to the role that non-vaccinating parents played in the spread of illness. Unless SFU has the memory of a goldfish, hosting an event like this should have immediately sent up a red flag that someone needed to step in with some oversight.

Over the weekend, SFU’s faculty of health sciences responded on their website:

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) was surprised to learn that SFU has rented space to the “Vaccine Resistance Movement” for their Summit 2013 at the Harbour Centre Campus. Renting space to outside organizations for events such as these is done without any academic oversight. FHS disavows any support or affiliation with this event which we believe to be  anti-science and contrary to good public health practice. We are deeply concerned that the public will perceive the SFU venue as legitimation of the dangerous misinformation that the Vaccine Resistance Movement is known for. Please accept our sincere apologies for the inappropriate use of SFU facilities to promote this event.

Vancouver’s branch of the Center for Inquiry is co-ordinating a response to SFU’s breach of public trust (and basic competency) by allowing the Vaccine Resistance Movement to spread their virulent gospel on its campus. I will update this page as this response becomes better articulated. For the time being, if you are interested in participating and/or lending your voice, please contact CFI Vancouver’s regional director, Ethan Clow.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Bravo to Canadian skeptics: Jenny is Dropped

About a week ago, I read that Jenny McCarthy, the celebrity face of the anti-vaccine movement, was going to be headlining an event called “Bust a Move” at the Ottawa Cancer centre. I was horrified, and spelled out my objections in a letter to their CEO:

Hello Ms. Eagan,

I am writing this letter to you to express my shock, disappointment, and outrage at Ottawa Cancer’s decision to host noted anti-vaccination activist and celebrity provocateur Jenny McCarthy as the face of its “Bust a Move” campaign. Ms. McCarthy’s actions over the past decade have revealed her to be deeply antipathetic to the process and institution of science – a process and institution that cancer patients and practitioners rely on for their lives and livelihoods. By inviting Ms. McCarthy, Ottawa Cancer is signaling that it either does not care about Ms. McCarthy’s anti-scientific views, or that it shares them.

One of the largest barriers cancer researchers face is the unjustified suspicion of not only cancer survivors but the general public in accepting the scientific facts about the disease. I am overjoyed that people are not simply adopting the asserted axioms of the scientific establishment without doing some research, but what Ms. McCarthy has been doing is something else entirely. She has, using her pulpit as a celebrity, been deliberately spreading misinformation to people who are vulnerable to the predations of opportunistic hucksters. Is it Ottawa Cancer’s position that this kind of fraud-by-proxy is acceptable simply because she has name recognition?

I strongly suggest you do not allow the reputation of Ottawa Cancer suffer as the result of what I can only assume to be poor staff work. Beyond the simple fact of public perception, you have a duty to ensure that patients are receiving a message that is grounded in evidence and best practices, not the pseudoscientific hunch-based beliefs of a woman who has been actively campaigning for years to undermine children’s public health programs. You should immediately announce that you have personally looked into Ms. McCarthy’s background and have made the executive decision not to associate the good name of Ottawa Cancer with her anti-science advocacy.

Do the thing that is not only right for your organization, but for the cancer survivors and families who rely on Ottawa Cancer for sound information and advice.

Skeptics across the country, buoyed by editorial pieces in MacLean’s and the Ottawa Citizen, lobbied Ottawa Cancer to drop Ms. McCarthy from the event (coining the hashtag #dropjenny).

And it worked: [Read more...]

Abortion: It’s Not Auschwitz

A post by Jamie

In Vancouver, BC, there is a rather annoying anti-choice blight on the corner across the street from one of the only two clinics that are not associated with a hospital. They call themselves pro-life, co-opt famous quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., and directly compare what they are doing “for the unborn” (i.e., by standing around as a visible and often vocal pillar of shame to all women, encouraging other people to campaign to eradicate women’s rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination) with what MLK Jr. accomplished for the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, this is a rather tame version of the greater “pro-life” pseudo-social-justice-movement (I call it a glorified popularity contest). More on what exactly that means momentarily.

I began picketing these bigoted, misogynist hypocrites (who pull out their rosaries and start praying whenever someone yells at them), approximately six months ago, when I found out that they were actually slut-shaming women and telling them in so many words that they deserved to be raped if it should ever happen to them. I showed up for the first week in my tightest and brightest underwear, a clown wig, and a cape, holding a clown horn and a sign declaring my reasons for being there. As one of them began shaming me, I began honking my clown horn repeatedly, shouting “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over all this noise I’m deliberately making!” until her lips stopped moving. She turned to someone who was with me, and told them that I deserve to be raped multiple times. For a popularity contest that prides itself on how anti-violence it is, this is already painting a pretty grim portrait of hatred and violence against women. But wait! There’s more!

Over the past six months, they have now told numerous women that they deserve to be raped or are asking for it, and that at least half the time that a woman is raped it’s because she provoked it or secretly wanted it. They’ve grabbed and punched two of my friends (the police made up every excuse they could to avoid doing their jobs when this happened). They’ve literally cackled while a man repeatedly walked straight up to my face to yell at me then followed me around while I kept yelling at him to just fuck off, until he finally asked me why I don’t just punch him (I didn’t, because he’s able-bodied, so why  should I have to punch him to make him get the fuck out of my face? Why isn’t “get the fuck out of my face” enough?) They’ve stood by and done nothing while another man walked up and began antagonizing the one person he could most easily isolate from the group, before verbally gay-bashing him and doing the same to me before threatening to “smash [my] fucking head in.” I’d have to be utterly dense and cognitively dissonant to believe that these antagonists weren’t invited there by the anti-choicers themselves. [Read more...]

Special Feature: Crommunist does alternative medicine

Many of you will remember that I attended the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, BC in May of this year. It was my first ever atheist meeting/convention, and I had a really positive experience there. I was asked to me a somewhat last-minute addition to a panel on alternative medicine, based (I imagine) on my background in health sciences, my experience public speaking, and the fact that at least a handful of people would recognize my name.

And so it was that I found myself sitting next to Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell, and Dr. Ian Mitchell (a local physician), talking about the wild and wooly world of alt-med. Long-time readers will know how irritated I am by the term “alternative medicine”:

These “alternative medicines” are not alternative in any way – if they work, then they aren’t alternative, they’re just medicine. The other side of the problem is the ones that are truly “alternative” aren’t medicine! They don’t work any better than voodoo or augury or invoking ancestor’s spirits.

I’m also irritated (clearly, as you will see from the video) by the doggerel: “cancer cure” and the associated conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. I tried my level best to apply my own personal brand of smackdown to this odious and ludicrously nonsensical claim, with all the humour and aplomb that I could muster at 9 am after a night of drinking. I also made reference to a couple of things that the local chapter of CFI had done – debunking Deepak Chopra and staging a homeopathy workshop. Both were examples of skeptical activism, or as we coined it, ‘skeptivism’.

The full video from the event is available below the fold. [Read more...]

Cool stuff is happening!

There are two very nifty things happening this week that may be relevant to your interests.

Edwin appears in Meatspace

Co-blogger Edwin is giving a talk entitled “Digital Hatred: White Supremacy in the Information Age” this Friday night at the Oakridge Library in Vancouver (41st and Cambie):

The Internet has been something of a double edged sword for most of its existence. While offering people all over the world access to information they might never have seen otherwise, modern communications technology also proved to be a boon to racist organizations desperate to get their message out. To a great extent, their attempts have been successful; there are now more than 1000 known hate groups present in the United States, and their numbers continue to grow. These groups are religious, secular, white supremacist, black supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-government, and many other flavours besides, with the vast majority hewing to one form of explicit (and violent) white supremacy or another. How has their message been adapted to fit into the digital age? How do they recruit? Who are their leaders, and who joins their causes? How does one counter an idea that can spread around the world in the blink of an eye? How can a person recognize racist speech – especially when it has been specifically tailored to appear non-racist?

If you’ve never heard Edwin speak before, you should know he’s an almost ludicrously eloquent and engaging speaker, and is abundantly knowledgable about this topic (as well as many others). The event is free and can be easily accessed by public transit, so if you’re looking for an opportunity to interact with some other Vancouver skeptics with an interest in social justice topics, this is your chance. I will be in attendance at the beginning of the event (my band has a gig that night so I will have to sneak out early), so keep an eye out for me.

Register either at the meetup.com page, or on Facebook.

Bad Science Watch launches WiFi project

You might remember that some colleagues/friends of mine have launched a new Canadian scientific skepticism activism organization called Bad Science Watch. In addition to their inaugural project looking at the federal government’s policies towards homeopathic “medicine”, they’ve released this today:

Bad Science Watch has announced the launch of a critical investigation of the state of anti-WiFi activism in Canada. The independent non-profit plans to document the motivations, funding sources, agendas, and any conflicts of interest for those groups and individuals promoting misinformation about wireless networking technology (WiFi). These activists claim WiFi and related technologies can cause a variety of adverse health effects, and are attempting to convince city councils, libraries, and school districts across the country to remove or restrict the deployment of WiFi networks.

“While many of these activists are well-meaning yet misinformed, others are profiting from the uncertainty and doubt that has been manufactured.” said Jamie Williams, Executive Director of Bad Science Watch. “Some of the most prominent anti-WiFi scaremongers are tied to the sale and promotion of bogus products to ‘block’ WiFi, or promote sham medical diagnoses and treatments for false illnesses.”

Many activists blame WiFi’s low level radio signals for a broad variety of medical problems, from mild headaches and fatigue to chest pain and heart palpitations. When someone using or living near WiFi networks experiences these or other symptoms, they are told they have ‘Electromagnetic-Hypersensitivity’, or EHS. The existence of EHS is not supported by rigorous science, and has not been accepted by the medical and scientific community as a real condition. This distraction can lead to greater anxiety for parents who are worried about the well-being of their children, and may instead serve to delay the diagnosis of more serious and treatable medical problems like anxiety disorders or heart defects.

Bad Science Watch will use the findings of this investigation as a starting point to counter misinformation in the public sphere, and represent sound science to public officials who are confronted every day with requests to act on it.

Individuals who would like to support this and similar projects are invited to visit www.badsciencewatch.ca, subscribe to the mailing list, and make a donation to Bad Science Watch.

It’s a good week to be a skeptic in Vancouver! Please consider making contact with us and letting us know you’re out there!

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

The new hotness: Bad Science Watch

My skeptical teeth were cut on religious claims – I got into the skeptical blogosphere (and learned the resulting jargon and necessary facts) as a direct result of my wrangling with my own newly-recognized atheism. I rather quickly and seamlessly migrated from there to my discussions of race and social justice, but there was a serious in-between time when I spent a lot of time learning the ways of skep-fu in the alt-med school. I am, in that sense, a pretty bad skeptic because despite getting my start there, I spend comparatively little time talking about the ‘hard science’ stuff that is probably most closely suited to my professional training.

Mea culpa, folks. I don’t have an agenda with this site – I just kinda write what I feel.

Luckily, I have a few colleagues/friends here in Vancouver who are on it big time: [Read more...]

Jamie’s story – two months

This is a further update of the activism being undertaken by friend and fellow skeptic Jamie here in Vancouver. You can read part one here:

Two Months In:

So shortly after I posted about what I had accomplished in the first month (including the inciting incident which prompted someone else to start organizing these demonstrations), I stepped out for my fourth week of protest. Of significance, I was approached for an interview with a youth-focused media co-op organization called Y57. I had changed my sign that week, and that had a strange effect on the outcome of my demonstration — but I wouldn’t know about just how strange until a week later. However, the immediate effect was that the end to slut-shaming and rape-speak we had observed a week earlier was now reversed. Read about week four in this post.

Somehow or other, but most probably the effect of gender dysphoria from week four’s round of Blatant Sexism Fuelled By Being Socially Read As Female, my thoughts went to a very dark place. I began thinking about how many people I have personally lost to aggravated suicide, as well as people I have survived in a very hostile social atmosphere that frequently robs us all of some truly exceptional souls. But I also began thinking about this because of the case of Bei Bei Shuai, who attempted suicide while 30 weeks pregnant, and who is now facing 45 to 65 years in prison on charges of murder and attempted feticide in the state of Indiana. Read more about it if you dare.

And then week five came. It was raining heavily, and with my politically impersonal sign already written out (atypical for me), I stepped out in attire that obscured my shape and gender. And that’s the week that all the weird came out in hostile force. I never before believed that I was actually safer in my underwear than fully covered, but that is a reality I can no longer ignore. Read more about what it’s like to experience sexism from both sides of the same coin while being dumped on by the skies in this post.

Go read the rest. Some pretty gripping (and scary) stuff in there.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!