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Mar 19 2012

John Hembling: Atheist Asshole

Steven Olsen posted this video on his Facebook page and it’s really funny. It’s a guy named John Hembling attacking Rebecca Watson as a “sociopath” — not over the whole elevator-gate thing, but over a practical joke she played on JT Eberhard at Skepticon in 2010.

First, some background. JT assigned someone to be Rebecca’s “handler” at Skepticon, Kasi Rodgers and Rebecca jokingly said that since she now had a minion, she was going to make Kasi do all sorts of evil things. In fact, she made a bet with JT on whether Kasi would quit or not. So she got up at the beginning of her talk that year and listed some of the evil things she’d made her minion do, like find her vegetarian cashew chicken for lunch. And in the middle of telling these stories, Kasi texted JT and told him she was quitting because of this abuse. But in reality, Rebecca had told Kasi about the bet with JT and they then played a prank on him by pretending that she had made her do all these terrible things. Then Kasi quits in front of everyone and JT freaks out.

John watches the video of Rebecca’s talk, misses the joke completely, and posts this ponderous and terribly serious video about how Rebecca was a terrible sociopath for abusing her authority over Kasi and how important it is that the entire atheist community distance ourselves from Rebecca because she obviously has no moral scruples at all about abusing people for her own sick pleasure. Which is an even better punchline to the practical joke than JT’s freaking out about it. The video from John includes footage from Rebecca’s talk that he misinterprets completely.

Now, you can’t see the video anymore because he made it private. But basically, he repeats over and over again that because she enjoys abusing her power over this poor woman assigned to help her at the conferences, Rebecca is a “sociopath” and a “psychopath” with no “moral compass.” Except that she didn’t abuse anyone at all. It was all a joke on JT. To make it even funnier, when people voted it down he accused them of being “RW fanboys,” still completely oblivious to the fact that he missed the joke and spent all that time ranting very seriously about something that never happened.

Will he admit that he was wrong? Will he apologize to Rebecca and recognize that he made himself look quite silly in public? Kinda, sorta. After Kasi herself — the handler/minion — showed up to inform him that the whole thing was great fun, that Rebecca did not actually make her do anything at all and that they cooked it all up to play a joke on JT, he responded by resorting instead to tone-trolling.

the tone of the JW fans piling on here telling me how wrong, humourless, mentally deficient and horrible I am is making my case for me.

Uh, what? People are criticizing you for getting something flagrantly wrong and making wholly inaccurate accusations about someone in a hilariously overwrought video, and that makes the case that Rebecca is a sociopath how, exactly? Logic isn’t your strong suit, is it?

And one commenter said:

If you have a solid moral compass, you will make an apology video because you got it completely wrong, and you are calling someone a sociopath as a result of getting it completely wrong. Prove to us that you have a moral compass.

And John replied:

how about this, If i am offered moral ultimatums – I will laugh those offering them

Yes, because that would prove them wrong, wouldn’t it? At this point, it’s clear that John is just another douchebag sanctimoniously lecturing others about his own worst sins. Bryan Fischer would be proud. But wait, there’s more obfuscation and denial. When someone asked him if he would just admit he was wrong, he said:

I am a skeptic, and if my conclusions are at odds with other people’s conclusions, too bad, they can get over it.

If you think you’re a skeptic, you’re doing it wrong. All three of the people who were actually involved in the situation have documented that the “facts” on which you were basing your conclusion were wrong, that Rebecca did not, in fact, order Kasi to do anything at all. Since that was the entire basis for your accusation that Rebecca is a “sociopath” with no “moral compass,” your conclusion is not at odds with other people’s conclusions, it is at odds with reality. If you were a genuine skeptic, you would admit that.

Rather than apologizing, he put out a second video where he says that even though he now knows that the entire basis of his previous video was false “this doesn’t materially change my impression of her.” And then he tries to distract attention from his own massive screw up by doing what every asshole troll does when he’s caught being an asshole troll — “A ha, I must have struck a nerve!” And to show just how utterly oblivious he is to how absurd he looks in all of this, he then complains of how he’s been “piled on.”

The vehemence of the reaction is a little overblown for someone who’s just being critical and has made a criticism that was off-base. Because there’s like … I’m a psychopath, I’m a sociopath, I’m a maniac, I’m a murderer… I’m humorless, I’m stupid, I’m irrational, etc, etc.

Seriously, they don’t make irony meters strong enough to withstand that kind of blow. Remember, a sociopath is exactly what he accused Rebecca Watson of being. And even after the basis for that accusation has been shown to be absolutely false — even he now admits that — he then repeats the accusation as if nothing had changed at all. Hembling is ignoring the first rule of holes and proving himself to be a massive asshole in the process. Here’s the second video:

And then he put out a third video, this one aimed at PZ, who criticized him over all this. And he claims that PZ is trying to play the white knight by coming to the rescue of poor, weak Rebecca. And then he says that feminism is inherently infantilizing to women. Because it doesn’t occur to him that PZ is just calling an asshole an asshole, like I’m doing. Rebecca can defend herself perfectly well and she did so in the comments on the original post (which he is now hiding from everyone).

Here’s the video to PZ:

Ironically, we are doing the very same thing Hembling himself was doing to Rebecca, only with justification. His original video was all about how the atheist community has to band together to ostracize and stand up to “sociopaths” like Rebecca (except, of course, his entire basis for that allegation was false). Well I think we also need to stand up to douchebags like Hembling and expose them for what they are. And it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with being a “Rebecca fanboy” (in fact, I’ve read very little that she’s written and have only met her once — and I stayed pretty much completely out of the whole elevator-gate fiasco). It has to do with him being an asshole and being called out on it. If it bothers you to be called an asshole, stop being an asshole.

And unsurprisingly, the comments on the original video brought out the usual misogyny, which is all the more absurd given that the same people who spew that sexist garbage also deny that sexism is a problem at all. A few examples:

Hey, what’s with picking on baboons? They too have some social standards. Feminists? Well that’s another story…

What an ugly, wretched hooker…

Witness the male contraceptive pill in human form...

Well she has got the teeth and cheeks of a smiling Baboon and her hands move like she is picking over fruit! Whats with her 50′s poker dot dress- thats to still try and sell herself to the audience as openly still sexual. She presents herself as very easy, The dichotomy must drive those unstirred unsexualized Dons mad! Not me thou, puke!…

Let’s all just be real here. RW is only a big shot because she’s female in a largely-male community. The only reason people listen to her speak is because she demands that they do, and if they don’t allow her to do so, they’re sexist pigs. She plays to men’s chivalry when it suits her, to attain status and position, calls on men to PROTECT her when she pisses people off with her antics… all while castigating men for being the men she needs them to be in order to maintain her little soap box …

Rebecca Watson is a very dull speaker, only other feminists would find her intellectually stimulating. When I watch her I just think ‘vacuous twat’. It’s annoying when females enter a male dominated field and then get loads of attention for material that a male wouldn’t get a second glance for.

But remember, misogyny is just a myth. And feminism is a horrible idea. Or so assholes like Hembling want us to think.

Now let’s anticipate the next step. If he notices this post at all, he’ll likely rant some more about the “hive mind” in the atheist community and how we’re all just following our appointed leaders, PZ and Rebecca. Never mind that I’ve disagreed with PZ many times and said so publicly. It’s just like the tone-trolling — anything to divert attention from the real issues.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    Tualha

    Breitbart lives…

  2. 2
    laurentweppe

    So she got up at the beginning of her talk that year and listed some of the evil things she’d made her minion do, like find her vegetarian cashew chicken for lunch

    Vegetarian?
    You don’t get it: she’s the Sandra Fluke of the atheist movement: Just like Fluke is a socialist-muslim plant used by Obama to turn a christian nation into a nation of oversexed hippie intellectuals, Rebecca Watson is an hinduist plant trying to replace atheists sacred cows like Dawkins with real, grass eating, reincarnations of Moohandas Gandhi sacred cows!

  3. 3
    Who Knows?

    a nation of oversexed hippie intellectuals

    Oooo, I can’t wait.

  4. 4
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Baboon = ERV.

  5. 5
    Daniel Kolle

    “And [this post] doesn’t have a damn thing to do with being a “Rebecca fanboy” (in fact, I’ve read very little that she’s written and have only met her once — and I stayed pretty much completely out of the whole elevator-gate fiasco).”

    And for that, Ed, I truly cannot thank you enough.

  6. 6
    leni

    His original video was all about how the atheist community has to band together to ostracize and stand up to “sociopaths” like Rebecca (except, of course, his entire basis for that allegation was false).

    I’m all for ostracizing MRA’s. Especially if they are atheists.

  7. 7
    m lafontaine

    Attention whores fighting. Wake me up when something interesting happens.

  8. 8
    johntheother

    Well Mr Brayton, You’ve predicted I would accuse you of hive mind behaviour, which would be uninteresting and uninformative. What I will point out is that as you note in your own article – I missed the joke of Watson’s story, and when I realized this, I took down the video criticizing her based on my previous literal reading of the story of abusing her handler. I also publicly admitted my error in a following video. However it appears that is insufficient to satisfy you, shall I beat myself with a knotted rope? Perhaps you should write another article, accusing me of racism, anti-semitism, and various other offences of character.

    Under the assumption that the story was true, however flawed my impression was – I do not think my expressed opinion was excessive. A minor celebrity who deliberately abused a subordinate deserves public criticism. My option of feminism is of a flawed, and socially toxic ideology, and my advocacy for human rights is explicitly opposed to violence, and in spite of this, I am routinely accused of hatred and promotion of violence, as well as threats against my person. This is why, in spite of my own repeated rejection and condemnation of violence in my writing, I use a the JTO nickname. The repeated publication of my name in connection with various accusations I therefore request you edit from your text and title.

    Regards

  9. 9
    Ed Brayton

    John Hembling wrote:

    What I will point out is that as you note in your own article – I missed the joke of Watson’s story, and when I realized this, I took down the video criticizing her based on my previous literal reading of the story of abusing her handler. I also publicly admitted my error in a following video. However it appears that is insufficient to satisfy you, shall I beat myself with a knotted rope?

    And if you had just admitted that and apologized, it would be over. But you didn’t. You cut another video saying that while you now recognize that the entire basis of your claim that Rebecca is a sociopath is false, you still think the same thing. In other words, you’re still being an asshole. And you’re still getting called an asshole for it.

  10. 10
    Ed Brayton

    See, here’s the thing: there’s plenty of fair criticism of Rebecca’s behavior during elevator-gate. I know many strongly feminist women who think she didn’t handle it well (one of them talks about that on my radio show that is airing tomorrow morning). But the hatred and misogyny that it prompted from people like you is repulsive. The comments on your videos, some of which I quoted above, demonstrates that in stark detail. And there’s been even worse than that. There’s a perfectly reasonable middle ground on all of this, but your “feminism is infantilizing and an evil means of oppressing men” argument is absolute bullshit. And yes, it makes you an asshole.

  11. 11
    Raging Bee

    A minor celebrity who deliberately abused a subordinate deserves public criticism.

    So forget RW, find a celebrity who actually deliberately abused a subordinate, and criticize that celebrity instead. Is that idea too complicated for you to grasp? Seriously, go bash Charlie Sheen or Mel Gibson, they’re a LOT worse than Rebecca Watson.

    My option of feminism is of a flawed, and socially toxic ideology…

    Your “option” of feminism? What the hell does that mean? Did you mean to type “opinion?” Assuming that is what you meant (since no other sensible meaning occurs to me), would you care to tell us what, exactly, is so “flawed” and/or “toxic” about feminism?

    …I am routinely accused of hatred and promotion of violence, as well as threats against my person.

    Given what you’ve already got wrong, and given your refusal to admit you were wrong, I think you have a credibility problem, and I’m not inclined to take your sob-story seriously.

  12. 12
    tfkreference

    I am a skeptic, and if my conclusions are at odds with other people’s conclusions, too bad, they can get over it.

    A skeptic reconsiders an idea when confronted with valid contradicting evidence.

  13. 13
    johntheother

    “and given your refusal to admit you were wrong” – you mean admitting I was wrong in a follow up video, and a previous comment earlier in this thread doesn’t count? okay

  14. 14
    Ed Brayton

    But you didn’t admit you were wrong. You admitted that the alleged facts on which you based your conclusion that Rebecca is a sociopath were wrong — she didn’t actually abuse her authority over anyone, it was all a joke — but you continued to hold the same conclusion. That’s not admitting you were wrong, it’s repeating the same erroneous conclusion while admitting that the reason you offered for that conclusion was wrong. And yet you call yourself a skeptic. When the evidence on which you base a conclusion turns out to be false, skeptics change their conclusion. You refuse to do that. Because you clearly have a very deep seated hatred of feminism and therefore of anyone who advocates feminism.

  15. 15
    Raging Bee

    I notice Hembling responded to me, but didn’t even take a stab at explaining what he meant by his “flawed, and socially toxic ideology” reference.

    And no, as Ed said, you didn’t really admit you were wrong. Admitting you were wrong would include admitting that you did the wrong thing, and not doing it anymore. Cobbling up bogus excuses to keep on bashing someone for something you thought she was doing, after it was proven she wasn’t doing it, doesn’t count. Admitting you got your facts wrong, but then saying you’re not changing the opinion that was based on such falsehoods, doesn’t count either; it only proves you’re a bigot.

  16. 16
    wscott

    If it bothers you to be called an asshole, stop being an asshole.

    Pretty much sums it up right there. I don’t know why that concept is so hard for so many people to grasp.

  17. 17
    Raging Bee

    Because the feminazis with their feminine wiles and big words MAKE it hard for teh menz to comprehend. It’s all teh wimminz fault for making life complicated or something…

  18. 18
    exdrone

    John Hembling:

    But something about the way that I’ve been piled on tells me that I’ve struck a nerve … that I’ve pushed on a nerve. And the vehemence of the reaction is a little overblown for someone who is just being critical … who has made a criticism that is off base.

    Rush Limbaugh:

    I feel your pain, buddy. “Sociopath”, “slut”. People just can’t take a little thoughtless denigration.

  19. 19
    Michael Heath

    This whole issue seems to be evidence that atheism is growing to the point we now have ‘inside Atheism’; analogous to ‘inside baseball’ and the daily Nascar radio updates which remind me of the soaps. I’m not criticizing any of the actors here, just noting the movement is starting to form a culture where some of the drama doesn’t require protagonists outside the group to generate some conflict. The last one I recall was the debate about framing.

  20. 20
    Aquaria

    I know many strongly feminist women who think she didn’t handle it well (one of them talks about that on my radio show that is airing tomorrow morning).

    You do realize that one of the slots on the sexist bingo card is that old chestnut of the convenient female who agrees with male privilege. That doesn’t mean that those male privelege cheerleaders are right, or even that they know what they’re talking about. There are always women who are wiling to side with the male side of things, and for some horrendous reasons.

    This is one of those occasions. See: ERV.

    I mean, you didn’t ask any of the women who might comment here what they thought of it, did you? Why not? I assure you that at least one of them would have told you how wrong that was. And if you wanted it in calm, reasoned tones, I would have managed it.

    Own your own opinions, rather than dragging in convenient females to prop up how you apparently think that no woman should ever ask men in general not to stalks us for hours and wait to catch us alone in hotel elevators at 4 a.m. in strange cities to ask us to “drink coffee” in a hotel room. If you don’t understand how frightening that might be to women, and why, I could explain that, to you as well.

    That’s all Rebecca did, and what is so fucking terrible about asking men not to do that? What does it hurt any man not to do that? Do you think that every woman should be available for every man to approach, 24/7, no matter what she thinks of it?

    Because that’s what you’re implying by saying Rebecca was overreacting to a “simple” male request.

    It’s not a simple request! It’s thinking that every woman should be available for every man to approach, 24/7, no matter what she thinks of it!

    What is wrong with you?

  21. 21
    Raging Bee

    Aquaria: in fairness to Ed, I don’t think he has an opinion, or at least not one as strong as you seem to think one way or the other. I may be missing something, but I’m thinking all Ed meant to say was that some people had criticized RW’s behavior; which isn’t the same as saying the elevator guy, or any of his MRA apologists, were at all right about anything.

  22. 22
    Ed Brayton

    Aquaria wrote:

    Wow, did you read WAY more into that than anything I actually said (or think, for that matter). I didn’t say that she was wrong to feel threatened (I think that’s an entirely reasonable thing to feel under the circumstances) or that she was or is wrong that we have a real problem in many secular communities with women being sexualized in appropriately (I absolutely agree) or that the man in question was not out of line in his actions (I think he was). I said that there are reasonable people, including feminist women (not women who are apologists for male privilege), who think that the situation could have been handled better. For example, I’ve had several say to me that they don’t think the guy should have been named because they believe that it put the focus all on one person and one situation rather than on the broader problem. Are they right about that? I don’t know. But I don’t think that position is unreasonable or makes them some sort of self-hating women who tend to apologize for bad male behavior. There are reasonable disagreements over tactics here, not over first principles.

    I could not agree more that we need to address the problem of male behavior in our communities. I could not agree more that we should demand that women not be treated as sex objects in our communities. I’m not going to take a position one way or the other about the best way that particular situation should have been handled after the fact because I recognize my own limitations and know that I can’t put myself into her shoes. But I’m willing to recognize that people of good will can disagree on those things without being in favor of misogyny or in favor of such presumptuous behavior. There is, I think, a range of reasonable opinions when it comes to how best to address the problem. What is absolutely not within the range of reasonable opinion is the kind of vile bullshit spewed by Hembling and the other MRAs who regard feminism as a plot to destroy them, or who think that there isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed.

  23. 23
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Wait, what? Elevator Guy has a name now? Since when?

  24. 24
    Ulgaa

    Elevator guy was never named. She never once said who he was, only what happened and that he was not awkward or shy.

  25. 25
    Raging Bee

    For example, I’ve had several say to me that they don’t think the guy should have been named because they believe that it put the focus all on one person and one situation rather than on the broader problem.

    On the one hand, AFAIK the elevator-guy was never named. OTOH, RW never really intended to talk about “the broader problem;” she was merely saying (in an informal context) that she’d had a good time at the convention, with the sole exception of the one incident, which she described very briefly with the note “guys, don’t do that.” NO ONE wanted to talk about “the broader problem” until Dick to the Dawks stepped into it and BECAME the broader problem, and a bunch of his idiotic fanboys piled on, followed by an apparently random assortment of MRA trolls who may or may not have had any previous connection to the convention or the atheist movement in general.

  26. 26
    Ed Brayton

    Sorry, I thought he had been named (maybe someone else identified him?), and I based that on having several people tell me that he had been (I came rather late to the whole story, after it all blew up because of Dawkins’ horrible decision to jump into it and throw gas on the fire, and never saw the original transcript or video or anything). That’s another reason why I tended to stay out of it and focus more on the really disgusting way that the enemies of feminism, like Hembling, have acted. That’s the truly disturbing part of the whole thing to me, not so much the original incident but the misogyny that flowed out in response to reasonable criticism of that behavior.

  27. 27
    Raging Bee

    …I based that on having several people tell me…

    That was part of the problem: too many people flat-out misrepresenting what really happened, either because their emotions got away with them, or because they’re lying assholes who hate either Watson, her friend PZ, or uppity women in general; and even more trolls overreacting to the misstatements. That’s how it went from “RW said something informally about guys asking her for dates in all the wrong places and times” to “ZOMG COFFEE MEANS COFFEE REBECCA WATSON HATES ALL MEN AND SAID WE SHOULD ALL BE CASTRATED ELEVENTY-ONE!!1!!!!”

  28. 28
    Raging Bee

    …sorta like John Hembling, come to think of it…

  29. 29
    kapitano

    So, all this is because someone didn’t realise Watson was only pretending to be a complete arsehole.

    And why was she pretending to be a complete arsehole to Rogers?

    It was so she could be a complete arsehole to Eberhard.

    I watched the video in which Watson describing what she’d supposedly done to Rogers. She took 90 minutes to say almost nothing, even in the scientific part of the presentation.

    So, she’s got nothing to say, and is so immature she thinks pranks are funny. I realise the skeptical movement needs more women, but surely they can do better than this.

    Someone will now completely miss the point and accuse this comment of sexism, somehow.

  30. 30
    Stacy

    I’ve had several say to me that they don’t think the guy should have been named

    No, he was never named.

    Someone will now completely miss the point and accuse this comment of sexism, somehow

    I will accuse it of missing the point of the OT.

    Are you defending johntheother for calling somebody a sociopath because he couldn’t be arsed to learn the facts about the incident he vlogged about? If not, what’s your problem? That RW played a prank? Do you have any evidence that Eberhard didn’t enjoy the prank? Do you think you’re the sheriff of atheism, and the rest of us aren’t allowed to enjoy a joke and a story?

  31. 31
    Stacy

    OP, not OT.

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