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Yes, Some People Should Be Shunned

As is usually the case, Greta Christina says what I’ve either said or wanted to say much more eloquently than I could. Following up on my post about the appalling behavior of the “Amazing Atheist” and the equally appalling defenses of that behavior being offered, she makes the case for shunning.

Shunning is an extreme measure. It is a last resort. We are a social species, we need other people, and deliberately pushing someone out of a community is a strong and harsh response to bad behavior. Accepting human imperfection, accepting that everyone screws up and does things we have serious problems with, and being willing to move forward from that, is absolutely necessary if we’re going to live and work together.

Shunning is an extreme measure. But if we are never willing to do it, even in the face of the most despicable behavior, we are saying that we will tolerate anything. Literally anything. We are saying that there is no line that cannot be crossed.

Now, reasonable people can certainly disagree about where that line should be drawn. We can disagree about how bad someone has to be before we’re unwilling to work with them; how consistently bad they have to be; how many times we try to reason with them before we give up.

But whatever our disagreements might be about where that line should be drawn, I would think that “I will make you a rape victim if you don’t fuck off,” “I hope you fucking drown in rape semen,” “I think we should give the guy who raped you a medal,” “I’d have busted your fucking nose and raped you,” and “I’m going to rape you with my fist,” would clearly and unquestionably place someone on the far side of it. The very, very far side.

And it is deeply distressing to realize that this isn’t the case. It is deeply distressing to realize just how many people in the atheist movement don’t consider that to be flatly unacceptable. It is deeply distressing that I have to calmly spell out why we should not accept people into our community who mockingly trivialize rape and make brutal, graphic, public rape threats. It is deeply distressing that this is a controversial issue in our community. It is deeply distressing that we even have to have this conversation.

Is there any line you think should not be crossed?

If you don’t — why not?

And if you do — why not this one? Why does “I hope you fucking drown in rape semen” fall into the category of “Well, I don’t agree with everything he says, but…”

In many instances, of course we can agree about some things while disagreeing about others, and agreeing when someone says (X) doesn’t automatically mean you agree when they say (Y). But when someone crosses a clear line into vile and unacceptable behavior, the community needs to make it clear that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

This is not, as some have absurdly claimed, about some mere difference of opinion. TJ’s behavior has been brutalizing, dehumanizing to women and especially to rape victims. If we can’t come together as a community and condemn his actions loudly and unequivocally and agree that he should have no place in that community, we have inexcusably failed. But despite this shockingly horrific record, this guy has almost 600,000 subscribers on Youtube. His work is still promoted by major leaders in the atheist community.

Yes, I recognize that most of those subscribers and those promoting his videos are probably unaware of his inhumane behavior. All the more reason that it be pointed out each and every time you see someone sharing one of his videos, as I’ve begun doing. And if you’re one of those people who responds with “well yeah he’s a jerk, but he’s entertaining,” quite frankly, that’s just fucked. It is time to shun him in every way we possibly can, drum him out of the world of organized atheism to whatever extent it can be done. If we can’t do that, we have failed completely to uphold even minimal standards of behavior.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Don’t disagree but shunning is an old fashioned word.

    Ignored maybe and/or opposed.

    There is an atheism(+). Hegel had a point though.

    There is now an atheism(–), atheism(minus).

    Atheism(minus) is a lot like fundie xianity. Fundie xianity is a package deal; right wing extremist politics, racism, mysogyny, science hate, lies, etc.. with a few crosses stuck on for show. They own the Dark Side of our society.

    The Dark Side is being contested now by atheism(–). It’s a lot like fundie xianity, minus the crosses for show. I don’t like atheism(–) any more than I like fundie-ism. Why should I, they both want the worst for people like me.

  2. says

    These sorts of issues are why I feel good about taking Hitchens’ advice and not feel bad about being a bore if I have to be. Knee-jerkingly point out someone’s crime every time they’re mentioned at the risk of repeating yourself.

  3. D. C. Sessions says

    “well yeah he’s a jerk, but he’s entertaining,”

    How many “entertaining” points does it take to get out of a murder charge? rape? Kiddie porn?

  4. Artor says

    Ay-up! No disagreement here. Fuck that guy! I hope he drowns in self-pity and obscurity.

  5. says

    Let’s dispense with this “shunning is an extreme measure” business. It’s only “extreme” when we’re booting someone out of a very close-knit group, like a family, and the person we’re booting out has been part of this close-knit group for a long time. But there’s nothing at all extreme about staying away from people we’ve just encountered who’ve been acting like pond-scum for as long as we’ve known them. That is, in fact, the kind of common-sense decision people have to make in every social-life decision that comes our way.

    There’s nothing “extreme” about choosing not to invite assholes to any of your parties. The misogynists and rape-apologists are being extreme; our response to them is perfectly rational and sensible.

  6. Alverant says

    “well yeah he’s a jerk, but he’s entertaining,”

    I’ve heard variants of this argument when it comes to authors, actors, and other forms of entertainers. The last big one was for the Ender’s Game movie. Many people were saying, “Sure OSC is an asshole but the book was good and I want to see the movie.” No one sees eye to eye with everyone so what the individual has to decide is when this misalignment between two people with two sets of opinions is so great that you don’t even want to read their fictional stories.

  7. says

    Yes, I recognize that most of those subscribers and those promoting his videos are probably unaware of his inhumane behavior. All the more reason that it be pointed out each and every time you see someone sharing one of his videos, as I’ve begun doing. And if you’re one of those people who responds with “well yeah he’s a jerk, but he’s entertaining,” quite frankly, that’s just fucked.

    I’ll plead guilty to once being one of those people. i used to watch and share his videos because they were entertaining. He is good at delivering his video rants in a way that was often funny. Then I learned about his behavior toward women and to rape victims in particular. Now I won’t touch his Youtube channel.

  8. says

    I found sneering nasty references to rape “entertaining” when I was in junior-high-school. That phase ended around the time I turned fifteen. So in my eyes, anyone who still finds this kind of crap “entertaining” is either extremely immature or an absolute inexcusable asshole.

  9. jenny6833a says

    Shunning works only if the shunned cares about the good will of the shunners. The same idea applies to concerted criticism of someone’s views.

    I fail to understand how anyone (or a host of anyones) can stop the guy from calling himself an atheist while continuing to say/write whatever he wants.

    Ms Christina’s writes well. She makes a powerful plea. But, IMO, she offers no workable plan to get from where we are to where she wants to go.

    What lever does she have? Will she next command the tide to stop?

  10. says

    Given the level of Kinkaid’s popularity among atheists, is there really a sliver of doubt left in anybody’s mind as to “why aren’t there more women at atheist meet-ups”?

    (Hint: it’s not because of female biology)

  11. says

    What “lever” does she have? The same lever we all have: the ability to choose who we associate with. And the ability to offer better voices for the atheist movement than the ones people are hearing now.

  12. jenny6833a says

    @ #11

    And precisely how does that moderate his views or stop him from playing to his supportive audience? How does that stop him from portraying himself as a “real” atheist?

  13. says

    And precisely how does that moderate his views or stop him from playing to his supportive audience? How does that stop him from portraying himself as a “real” atheist?

    It doesn’t. But then, changing Kinkaid’s mind, stopping him playing to the people who support misogyny, or portraying himself as a real atheist (he is, unless he’s changed his mind about not believing in gods) isn’t the point. The point is making the atheist community/movement, such as it is, more welcoming and less overtly hostile to women and rape victims.

    Again, have you tried actually reading what Greta Christina wrote on the subject? (The link in my previous comment is to your admission that you had not, as of last Friday.)

  14. brucegee1962 says

    #9 jenny,

    Greta does offer a plan. I’ll agree with you that her plan seems unworkably grandiose: when she says “We must change the culture” it sounds like she’s just being silly. But it really is the only way.

    I would have said it was impossible just a decade ago. But that was before seeing the country transform its opinion about homosexuality within a generation. Cultures change all the time, in unexpected ways. Sometimes a meme will rip through a population overnight.

    How does it work? One person at a time. Someone who says, “Guys, that’s not cool” to his friends.

    I can remember when bigots felt perfectly comfortable making racist jokes in public. Then they started to get pushback, and started restraining their comments to people like themselves. Then just their own families. Then their own relatives started giving them pushback, so they began keeping their comments in a tight circle. And now even those circles are shrinking. That’s the way it works.

  15. jenny6833a says

    Dear Sally,

    I followed the link Ed provided and read Christina’s remarks on the topic at hand. As I said, it’s a well written plea, but IMO Ms Christina appears to have no workable plan to slow or stop the guy from continuing to do what he’s done in the past..

  16. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Greta has more levers than most due to her professional standing in the community (she can refuse to speak at events with TAA and use her substantial megaphone to criticize his sexism and and encourage others to spread the word and boycott him.) The goal isn’t for TAA to renounce his atheism or stop writing, it’s to hold him accountable in the public eye and make sure everyone is aware of his sexism/misogyny. In a perfect world the goal would be for him to actually acknowledge where he was wrong, apologize and act better in the future (and encourage others to change as well) but that’s probably just a pipe-dream.

  17. rory says

    #16 Jenny,

    As SallyStrange pointed out in #14, nothing that the community can do will directly prevent TJ from doing whatever he wants; nor will it prevent his fans from continuing to support him. That’s not the point. The point is that the rest of us can make it clear we do not agree with or support him. We can repudiate his views and try to make ourselves welcoming to women and other marginalized groups. We can choose not to provide a megaphone or a platform to someone with repugnant views.

    That’s not everything, but it’s a start. Weighed against the alternative of doing nothing and letting ourselves be judged sympathetic to him, it doesn’t seem like that bad a start.

  18. doublereed says

    His work is still promoted by major leaders in the atheist community.

    He is? I never realized that people took that schmuck too seriously.

    I watched a video of his and thought he was caustic but entertaining. Give him the benefit of the doubt, you know. Then I watched another and I thought it was hateful but somewhat amusing, couldn’t get all the way through it. And then I watched another saw a bit of another and thought he was an awful person and turned it off rather quickly.

    Of course there are assholes on YouTube. 600,000 subscribers doesn’t surprise me. But who promotes him? I thought the atheist community was already shunning this guy. He just seems like a cartoonish misanthrope.

  19. jenny6833a says

    @ Brucegee

    I don’t disagree with a long term desire to alter the culture. As you point out, however, that requires engaging with the perps. Yet the recommended approach here is to shun, which is the opposite of to engage.

    I still don’t think there are clear “marching orders” here. That is, I see no coherent, workable plan.

    And I can’t resist a brief PS: Don’t say anything Sally doesn’t like, or she’ll start calling you Bruceynumbers. Not that you’d care, as I don’t.

  20. raven says

    What lever does she have? Will she next command the tide to stop?

    and

    I still don’t think there are clear “marching orders” here. That is, I see no coherent, workable plan.

    Not very bright are you?

    1. Slime molds, Dark Siders, sociopaths, rabid rats, whatever you want to call them have been a part of humanity for about forever. They are all through the ancient literature, including the bible.

    The Zorastrians said it millennia ago, the ancient battle between light and dark that never ends.

    2. As such, we’ve always had to deal with them. Sometimes they even win and you get an ISIS in Iraq or Rick Perry in Texas.

    3. In this case, shining a light on a guy like Amazing Atheist is going to do a lot. Cockroaches hate the light which is why they scurry into the shadows.

    This is a democracy and we can’t do much more than that. It is often enough though.

  21. raven says

    His work is still promoted by major leaders in the atheist community.

    Never heard or seen that.

    It doesn’t matter though. In the unlikely event that this actually occurred, it is about to end.

  22. says

    Yes, I recognize that most of those subscribers and those promoting his videos are probably unaware of his inhumane behavior. All the more reason that it be pointed out each and every time you see someone sharing one of his videos, as I’ve begun doing.

    I really, really dislike it when I see someone quoting or referencing another’s work positively, and a third party jumps in with a “Yeah, but…” As in, “Yeah, but did you know this person is really wrong about [totally different subject]?” Or especially “Yeah, but I’m surprised to see you quoting someone who has what I consider to be erroneous views about something you profess to care very much about.” Because really, that’s an actual ad hominem attack– it’s deflecting an argument’s validity by insulting the person making it, and in the second case it’s rather insulting to the person you’re talking to as well.

    So I think it’s important to do something different in this case. When you point out to someone promoting TJ’s videos or otherwise speaking positively about him that he has exhibited this kind of psychopathic behavior, don’t let there be any illusion that you’re trying to discredit what he has to say on other topics. Grant that whatever he’s saying about how stupid creationism is, is probably true. Then point out that there are loads of other atheists out there making exactly the same points who aren’t also prone to making repeated and graphic rape threats, and they deserve our attention and affection more than this guy does.

    Because I guarantee, however good TJ’s viewers think he is, he’s not that good. And he’s certainly not original. And if there’s no shortage of places to get your creationism bashing (or whatever) elsewhere, there’s no reason to get it from someone who thinks threatening and mocking rape survivors is a grand idea.

    P.S. Get him to renounce atheism? What on earth for? Being horrible doesn’t disqualify a person from being an atheist in the slightest.

  23. jenny6833a says

    @ #22 Raven

    I’ll ignore your insult.

    ” In this case, shining a light on a guy like Amazing Atheist is going to do a lot.”

    Where does the shunning come in? Isn’t “shining a light on the guy” the opposite of shunning him? And, doesn’t “shining a light on the guy” give him grist for endless claims of being attacked, censorship, violations of free speech, and so on.

    What’s the plan?

  24. says

    Hey, if you really meant for “6833a” to be an important part of your ‘nym, instead of a random numberstring, as I assumed, just say so.

    Unless it really, really doesn’t bother you, in which case, probably better not to make an ostentatious show of how much you are so very very unbothered.

  25. says

    As for the plan:

    1. Stop linking to Kinkaid’s videos.

    2. If you see someone linking to Kinkaid’s videos, say, “Hey don’t link to that rape threatening guy’s videos.”

    3. Apply the same principle to Kinkaid’s other ventures.

    That’s pretty much it.

    If you think more should be done then go ahead and propose something.

  26. Al Dente says

    There are exactly two things we can do about Kincaid:

    (1) We can publicly denounce him for his misogyny and rape threats.

    (2) We can refuse to have anything to do with him, not watch his videos, not buy his books or merchandise he promotes, walk out of his presentations at conferences, tell conference organizers we’ll not attend any conference he’s a speaker, etc.

    And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said
    Fifty people a day walking in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and
    Walking out. And friends they may think it’s a movement.

  27. says

    Threats of murder, rape, and bodily harm are never okay. It appears this guy has no remorse or shame for his actions and should be shunned.

    I’ve seen complaints about the Amazing Atheist before, but it’s never made a lasting impression. I’m more concerned with countering dominionists and apologists than a belligerent, immature, and unfortunately, atheist video blogger. It was entirely possible for me to stumble on a video from him and share it, oblivious to his other messages. Any positive message resulting from that video would likely be lost to theists’ using Kincaid’s other views as a distraction.

    Ed’s strategy of warning others is best. No one issues “marching orders” in the atheist community; it is up to each of us to disseminate information.

  28. D. C. Sessions says

    How does it work? One person at a time. Someone who says, “Guys, that’s not cool” to his friends.

    And if everyone says it, it’ll usually work. Barring a serious case of “Behind Blue Eyes” syndrome (also MacBeth’s fealty), anyway.

    On the other hand, what happens when someone says, “not cool” and your buds say, “What a pussy! Dude, you totally put that bitch in her place!” Hint: reward trumps punishment. The admiration of your fanbase trumps the disapproval of some others.

    For example, if your stomach can deal, have a look at the following Ted Beale (aka Vox Day) has gathered and their backslapping mutual admiration over his recent move to orchestrate a Hugo award for a poorly-written bit of Christian fantasy.

  29. philoswho says

    Have you guys seen him on knowyourmeme.com?
    Seems he has been shunned by other communities for the same type of behavior.
    I just don’t think we should agonize over aligning ourselves away from him and his violent ideology.

  30. raven says

    Jenny6833a
    July 25, 2014 at 3:50 am (UTC -4) Link to this comment
    @ #3 Trebuchet

    “A+ is almost entirely absent in FTB these days. It’s only present in the minds of its opponents.”

    The name “A+” is seldom mentioned, but the malign mixture of atheism and social justice is being pushed as strenuously as ever.

    Jenny is a troll people. This is what he wrote on The Digital Cuttlefish a few days ago. He hates Atheism(+) and social justice. I say he because most likely Jenny’s real name is something like George or Al.

    I’ll ignore your insult.

    Whatever. That time was wasted then, but it was only a few seconds.

    What’s the plan?

    Nothing you could understand. Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be out gathering hay and cardboard. Trolls have such short memories. In a few months, it is going to be winter and it will be real cold under your bridge.

  31. jenny6833a says

    Oh, goody, Raven (#32) has gone nuttier than nuts.

    Jenny6833a
    July 25, 2014 at 3:50 am (UTC -4) Link to this comment
    @ #3 Trebuchet

    “A+ is almost entirely absent in FTB these days. It’s only present in the minds of its opponents.”

    The name “A+” is seldom mentioned, but the malign mixture of atheism and social justice is being pushed as strenuously as ever.

    Jenny is a troll people. This is what he wrote on The Digital Cuttlefish a few days ago. He hates Atheism(+) and social justice. I say he because most likely Jenny’s real name is something like George or Al.

    I wrote none of what liar Raven attributes to me. I demand a total, abject, unconditional retraction and an apology.

    What a maroon!

  32. Childermass says

    I encountered one of his videos by it popping up on a Google search. I don’t think I got thirty seconds into before I concluded it was juvenile trite and stopped watching.

    In any event his apologizing for rape is inexcusable and his becoming persona non grata is thoroughly deserved. No community, no organization, no gathering, etc. can afford to keep such company.

  33. Edward Gemmer says

    Are there objective requirements for the shun list, or is it just people we don’t like?

  34. rory says

    @36,

    Maybe you’re trying to be funny, but to me your comment comes off as obtuse.

    No one is saying shun TJ because he’s annoying, or because we don’t like how he dresses, or because he was mean to our friend that one time. The dude has said vile, hurtful, and threatening things on multiple occasions. He’s made threats. He’s shown no indication of which I’m aware that he regrets any of those actions. For these reasons, some of us choose to deny him a platform with which to speak and to disengage with him. Some of us may also choose to disengage with others who do continue to promote him (such as not going to a conference where he’s been invited to speak).

    If you think the value of what he says outweighs the negatives of his behavior, by all means, continue to watch his stuff. That’s your option. But please don’t act as though this is simply some bit of personal animus. I don’t think you’d have asked your question if TJ was making jokes about lynching people of color, so why is it okay for him to make jokes about rape?

  35. Edward Gemmer says

    To be fair, he did apologize for a large portion of the stuff he is being criticized for.

  36. says

    Are there objective requirements for the shun list, or is it just people we don’t like?

    You’re not obligated to participate, you know. If you enjoy the company of men who make repeated, public, brutal rape threats, then you are still perfectly free to continue supporting and promoting Kinkaid’s work.

    As far as I know, the only apologies he has made are for considering that 12 – 13 year old girls should be considered mature enough for sexual relationships.

  37. says

    No, Gemmer, he did NOT apologize with anything remotely resembling sincerity. First, he didn’t specify what, exactly, he was apologizing for; and second, as one commenter pointed out, he didn’t apologize in any of the public spaces in which he committed the original offenses. And when this was pointed out to him, he flat-out refused to follow through and do the right thing.

    A public offense requires a public apology — not just to the person to whom it’s directed, but to everyone who may have heard it. This “apology” is bullshit.

  38. jenny6833a says

    #4 Noada says

    Really? So this isn’t you? http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2014/07/24/well-now-that-was-strange/#comment-127327

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I took a few days off.

    Except for the word “malign” the quote represents my views. I don’t recall posting it, and doubt that — even in the middle of the night — I’d have used ‘malign.’ But, who knows, maybe I did.

    The words I’d stand by would be “unwise” or “counterproductive” or “a strategic mistake.” I’ve said why at great length on quite a few occasions.

    So, although “malign” was the wrong word, I continue to think mixing atheism and social justice does substantial harm to both worthy causes.

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