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.