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Thought Police of Freethought

 

There seems to be a danger of Thought Police in the world of Freethought. You know, those know what is wrong with everything and want to tell you about it, regardless of the effect of their pronouncements on the future of our ability to say and do.

When this blog first got going, it was announced that there would be something on the blog to offend everyone.  This has been proved to be the case nicely and has inspired some to put fingertips to keyboard to criticize about everything touched upon thus so far.  This is an equal opportunity blasphemy.

Some of the writing on my blog has already been condemned by, among others, those who are frequently wrong but never uncertain.

To fully appreciate Edwinian writing, it is necessary for you to know that everything you think you know about a given Edwinian writing, together with your understanding of the motives of the author, is almost certainly wrong.

Readers would probably find it useful, and therefore well advised, to become acquainted with, at least before speaking, the literary concepts and devices of satire, humor, parody, metaphor, allegory, irony, sarcasm, and wit before providing their opinions so loudly and so often.

Edwin.

Comments

  1. KG says

    To fully appreciate Edwinian writing, it is necessary for you to know that everything you think you know about a given Edwinian writing, together with your understanding of the motives of the author, is almost certainly wrong.

    Right. So if you appear to be a self-absorbed, unfunny, borderline homophobe, it’s our fault.

  2. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Yep. Objecting to a homophobic “joke” that can’t help but be seen as such (really, Edwin. Substitute “black” or any form of interracial sex and try to understand how degraded and insulted a black person would feel. Welcome to what gays go through.) is being ThoughtPolice.

    Nope. We queer folk don’t have any legitimate gripe. We don’t have any reason to feel beaten by yet one more thoughtless “joke” about how obvious it is that any suggestion of dick getting near dick is prima facie so awful a dude would rather die. We just don’t have a sense of humor.

    We’re fascists.

  3. walton says

    When this blog first got going, it was announced that there would be something on the blog to offend everyone. This has been proved to be the case nicely and has inspired some to put fingertips to keyboard to criticize about everything touched upon thus so far. This is an equal opportunity blasphemy.

    “I’m an equal opportunity offender” is a tired old canard, and it’s nonsense. “Jokes” at the expense of groups which have already been stigmatized, caricatured and discriminated-against for many years – be it women, gay people, African-Americans, Jews, or any other traditional target of hatred – serve to reinforce an existing pattern of stigma and discrimination. This is why those kinds of jokes are toxic, and why they are categorically different from jokes mocking the powerful and privileged.

    Readers would probably find it useful, and therefore well advised, to become acquainted with, at least before speaking, the literary concepts and devices of satire, humor, parody, metaphor, allegory, irony, sarcasm, and wit before providing their opinions so loudly and so often.

    Enough condescension, please. If your post was intended to be satirical and/or sarcastic, then I’d venture to suggest that you need to consider the fact that almost none of your readers got the intended joke. Your post came across – not just to me, but evidently to the majority of people who commented – as homophobic. Maybe you didn’t intend it as such, and that’s fine, but in that case you should accept responsibility for that and retract it, as any writer must do when he or she communicates poorly (which we all do from time to time).

  4. kerfluffle says

    I’m disappointed. Having read the posting which included Caine, Fleur du Mal’s response first, I expected a real discussion of…something. Maybe an examination of unconscious privilege, a witty little bit on the sting of being misunderstood, or even just a measured addendum with a small apology.

    I most certainly didn’t expect something as banal and as free of contemplation as “It was just a joke! Lighten up!”

    It is difficult to challenge our own perceptions of self. Harder when it’s made public. Perhaps it would have been better to respond after you had time to think it over and get past the initial defensive reaction.

  5. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    You know, those know what is wrong with everything and want to tell you about it, regardless of the effect of their pronouncements on the future of our ability to say and do.

    You know, I get that you’re feeling defensive because of the strong reaction to what you wrote yesterday. That’s natural, and it’s okay. But in situations like that, it’s often useful to take a step back and think about the correct response for a while. Yes, it may lead to some mockery and frustration on the part of your interlocutors, who will think you’ve fled the argument, but it’s better to have a late but well-thought out and humble response to criticism (even if you don’t ultimately agree with it) than end up writing very stupid things like “criticism is thought policing!” and condescending shit like “you don’t know what sarcasm is!”

  6. ladydreamgirl says

    Oh dear, people told you what they thought of your post in the comment section of said post and it wasn’t entirely adulation and agreement with the point of view. Clearly these people are acting like thought police.

  7. Martyn Hughes says

    I agree with the above 2 posts.

    You’re first post – well, it’s the first one I read – ‘On Homosexuality’ was quite ammusing.

    I did not take offense even though I am a gay man, however, if you are going to tell ‘gay jokes’ they might just come back and bite you on the arse. So to speak :)

    However, now they have, can you really complain, via another post?

    The same charge you are aiming at your readers for being ‘offended’, could now be applied to you. Huh?

    get the irony?

    Anyway, I am here, because I follow and support Maryam Namazie who moved here [freethoughtblogs]. Why, I will never know.

    This is a woman who is putting her life on the line for others and all we find here amongst amateurs is pettiness.

    Yes, I am also looking at ‘Comradde PhysioProffe’ here, with their foul mouthed, nothing-to-say rantings.

    If you ‘free thinkers’ are going to write, can you please – at the very least – write about the very real danger many people are faced with daily as a result of regimes and movements who don’t allow ‘free-thinking’?

  8. Tynk says

    You are posting on a site, based upon open discussion of ideas, and you get offended that others are able to rebuke you? Sorry, but you need to step back for a moment and look at exactly what you are doing. While freedom of speech allows for most things to be said, it provides no protection at all from others using their freedoms to call you out on your bullshit. If you say something stupid, acknowledge it or ignore it, but do not blame others for pointing it out.

  9. SallyStrange (Bigger on the Inside), Spawn of Cthulhu says

    People criticizing you is not the “Thought Police.” That is an unsupportable claim. Why have you abandoned critical reasoning, now that YOUR reasoning is the reasoning that’s being criticized?

  10. says

    If your post was intended to be satirical and/or sarcastic, then I’d venture to suggest that you need to consider the fact that almost none of your readers got the intended joke.

    I think a lot of us are familiar with the joke.

    Your post came across – not just to me, but evidently to the majority of people who commented – as homophobic.

    I can has false dilemma? Comedy and homophobia are overlapping magisteria.

    The reason I object to this comment is people tend to think that if they make a funny enough joke, it’s therefore not homophobic.

  11. SallyStrange (Bigger on the Inside), Spawn of Cthulhu says

    I wasn’t familiar with the joke. I did nevertheless recognize that it was an attempt at humor. Like LM says, it being a joke doesn’t mean that it wasn’t homophobic. Unless you also want to maintain that John McCain’s infamous joke about how much women love to be raped was also not sexist, simply because it was intended to be funny.

  12. walton says

    I can has false dilemma? Comedy and homophobia are overlapping magisteria.

    The reason I object to this comment is people tend to think that if they make a funny enough joke, it’s therefore not homophobic.

    Fair point. I explained myself badly. Of course it’s true that something can be both a joke and bigoted; and of course I wasn’t claiming otherwise.

    Rather, I assumed Kagin was claiming that his post was meant to be a satire or parody of homophobia rather than an actual expression of homophobia. Which might have been the intention, but if so, it was communicated very poorly.

  13. says

    If one person tells you you’re not funny, it’s possible that the person may be wrong.

    When multiple people tell you you’re not funny, you may want to examine what passes for “funny” in your mind, rather than double down and accuse them of having no sense of humor.

    On this planet, GLBT folks are still literally persecuted by religious figures, governmental officials, and run-of-the-mill ‘phobes. Transgender people are especially stigmatized and vulnerable — and some of the worst offenders are cops.

    The spectacle of a white, straight, cisgendered, highly educated man who proudly boasts about how he likes to offend everybody, then cries pitifully about being “policed” when he finds out that “free speech” does not include freedom from social consequences, is not especially moving.

    Being an ally to an oppressed group means listening when people from that group tell you that you’ve put your foot in your mouth by saying something that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. If you get your back up, decide to take it personally, and complain about the “thought police,” then you aren’t being an ally. You are making the conversation all about you. You are asking the people whose rights you purportedly defend to prioritize your ego over their rights.

    By the way, yes, the snakebite “joke” is pretty old. I heard it more than two decades ago. We all recycle ancient japes from time to time, but passing the practice off as an example of your… “Edwinian wit,” and claiming few of us are equipped to appreciate it, does not speak well for said wit, or for your ability to admit that you might have been mistaken.

  14. Happiestsadist says

    Yes, of course, your self-asborbed old bigot. If the meaniepants queers and allies dislike your bigoted, dehumanizing and most importantly older than dust “jokes”, it’s because we’re the thought police and not, you know, human beings who really don’t much care for bigotry.

    If nobody thinks your jokes are funny, the problem is not that of the audience. First rule of comedy there, Skippy.

  15. says

    Edwin, I read the “On Homosexuality” post that you made because when you first joined FtB I checked out your posts and they seemed well written and intelligent. I was expecting that same level of intelligence in reading your post.

    What I got was a homophobic joke, an incorrect definition of homophobia that is unilaterally used by bigots, and now an “equal opportunity offender” post.

    Sorry, but you are the one in the wrong. Jokes on homophobia aren’t just jokes; Nobody read through your first paragraph, got to the homophobic part, and said “Awww, you got me! I sure wasn’t expecting a gay joke there, this guy sure is a joker!” like it’s some silly prank.

    Jokes like that hurt. Jokes like that alienate some of us from our family, friends and community. It’s not something we take lightly.

    I come to freethought blogs because it’s a place where I can be gay and a woman and not treated like a second class human being. It’s a safe haven of sorts to be honest, and homophobic jokes aren’t welcome. You can call that “thought policing”, I call it wanting one place where I can actually expect some damned equality.

  16. axewaquestion says

    Being told to watch what you’re saying because it’s offensive to the group you’re talking about is no way in hell any kind of “thought policing.”

    And you consider telling a LGBT hostile “joke” a type of blasphemy? Really? Do you even know what that word means? We are in no way, shape, or form treated as being sacred by ANYONE.

    I’m wondering how in the hell you ended up on ftb when you’re spewing shit that sounds exactly like the kind of thing I’d expect a fundamentalist christian to say. “Fuck the queers lol I’m edgy.” Would it kill you to try seeing our point of view on this?

  17. says

    Sorry, but many of you lot have it quite badly wrong, and there is real danger in mistakes such as yours. I’ve known Edwin for years, I edited a version of the homosexuality article for Edwin’s excellent book, “Baubles of Blasphemy,” and I submit that an understanding of irony and satire are strongly needed to appreciate much American literature, including Kagin and including one of the greatest masterpieces in all of American letters–Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Some of the readers of this blog have asked people to substitute a racist joke in a piece and see how it feels. OK, let’s try that: Mark Twain has Huck Finn report on a steamboat accident to his Aunt Sally about whether anyone was hurt in the accident by saying “No’m. Killed a nigger.” (See http://thunderbird.k12.ar.us/The%20Classics%20Library/American%20Literature/T/twain/Only%20a%20Nigger.htmt for Twain’s fine published essay about that.) Though the anecdote told in some contexts would indeed be evil racism, anyone who claims that Mark Twain was being a racist when he put such a remark into “Adventures of Huck Finn” utterly misunderstands Twain, irony, racism, and American culture.

    Edwin Kagin’s insertion of a joke in his essay is not for exactly the same reason as Twain’s (it’s more a setup for the serious core of the essay than a directly ironic comment on homosexuality–but it is not a homophobic insult, as it would indeed be if simply told as a joke absent any context), and Edwin–fine writer that he damned well is, is not quite on a par with Samuel Clemens. But humor and jokes must be put into context and read with knowledge of intent before being judged as to offensiveness.

    Despite what some might think, my long relationship with Edwin Kagin has in no way threatened my marriage.

    –Ed Buckner (ebuckner@atheists.org), longtime friend of Edwin and editor, years ago, of the original piece on which the snakebite blog posting was based.

  18. SteveV says

    To fully appreciate Edwinian writing, it is necessary for you to know that everything you think you know about a given Edwinian writing, together with your understanding of the motives of the author, is almost certainly wrong.

    So we’re not supposed to understand.
    Fair enough.
    I won’t bother to try then.

  19. says

    No, Ed. You and Kagin have it wrong.

    I’m going to have to say that none of us, to be quite frank, give a flying fuck about your relationship with Kagin, how great of a writer he is, or any of that.

    What we care about is this:

    1) Kagin made a post that included homophobic content on a blogging network that many people read because it is a safe haven of sorts for LGBT people.

    2) Said LGBT people (and allies) informed him that his opening paragraph rings homophobic, and that it tainted the rest of his writing.

    3) Kagin resorted to immature defenses (saying that we just don’t fit his humor, being overly condescending and rather snarky, and calling “thought police” on us) and apparently brought in people to defend him.

    In short, he went from being offensive, to being offensive and a dick about it.

    Now a few points that I feel need to be brought up:

    First off, Huckleberry Finn was published in the nineteenth century. Do I really need to point out that times have changed since then and the same sort of things aren’t socially acceptable? That even then and ESPECIALLY now, “no people, just a nigger” is offensive, even if it’s a joke?

    Second, you do not need to be a homophobe to make homophobic comments. That said, I also want to point out that whether or not someone is homophobic is not always something you can just tell, especially if you are not an LGBT person. Going off that, I’m beginning to think that Kagin may be a homophobe, even if in a very small degree, or at the very least very ignorant regarding LGBT issues.

    My reasons for this:

    1) The initial post that started this, which has already been dissected enough,

    2) His “definition” of homophobia, which is incorrect. Thing is, “Well, I’m not AFRAID of those icky gays” is something very commonly said by bona fide homophobes, about on par with “but I have gay friends”,

    3) His being entirely fine with offending LGBT people, showing that he is completely oblivious to this little thing called minority stress.

    Which all of us already have.

    Because of hateful, bigoted “jokes” like these and how “ironic” it is to offend us.

    Finally, let me reiterate, because I can not say it enough;

    Posting a homophobic blog entry on this website is very much akin to going to a youth shelter for LGBT children and making gay jokes there. Then, when someone points out the problem with that, calling the children overly sensitive and telling them they just don’t get how funny it is. It’s not the same scale, but it’s hurtful and stupid in the same ways.

  20. says

    Oh, something I forgot:

    A lot of us posting here are used to debating things like this. Having to go after bloggers is pretty normal. Thing is, it’s an extra bit depressing to have to do it on FtB, against an FtB blogger.

  21. Goblinman says

    Well, I’m disappointed, Kagin.

    Was your joke homophobic? Yes. Why? Because it’s about being so (literally) afraid of homosexuality that you won’t do something to save a life that might be interpreted as gay. Even though that thing is IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER a homosexual act. Trust me, I’m a gay guy and I think it’d be nasty to have to do that too.

    Of course I’m sure you know that. It’s a joke. The problem is that you immediately afterwords denied it was homophobic. It’s a joke AND it’s homophobic. Not mutually exclusive.

    I was trying to be as polite as possible in my comment post in the other thread. I see you’re getting defensive anyway, even though people have been making valid points. That’s not surprising, unfortunately. We’re not trying to be “thought police”, just pointing out that you may have some ways to go before you “get it”.

    Blasphemy, though? Now that just pisses me off. Yeah, sure, you’re really challenging the holy texts by telling a homophobic joke. I’m not impressed. You want to get blasphemous, post a picture of Mohammad sucking Jesus’s cock.

    Was that crude? Yep. You know what’s more crude? In countries with Sharia law, guys like me get hung by our necks from cranes.

  22. Iamamonkeysuncle says

    “. . .it’s our fault.

    Yes, that would be correct. You failed to discern a well-known literary device, and instead misconstrue the entire meaning. Worse, rather than admitting the error, you persist and amplify your rhetoric which only serves to confirm this lack of understanding. How sad.

  23. rusty says

    If expressing that one is a heterosexual male and finds men sexually unattractive makes one a homophobe then Edwin is guilty as charged.
    If writing a joke that highlights the stupidity of making sexual orientation more important than life makes someone a homophobe, then Edwin, I’m afraid you’re guilty.
    If advocating that homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals makes someone a homophobe, then Edwin is guilty.
    The only thing that I think you are guilty of Edwin is underestimating the ability of people to find offence.

  24. ischemgeek says

    Sir, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt: It’s entirely possible to say something homophobic while at the same time believing that bigotry against homosexuals is wrong, in the same way that it’s possible to say something sexist or racist while believing that both of those ideals are wrong. Hell, I did it as a teenager frequently because frankly I didn’t realize how hurtful stuff like “that’s so gay” can be until I encountered those who insist that my sexual orientation does not exist. It may be that’s what happened here.

    However when you’ve been called out by those in the target group and allies who say, “That joke is sexist.” or “That joke is homophobic.” or “That joke is racist,” the thing a decent person does is at the very least, acknowledge that it can give that impression. Your argument from special snowflake does nothing to help your cause.

    I get it, you don’t want to be considered a homophobe and it hurts that people have called you one. Consider this: How much does it hurt to have it implied – on a regular basis – that part of who you are is on the level of bestiality or torture? That’s what you did. That’s what you said. That may not be what you meant by it, but judging from the response, that is what the average reader took from it.

    That the majority of readers took that from it doesn’t mean we’re bad readers. If it’s what you meant to say, it means that you expressed a homophobic sentiment. If it’s not what you meant, it means you screwed up as a writer.

    Now it’s time to own up to it.

  25. Ruth says

    Ed, if you really can’t see the difference between a writer like Twain putting a racist comment into his fictional character’s mouth, and Kagin putting a homophobic comment *into his own mouth* as an expression of his own opinion, I don’t think it’s us that have a poor understanding of literature or satire.

  26. Iamamonkeysuncle says

    Edwin, you have seriously overestimated your audience. Evidently many so-called “freethinkers” who are your critics cannot read for comprehension on a level greater than 5th grade. I truly fear for the future since these will not be able to compete against much smarter fundangelical adversaries.

    Ruth, I find it disturbing that you allow and accept that Twain may use this literary device, but deny it to Edwin – who has used it in much the same way. How is it you do not see that an author may place himself in a story as a character on par with his fictional creations, in order to make a point.

    But then, the point has already been lost on you.

  27. says

    @30- Please prove to us that we aren’t reading for comprehension. What I read was a plainly homophobic and ENTIRELY serious take on homosexuality, followed by a bland “this is why homosexuality is okay” that in no way excuses the first paragraph. If you’re seeing something different, I’m going to assume that it’s you who can’t read.

    And Edwin did not use the same device as Twain. Twain put the words into the mouth of a fictional character. Edwin made it clear that the words in question are his own opinion. Also, even if Edwin was using the same device as Twain (which he isn’t), I think it’s important to point out that the book in question is usually edited to not include racist content. That is not a thing to emulate.

    But really, if you’re going to accuse us of not having any reading comprehension, you should probably understand the difference between having a character say something in satire, and saying something yourself while being entirely serious.

    And no, being serious and then saying it was satire doesn’t make it satire- it makes you a back-peddler.

  28. P Smith says

    I’m not old, and I remember when growing up that people recognized satire, humour and exaggeration when they saw it. It didn’t require a smiley or qualifier because people took time to read and re-read to make sure they didn’t misunderstand what was being said. Whether it was columnists in newspapers or magazines, or editorials on newscasts and radio, people could discern where the line between opinion and news was, between invective and irony.

    Nowadays, it’s mostly knee-jerk reactions by reactionary jerks living on their knees. You can “thank” cable TV for this: prior to crap like “Crossfire” on CNN and “McLaughlin Group” on PBS and CBS in the early 1980s, the notion of “free for all” outshouting as a tactic of argument was unheard of. Today, rudeness, propaganda and innuendo rule the day. Fact checking used to mean making sure what was said was true; now, fact checking means preventing those who disagree with you from presenting facts – checking it so it’s not heard.

    People try to blame the internet for the rise of instantaneous jackknife responses, but the blame really belongs to TV and corporate ownership of the media. It may be only coincidence that it came at the same time as the rise of the religious right, but it certanly doesn’t look like it.

    .

  29. Ruth says

    “Ruth, I find it disturbing that you allow and accept that Twain may use this literary device, but deny it to Edwin – who has used it in much the same way. ”

    Reading comprehension fail.

    Edwin expressed a homophobic sentiment as *his own personal opinion*. Mark Twain used a racist sentiment *to demonstrate his character’s racism*.

    That is clearly not “much the same way”, unless you are trying to tell me that Edwin was using the literary device to demonstrate his *own* homophobia.

    Actually, that would have been a valid use, but if he were really trying to say “Look, the best of us can succumb to homophobia at times”, he wouldn’t be so adamant that it wasn’t homophobia.

    • Iamamonkeysuncle says

      Edwin did not express a homophobic sentiment as his own personal opinion. Using a first-person voice does not mean the POV of the speaker also belongs to the author.

      Comprehension fail.

      Hank Hebhoe is completely out of line. Not only is the “faggot” pejorative disturbing, but he is also wrong that children and atheists have no sense of humor. Young children tend to relate better to slapstick (and do not take it literally) and their sense of humor usually becomes more refined with maturity. Not always. Atheist humor sometimes takes a while to get used to, but it’s there nonetheless.

  30. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    P Smith

    It didn’t require a smiley or qualifier because people took time to read and re-read to make sure they didn’t misunderstand what was being said.

    You may be the one in need of a little extratextual help ;)

    People try to blame the internet for the rise of instantaneous jackknife responses, but the blame really belongs to TV and corporate ownership of the media.

    Otherwise, I may never have recognized Edwin Kagin’s utter lack of awareness. Or even the bigotry inherent in his joke. Oh wait. I probably would have recognized it. All the signs were there.

    Oooo…Gotta get that on a T-shirt.

    Sure about that?

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