Secular Woman announces free memberships for atheist students! »« Mock The Movie: Moontrap transcript and subtitle files

Holding clay feet to witch-burning fires

One of the more ridiculous memes that’s gained a disproportionate amount of traction in the freethought community is that of “witch hunts”. It’s the idea that there’s some roving band of bloggers and commenters hunting for the least appearance of deviation from the One True Path and punishing with extreme prejudice without evidence or empathy. It’s that if you dare speak up, you’ll be unfairly tarred and silenced and black-bagged and murdered and possibly eaten.

This band is invariably called “FTB”, “FTBullies”, “FTB and Skepchick”, or some mutation of the network’s name that includes the word “from” or “feminist”. Lately the smear also applies to atheism plus — mostly because that label, in being inclusive of outgroups, makes an outgroup of bigots and misogynists. Doesn’t matter if the people involved are actually from either network — it’s enough to use our site name as a shibboleth, to associate it with this opposition-to-the-haters as though that’s somehow a bad thing.

What’s actually going on here, though, is significantly different.

Some bloggers at Freethought Blogs and elsewhere, and any number of commenters in these spaces and elsewhere, have taken principled stands against certain behaviours they identify as damaging, and are actively campaigning against those behaviours. Interestingly, this exactly describes what is happening on the opposite end of the field. Commenters and bloggers have drawn their lines in the sand about which behaviours they find offensive — for instance, in our case, misogyny, in theirs, feminism — and attack, attack, attack the other side until people bow out.

This is not a “both sides” argument, however. The idea of what “attack” means is very significantly different for the opposing factions. One side is clearly a thousandfold more committed to abuse, hatred, sockpuppetry, vitriol, elisions, mischaracterizations and outright slurs. It is, after all, how that side moderates their discussions, given their “freedom of speech” fetishism and deification of offense as its own greatest good, as though free speech has anything to do with moderating one’s spaces.

Both sides have used swear words, both sides have used insults. Yes. Fine. I agree, some oppressed classes have lashed out at oppressors and people who would defend the systemic oppression they face.

I disagree with some, like Dan Fincke, that this escalates, that this coarsens the discourse — when you’re talking about your personhood, your rights to merely exist without facing an undercurrent of hatred, it’s difficult to argue dispassionately. Demanding that everyone do so closes the dialog to all but the most privileged, to all but those who do not face that hatred or oppression or injustice because of some immutable characteristic of their person.

So when we stake a claim, when we announce that we will defend our territory from people who attack these underclasses, we are drawing a line in the sand — we say “this far, no further”. We will not allow bigotry or hatred to dominate this space. Anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness over one’s underprivileged status — all of those are human. All of those are welcome because all of those can be fed back into fixing the community.

And fixing the community does, in fact, mean rooting out bad behaviour and either educating those committing the behaviours as to why they’re unacceptable (here or elsewhere), or excluding those actors from the conversation if they continue to behave that way.

BOTH SIDES DO THAT.

But again, this is not a “both sides” argument. See, both sides think they’re right — that the behaviour they’re trying to root out is what’s really damaging the community. One, however, is an incredibly tiny but incredibly vocal slice of our community defending the right to be bigots, and attacking feminists and social justice advocates who attempt to enlighten raise consciousness of casual bigotries that permeate our spaces.

When someoone from one of the spaces devoted to defending bigotry and attacking anti-bigots gains some level of traction in our community, it falls to us — as the people who have drawn our lines in the sand — to point these people out and demand that they “wear their colors off the field”. We demand that people know these folks’ histories of bigotry so they can choose to associate with them or to eye them with suspicion and caution. We want people to know about these behaviours and we want to give everyone the information they need to make an informed decision.

Relatively recently, Crommunist fell into the trap of disapproving of “guilt by association” when Stephanie Zvan pointed out to several of her friends attending Science Online 2013 that a person attending that conference and chatting amiably with them had participated in the Slimepit, a forum dedicated to hatred of feminists in our community, Stephanie included. Crommunist’s since apologized for this, recognizing that it’s an argument in bad faith to claim that holding people to account for their behaviours — participating in such a hate campaign actively is indeed a behaviour! — is anything like tarring them for mere association. But that such a great thinker and normally awesome blogger can fall prey to the meme is telling. And saddening. And irritating.

That forum was built out of the side of Abbie Smith’s blog as her “monument” to free speech, but calved off onto its own site when National Geographic disapproved. It serves as a rapid response team, a personal army, for everyone who hates what people like me have to say about bad behaviours in our community. They swarm on anyone who talks about behaviours, who holds people’s feet to the fire for engaging in those behaviours. They cry “censorship” and “witch hunts” and “guilt by association” and “bullying” (oh irony!) and “bad skeptic” (this last, no matter how solid the evidence is). They decry our attacking “witches of the week”, as though holding people to account for their antisocial and community-sundering behaviours is anything like burning them at the stake. And they think all of this justifies their ongoing hate campaign where they heap vitriol on and do chipping damage to active and vital members of our community. They foment and inculcate hatred of Rebecca Watson, of Jen McCreight, of Ophelia Benson, of Greta Christina, of Stephanie Zvan. When one falls to the chipping damage, they move on to new targets.

They don’t even realize they’re doing the same thing, made a thousandfold worse by the levels of vitriol they bring to the table. They don’t even realize they’re — by their own definitions — engaging in witch hunts. The sheer numbers argument that they are a very tiny minority attacking those who defend the underprivileged (who in at least the case of women actually make up a majority) tells you exactly how much closer to “witch-hunting” they are than us, though. They hold offense itself to be sacrosanct, as though actively dehumanizing trans folks and gays and blacks and even women is NOT odious and community-sundering behaviour, and they defend those who would attack those underprivileged because they see it as a principled stand.

The bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys. They never do.

Which brings me to my next point. The elephant in the room. Justin Vacula, and his appointment as co-chair of the Secular Coalition for America’s Pennsylvania branch.

I’ve had lots to say about Vacula in the past. I think his argumentation is vacuous and needlessly expansive, needlessly repetitious, where a post rebutting my assertions that he’s done people wrong and that he’s engaging in bad behaviour — a post that could best be summarized as “nuh-uh, am not” — measures in the thousands of words, excluding blockquotes. I think his having written for A Voice for Men, a site presently on the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s misogyny hate site watch list, is horrible, mostly because the site does not care about men so much as about smashing feminists (and by extension, anyone fighting for true egalitarianism).

I think he’s drawn a number of lines in the sand that he’ll take people to task over that are misguided at best, and outright hateful at worst — look at the abuse he’s heaped on Surly Amy, look at his blatant mischaracterization of the scary notes that did the last bit of chipping damage that led to Ophelia ditching TAM. Look even at his blatant self-promotion — some self-promotion is good in this field, but he takes it to the point where he’ll ally with anyone he thinks (and knows) will increase his stock with the big names in the community at the expense even of the little names. The big names who are fed up with feminism, names like Richard Dawkins and Jeremy Stangroom and Russell Blackford and Paula Kirby and Sarah Mayhew. His ideas about the law are questionable at best, and he’s shown that he’s willing to gamble on legal matters on the advice of hateful and spiteful jerks to cut someone down without himself consulting a lawyer — he’s a ticking legal timebomb for any organization to take on, in other words. Not to mention the posting of home address information and a photo of Surly Amy’s apartment building to the same Slyme Pit that I mentioned earlier. He’s dismissed the active harassment people like Stephanie have received, claiming they can’t be harassed because they’re public figures — never mind that they’re getting this harassment only because they’re women on the internet.

He’s done some good atheist activism in the past, but he’s also done some terrible anti-feminist activism — and those feminists are members of our community too, dammit. All these threads, woven together, makes a tapestry that is uniquely Vacula. It shows us all what he’s made of. And so far, that’s “pro-atheist activism” on one hand, and “anti-feminist activism and active harassment” on the other.

These do not balance out. His “leadership” consists of divisiveness and hatred, not community building. He is an atheist, and an activist, but those alone do not qualify him for leadership. He is a leader only of brigands, if he can manage even that.

The man’s a horrible choice as a representative of any organization, least of all one so politically influential as the SCA. I realize some people view the appointment of Edwina Rogers as a misstep, and I understand it was part of some larger chess game to bring Republicans on board with secularism, but these two appointments combined do not speak well of SCA at all.

What we are attacking here is a pattern of behaviour, not a person. Vacula could very well realize all the things he’s done that make him a bad fit for the leadership role, and could have some epiphany, some moment of clarity, where he rises above all he has done before. Leaders should lead by example, though, and as we’ve seen with DJ Grothe and Richard Dawkins, sometimes these supposed leaders just can’t help but wallow in the muck and take stabs at their pet causes.

If this appointment means Vacula can keep his head down, rather than sticking it up to attack people fighting for social justice, then fine. Let’s see what he can do with the position. But as soon as he’s broken his silence and attacked any one of us, he’ll have proven his character and made every charge against him — every charge that should have meant the vetting process he probably went through by the SCA would have dropped him like the hateful cinder he is — absolutely correct. I realize Edwina Rogers only cares about broad-tent activism, but surely even she must know that certain people are bad fits as representative of the community at large. Hiring Vacula isn’t exactly going to achieve a broader tent. Not when the people most advantaged by the appointment are the harassers and bigots and antifeminists, and the people most disadvantaged are, ostensibly, your community’s path out of stagnation.

I’ve signed onto Stephanie’s petition for these and other reasons she itemizes. He’s no leader. Leaders foster inclusion and smooth out flare-ups. They don’t foster hatred and harassment and provide apologetics for objectively bad intra-community behaviour.

Do I think the petition will work to make the SCA reconsider Vacula’s appointment? No. Definitely not. Not with Edwina Rogers defending him from the top. Not with every indication that the SCA is going to stand by their choice. However, it does serve an alternate and excellent result — it makes SCA defend that choice publicly. It says that the lines in the sand that he’s drawn, they’re their lines too. And that is exactly what we hope to achieve by making more public the terrible behaviours of certain entities in our community.

We’re not hunting witches, putting them on stakes and lighting them on fire. Hell, we’re not even holding their feet to those fires. We’re pointing out their feet of clay, and letting everyone freely associate with those people with better information than they had before.

Surely, the difference between “guilt by association” and actually supporting their lines-in-the-sand is the information about the person you’re associating with, right? So when someone points out that, say, the person you just chose as leader has written for the same site on which Paul Elam calls for the legalization of rape and calls many of our community members stupid whores, that he actively participates in and inflames those hate campaigns, that should actually factor into the decision to put them into leadership positions. When you have that information and refuse to do anything about it, that does tar you — because you have behaved a certain way despite that information. That means you put less importance on that information than others in your community.

We’re making that information available to everyone so you can freely choose to associate or not with that person. If that’s divisive, it’s only because the people dividing from you have different lines-in-the-sand. That’s sort of the point. If you don’t like that people are pointing out your behaviour as though it’s a bad thing, then stop behaving that way. If you think the behaviour isn’t bad, then that information needs to be disseminated to all and sundry so those that those of us who choose not to associate with people engaging in those behaviours can make such informed decisions.

That doesn’t sound one damn bit like a witch hunt to me.

Now, on the other hand, attacking people for years on end with the most hideous trolling imaginable because they’re *gasp horror* women on the internet… or worse yet, for being feminists, regardless of sex or gender…

Does the SCA really want a witch-hunter as their leader?

Sign the petition and let them know what kind of person they appointed. Let them be free to make their choice to associate themselves with those values, and let us — like Stephanie and JT and myself and anyone else signing the petition — be free to disassociate with them as a consequence to their behaviour.

Comments

  1. Anonymous Atheist says

    Very thorough post. I have a minor question:

    ” some mutation of the network’s name that includes the word “from” ”

    What is that referring to? I don’t recall personally seeing any examples that would fit that.

  2. JohnnieCanuck says

    From a way out here on the sidelines, a few observations. The position he has been given is unpaid. No point letting them quibble about his being ‘hired’, just say something like accepted for a volunteer position.

    It would seem they had a small pool of people they could consider for the position and an even smaller number of people willing to accept the commitment of time and effort involved. His activism may have been all they looked at in the end. Pity. They may indeed have allowed themselves to be too rushed to find someone better.

    This reminds me of that old saw that the last person you want to select for a position of power is the one who wants it the most. In practice I suppose, it’s hard not to.

    As you say, they are on notice now. Perhaps we can hope that there will be an internal dialogue at SCA where atheism and inclusiveness are emphasised.

  3. Steersman says

    The bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys. They never do.

    Indeed. Although from where I’m sitting it is decidedly moot whether all of the pots are blacker than all of the kettles.

    I’ve had lots to say about Vacula in the past. I think his argumentation is vacuous and needlessly expansive, needlessly repetitious …

    That’s a bit of a hoot coming from someone who’s just posted a “Natalie Reed Screed” of some 2500 words ….

    I think his having written for A Voice for Men [AVfM], a site presently on the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s [SPLC] misogyny hate site watch list, is horrible, mostly because the site does not care about men so much as about smashing feminists (and by extension, anyone fighting for true egalitarianism).

    While I’ll concede that some of the posts and posters and commenters on AVfM are seriously off-the-wall, I think it is a serious mistake to argue that all of them are likewise as are all MRAs – which PZ Myers apparently did not too long ago (Why do I despise MRAs?). In addition, you seem to be unaware that even the SPLC issued a retraction of sorts which included this:

    It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit. [link 1 below]

    As for “smashing feminists”, I see that the same report notes a number of feminists and feminist “hate sites” who are, arguably, just as off-the-wall as are the most odious of the MRAs and which, no doubt, provides some justifications for sites such as AVfM. Although, curiously, I don’t recollect many of the FTB crowd doing much yodelling about the former. Bias? Inadvertent oversight? Not as free to think about the ramifications of the former as of the latter?

    However, since the bulk of your post [some 52% of it anyway] was discussing Justin Vacula’s appointment to an SCA branch, I might ask you a question or two on the topic that I directed at Stephanie Zvan since she seems to have me in permanent moderation – not a particularly admirable or credible position to be taking for a network that is supposedly a champion of free thought. More specifically and relative to that petition of hers, she stated on Butterflies & Wheels [link 2 below] the following:

    [Do they] want to be represented by someone who will represent his positions as dishonestly as Vacula did with:

    2. The slur on Jason as being “homophobic”. Yes, what he said can sound bad–if you ignore the fact that Jason retracted it because it could be interpreted in ways he didn’t mean.

    More specifically, I’ve read, in some detail, your “Apology” [link 3] and Justin Vacula’s comments in your previous post [Grothebot meme; link 4] and can find nothing that justifies your claim that Justin was asserting that you were homophobic or were making homophobic statements. Consequently it would be most appreciated if you would be so kind as to quote the exact statement(s) from Justin that justifies that specific conclusion of yours and the statement by Stephanie, particularly since I know you would never be so unkind or so careless as to make an assertion based on a dearth of evidence or on hearsay or allow Stephanie to make any bogus claims herself.

    Link 1: “http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2012/05/15/intelligence-report-article-provokes-outrage-among-mens-rights-activists/”
    Link 2: “http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/09/news-from-the-secular-coalition-for-america/#comment-290997″
    Link 3: “http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/06/an-apology-a-mea-culpa-and-my-stated-opinion-of-dj-grothe/”
    Link 4: “http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/04/the-grothebot-5000-meme/”

  4. says

    That’s a bit of a hoot coming from someone who’s just posted a “Natalie Reed Screed” of some 2500 words ….

    You think “vacuous” and “needlessly expansive” means “long.” Noted. Blatantly incorrect.

    While I’ll concede that some of the posts and posters and commenters on AVfM are seriously off-the-wall, I think it is a serious mistake to argue that all of them are likewise as are all MRAs – which PZ Myers apparently did not too long ago (Why do I despise MRAs?).

    I think personally that it’s slightly more nuanced than that — you might recall on the CONvergence “Don’t Feed the Trolls” panel that I pointed out that there are real MRAs, who actually give a damn about mens’ rights. I’m one of them. It’s possible to care about men’s rights and realize that the disadvantages come from the same damn rigid gender roles and patriarchy and shitty rape laws.

    And I think most MRAs on the internet don’t give a damn about those things. The proof is in their priorities.

    In addition, you seem to be unaware that even the SPLC issued a retraction of sorts which included this:

    I am not unaware of this “retraction” which says that they aren’t unilaterally declaring MRAs universally as bigots. Which is good, because otherwise I’d be shouting them down right alongside Paul Elam. (While eyeing him suspiciously the whole time.)

    As for “smashing feminists”, I see that the same report notes a number of feminists and feminist “hate sites” who are, arguably, just as off-the-wall as are the most odious of the MRAs and which, no doubt, provides some justifications for sites such as AVfM. Although, curiously, I don’t recollect many of the FTB crowd doing much yodelling about the former. Bias? Inadvertent oversight? Not as free to think about the ramifications of the former as of the latter?

    You noted earlier that you don’t read Natalie Reed because she’s verbose. Well, you didn’t note it, but that coupled with this tells me as much. There are indeed radical misandrist feminists who are anti-trans and anti-gay and basically terrible human beings. So? We know. We’re aware. We’re yelling about it. If you don’t see it, come up from the Slyme Pit once in a while for air.

    I might ask you a question or two on the topic that I directed at Stephanie Zvan since she seems to have me in permanent moderation – not a particularly admirable or credible position to be taking for a network that is supposedly a champion of free thought.

    You might like to know Stephanie posted a link to the specific slurs by Vacula over at Ophelia’s for your edification. Please do skeptically examine that which makes me look bad needlessly. You’re ever so skeptical, hunting for all the juiciest best evidence about assertions about your enemies. And pat yourself on the back for your excellent skepticalishness while you’re doing it.

    For mistaking freethought for “Freedom To Say Shit About Anyone On Someone Else’s Property”, with a heaping helping of “Tell Us You Don’t Fuck Pigs”, and trying to rehash a decidedly off-topic manufactroversy intended to smear me as homophobic, you’re in moderation here too.

  5. says

    Dishonesty or incuriosity, I’d wager. Or that he only has so long that he can tolerate FtB at a time and he has to reserve those forays for obtaining the juiciest bits of mockable shit to return to the Slyme Pit and report on his findings.

  6. F says

    Now that I’ve recovered from my keyboard fire, I only have one further comment on this:

    As for “smashing feminists”, I see that the same report notes a number of feminists and feminist “hate sites” who are, arguably, just as off-the-wall as are the most odious of the MRAs and which, no doubt, provides some justifications for sites such as AVfM. Although, curiously, I don’t recollect many of the FTB crowd doing much yodelling about the former. Bias?

    Oh, I don’t know, maybe it is because they don’t show up on blogs here, in swarms, whingeing about teh censorships, trolling, disregarding fact, trolling, slurring people, trolling, and just making a general nuisance of themselves. So, they generally get less attention than the mansplainers, sexists, lulz trolls, lame gag website creators, Twitter hashtag abusers, and intellectually bankrupt and dishonest people who inhabit the anti-feminist spaces and invade our spaces without a point or an attempt at an actual dialogue.

    Could be why you won’t see people hashing it out with sexist feminists in the same measure here. Issues with crap forms of feminism certainly have been discussed in FTB blogs. Hell, some women have served some iterations of radical feminism their walking papers on the grounds mentioned by Jason. But no one who shows up for a snapshot in time of any blog or network would never know that.

  7. Steersman says

    Stephanie (#8),

    Um, yeah. I posted the additional information at Ophelia’s about 10 hours before Steersman posted here. Why pretend I hadn’t, Steersman?

    How the heck am I supposed to know that Stephanie if I’m banned at B&W and you don’t respond where I posted my query?

  8. says

    I’m guessing because a) none of us can ban you from reading our blogs (so you’re lying about being banned or exaggerating being moderated), b) your question never showed up at Stephanie’s because you’re in moderation, so it made more sense to post it where she made the original claim, where people like yourself coming into the conversation all “confused” and “skeptical” that these people should be taken at face value might be headed off at the pass by having the information in the same place where the claim was originally made?

    The scarequotes around skeptical are because you seem to be expressly more skeptical of claims by feminists than by claims made at your Home Base. Methinks you doth protest too much.

  9. says

    dear jason:

    ” There are indeed radical misandrist feminists who are anti-trans and anti-gay and basically terrible human beings. So? We know. We’re aware. We’re yelling about it”

    i usually like to do my own research, but time is fleeting in the instant case.could you please provide quotes(and I’ll find them myself), or links to all the yelling ftb has done against these people? particularly the ‘radical misandrist feminists’?

    i would be very grateful, as it would rehabilitate my rather dim view of the ftb echo chamber.

    thx.

  10. says

    Knowing you from Twitter, and now from your blog which you’ve helpfully linked, I know exactly which of us values whose time and in what proportion. How about you and I both start researching that, and post links as we have the time to dig them up?

    Funny that this current wave of troll tactic is “hey do my research for me” when we’re right about things, and “hey look at all this research I did that proves you wrong” when there’s even an outside chance that we’re wrong. (Those seem few and far between, mind. And they’re usually specious.)

    I told you where to find some good examples of decrying the anti-trans, anti-gay and truly misandrist feminists. Search’s at the top of the blog. Go there, do that. Report back.

  11. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    We will not allow bigotry or hatred to dominate this space. Anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness over one’s underprivileged status – all of those are human [can be directed toward prosocial humanistic ends]. All of those are welcome because all of those can be fed back into fixing the community.

    Bigotry and hatred are all too common among humans. Contrasting acceptable foibles vs other traits using the word “human” has the subtext of fobbing the rest off on inhuman monsters.
     
    /pedantry, not a hole-poking criticism of a good article, which otherwise is about owning those harmful traits and exposing/rehabilitating fellow humans who exhibit them.

    Just the first time I’ve seen that particular usage.

  12. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    *post-submit self-recrimination for contributing something trivial and possibly sounding curt instead of neutral and unobjectionable…*
     
    Welcome back, Jason. Your blogging is appreciated.

  13. jhendrix says

    I’m going to come in and say that I was/am a fan of Vacula’s counter-apologetics work, before I knew anything about “Elevatorgate” or all the other Twitter/Blog wars that went on since then.

    So seeing the posts on FtB and on JT’s blog against Vacula was kind of off-putting, and I’m honestly looking at the evidence being brought up.

    I do have a problem with one bit of what’s been presented against Vacula. Every post has mentioned that he’s written an article for A Voice for Men, which is supposed to be a terrible website.

    Did some researched, looked at the site, and concluded the “shitty place” conclusion is very warranted.

    But no one has linked to his article there, and it IS guilt by association to say “he’s written something for , therefore he’s an enemy”.

    I’m sure many here could disagree with his conclusions in his article, but he’s using civil discourse there, not trolling or abusive language. He was arguing a specific point on free speech, not even really against feminism. This doesn’t mean I’m against Surly Amy, I’m more in line with her views on feminism than I am with Vacula, but the above criticism from him on that point, seems pretty valid to me (the free speech part, not the DCMA/legal part).

    On the whole I think there are better ways to go after Vacula, if that’s what you’re going to do. The most damning evidence I saw against him was him posting Surly Amy’s address and a picture of where she lives. That is fucked up, and is the kind of thing I think should be focused on if people are going to try and prevent the guy from having a position in the SCA.

  14. says

    jhendrix says:

    But no one has linked to his article there, and it IS guilt by association to say “he’s written something for , therefore he’s an enemy”.

    I looked at his profile on AVFM, and on the right-hand sidebar was a promotion for some vile website attempting to conflate feminists with women who make false rape allegations. It’s ostensible purpose seems to be to name women who have made false allegations, but all the women listed on the sidebar had been “registered” for the crime of “bigotry”, or as normal people would call it, outspokenness.

    AVFM is not an OK website, with a few areas of nastiness. Toxic misogyny is woven all the way through it. No one who writes for it can complain about being called a misogynist. Doing so is like writing for Stormfront, and complaining about being called a racist.

  15. says

    ikonographer hasn’t even tried, it seems. So for others who can’t be arsed to search locally, use The Google. I limited myself to the first page of results and here’s what I found:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/vocal-and-unabashed/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2012/08/in-a-radical-feminist-world-there-is-no-transphobia/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/06/15/free-thoughts-4-uneasy-allies/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/06/08/fourth-wave-part-three/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cristinarad/2012/07/29/why-i-removed-my-video-on-feminism/ (mostly in the comments)

    That’s just on the first page. You want more? Google has more pages. If the ratio holds, 50% of the links you’ll get are on-topic. Until the taper point, when you start getting unrelated nonsense, since Google likes bubble the better results to the top.

  16. jhendrix says

    @hyperdeath#19

    I looked at his profile on AVFM, and on the right-hand sidebar was a promotion for some vile website attempting to conflate feminists with women who make false rape allegations. It’s ostensible purpose seems to be to name women who have made false allegations, but all the women listed on the sidebar had been “registered” for the crime of “bigotry”, or as normal people would call it, outspokenness.

    AVFM is not an OK website, with a few areas of nastiness. Toxic misogyny is woven all the way through it. No one who writes for it can complain about being called a misogynist. Doing so is like writing for Stormfront, and complaining about being called a racist.

    I’m not arguing that AVFM is “OK” in anyway. The site appears to be pretty shitty on even a pretty cursory inspection. I think his decision to have an article posted on that site is a bad one, but that doesn’t justify calling him a misogynist.

    I’m not even saying that I’m OK with Vacula, I think what he did posting Surly Amy’s home address (and a picture of it no less) online to a site that DID have people posting trollish/threatening behavior is pretty much the most damning thing that should be brought up about the guy.

    If you (the general you) wanted to call Vacula a misogynist, then you could link to his article and point out what he said that makes him one.

    That his article is on a misogynist website isn’t enough; this is a basic “attack the argument, not the person/medium” issue. It doesn’t matter where something was written, what matters is what was said. The most you get out of the medium is that he’s willing to associate with misogynists, but you can’t even claim he agrees wholesale with everything on the website.

    What I’m saying is that trying to tar Vacula as a misogynist because he has a post there is an example of guilt by association, and in a post like this (and others) that are trying to build this campaign, it’s really not a good idea to run with this as a central point.

  17. smhll says

    Could be why you won’t see people hashing it out with sexist feminists in the same measure here.

    Right. I don’t argue with everyone who is wrong on the internet IMO, just with the ones who are making wonky sounding claims in spaces that I am reading.

    Let me add that people who come and make claims like “feminists are so terrible”, “feminists want special rights”, and “feminists want to create a matriarachy” almost never quote any source, and when they do the source is rarely less than 20 years old, and sometimes is from dialog from a work of fiction. Oy.

    If someone wants to raise the alarm about dangerous feminist views, I suggest that vagueness is not at all a useful approach. If you want me to know about the shocking blog posts you have discovered, then link something recent.

  18. says

    Picking one thread and saying “that’s the wrong color” when we’re talking about a tapestry of threads is pretty weak as an argument. Especially when the example you’re giving involves either being approached by or approaching outright misogynists to cross-post an anti-feminist screed on a blatantly antifeminist and blatantly misogynist site.

  19. says

    I don’t see where “guilt by association” is the issue when someone voluntarily chooses to associate with sexist assholes for the purpose of furthering their sexist cause.

  20. stakkalee says

    I read his post discussing Surly Amy’s response to her reception at TAM; no link, you know where it is.

    Let’s start with the picture at the top – a seductive-looking vampire woman about to feed on a blindfolded man. Remember, the topic of the article is ‘feminist suppression of free expression’ (a paraphrase.) Right away the picture is likening Surly Amy’s requests with literally sucking the lifeblood from a man. Also, the article is tagged under the ‘Feminist Lies’ heading, but Vacula doesn’t actually accuse Amy of lying in the article. Okay, maybe these are just an overzealous editor, presumably the rape-apologist and rape-proponent Paul Elam. Hmm, maybe Vacula choosing to have his work featured on an SPLC-designated misogynist site (not just ‘pretty shitty’ but an actual hate site) was more than just a bad idea?

    Continuing. Vacula pretty quickly generalizes from ‘Surly Amy’ to ‘other feminists in the atheist community’ based on Amy’s use of the word “we” when discussing proposed inclusions in anti-harassment policies. Who else has called for this? I don’t know, and neither does Vacula, but he feels comfortable tarring other feminists in the online atheist community with this POV. Now, of course, Amy initiated that line of thought by using the word “we”, and Vacula followed right along. Equating one woman with all women is a pretty misogynistic thing to do, but then again, he wasn’t equating “all women”, just “some feminists”, so that’s totally not misogynistic at all.

    Then he plays the “banning offensive actions is squelching freedom of speech” card when discussing anti-harassment policies at private gatherings. That’s actually not misogynistic, just deeply stupid.

    He then makes a claim that, since Amy holds with restricting others’ freedom of speech (a claim which I’m not prepared to accept) that she should not be considered a valid participant in anti-harassment discussions. Dismissing all of a woman’s contributions because you happen to disagree with one of her conclusions? Deeply misogynistic.

    Then the update – he presents a one-sided view of the dust-up over his use of copyrighted images in a post criticizing Amy’s positions, eliding the fact that the images in question belong to Amy, and completely failing to mention his doc-dropping. “But the info was publicly available!” So posting that publicly-available information to a group of known trolls is totally legit, right? And not at all an example of a silencing tactic, right?

    Now, this “guilt-by-association” thing – AVfM is not just a problematic website. It’s a misogynistic hate site. Vacula’s desire to promote himself and gain a wider audience took precedence over him not being associated with a hate site.

    Finally, it’s a mistake to rely on the dictionary definition of ‘misogyny’ as “The hatred of women” and declare that if Vacula didn’t say “I hate all women” then he can’t possibly be a misogynist. We live in a misogynistic culture, one in which women’s contributions are devalued and their participation is discouraged except for certain greatly-circumscribed roles. If Vacula participates in this culture without attempting to dismantle it he is engaging in misogynistic practices.

  21. says

    I admit, this whole argument concerning feminism, gay and transgendered rights, and men’s rights (who, exactly, ever proposed taking away the rights of men as a sex in general? I don’t see the need for advocacy, but I could be wrong) has, I think, made me a better person.

    I understand the better the plight of carrying two X chromosomes, of not being able to pump gas without a wolf whistle, or worse, a condemnation for not being suitably arousing for a wolf whistle. Before this argument, I never really thought about it. I didn’t do it, I just didn’t care much who did, and I was an ignorant ass for that.

    I didn’t get the “which of these gay guys is the female” insult. I didn’t see why that was so insulting and actually thought along those lines without even realizing it. This is now corrected in my head, and I think the me of a few months back was an idiot. I’m a better person.

    I’ve grown in leaps and bounds in understanding transgendered people, a group I was never against or opposed to but always just dismissed with the “whatever floats your boat” attitude. I’m learning, though, and growing.

    So thank you. I just wanted to let you know that this isn’t just about drawing lines in the sand. FTB has made a difference in me and, I’m certain, other readers. I hope I treat women better now. I hope I’ll be a better dad to my daughter. I hope I’ll be a better husband. Not to say I was bad before, just that I’m striving for better.

  22. jhendrix says

    I don’t see the article as “anti-feminst screed”. You can argue against what was said, but if people are going to oppose things like “banning fake jewelry and t-shirts” then that’s how you’d argue the point. There was an argument there, not vitriol or bad language.

    Playing up that he wrote it for a (very) shitty site is playing to emotions when it comes to petitioning against him as a volunteer, and arguing against the SCA as an org.

    One of the biggest things I learned about being a free-thinker is that it’s not about who says it, or where they say it, but about what they say.

    The reason I posted is that what he did wrt posting Amy’s address on a forum like that ARE good reasons to have this campaign.

    Maybe it was the order I read the posts in (JT, PZ, Ophelia’s), but it wasn’t until I got to the fourth one (Stephanie’s) on the topic did I get the impression that there was more to this than him being on the wrong side of the “Deep Rift”.

    If it wasn’t for the fact that I respected the bloggers in question, I wouldn’t have kept looking into the issue.

  23. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Playing up that he wrote it for a (very) shitty site is playing to emotions when it comes to petitioning against him as a volunteer, and arguing against the SCA as an org.

    Strawvulcan powers, engage!

  24. jackal says

    Playing up that he wrote it for a (very) shitty site is playing to emotions when it comes to petitioning against him as a volunteer, and arguing against the SCA as an org.

    For Vacula’s AVfM link to qualify as an appeal to emotion fallacy, the substance of Vacula’s character would have to be completely unrelated to his ability to fulfill the duties of SCA state co-chair. However, his public contribution to an openly misogynistic website, along with his own woman bashing history, will hamper the SCA in gaining support from women and people who don’t hate them. Furthermore, it demonstrates that Vacula is currently or was recently susceptible to misogynistic ideology, which brings into question his ability to work effectively with women. (FYI: women make up roughly half the population PA, so that’s a rather large chunk of people to alienate from SCA’s activism.)

  25. says

    @jhendrix #22
    I’m not aware of anyone saying that Justin Vacula is a misogynist. Maybe there are those out there doing so, but I re-read Jason’s post and couldn’t find any mention of Vacula being a misogynist or MRA.

    Literally no-one (again, you are welcome to prove me wrong) has said that Justin is a woman-hater or a misogynist or an MRA. He posted an article critical of “feminist skeptics” which is totally his right. This article was filled with one-sided argument and fallacies, which is also his right. He posted said article to a website that was only interested in the piece as part of a continued narrative of “bitches be bitches”, which he also has a right to do. So why are we saying that he should be held accountable for this?

    First, I don’t want that website being tied even tangentially to the SCA or the organized atheist movement. Hopefully neither do most other people. I wouldn’t want to be tied to that website, and I would hold suspect anyone who did want to be associated with it even by a single article.

    Second, I don’t think that a good tack to take as a leader is that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. AVfM is not interested in “Censorship and stupidity from ‘free-thinking-feminists’” because they are anti-censorship, free-thinkers, rationalists, or any of the other valid reasons why someone might be interested in that narrative. They published that article to forward their overarching argument that “bitches be stupid” and “bitches be bitches” and “feminazis be Nazis” and “feminazis ruin everything”. When you agree to post on a website you must be at least a little concerned as to the larger narrative and how you fit into it.
    I don’t care if an article is well written (Justin’s was not). I don’t care if it is reasoned. (Justin’s was not) I care that the author allowed it to be titled and tagged in a way that forwards a disgusting false narrative and markets it to people who have an agenda of hate. Even if I agreed with the meat of the article I ought to be concerned that the author is purposely packaging it to fit a false and dangerous narrative.
    He is courting “friends” because they share one thing in common- a dislike of feminists.
    That attitude- that my enemy of my enemy is my friend- comes dangerously close to giving support to the reasons your new “friends” have that common enemy.

  26. John Horstman says

    Ooh, and another post where I concur with Jason entirely. I especially like the tactic of pivoting the frame to demonstrate that the free-speech-fetishists (well, not really, because free speech doesn’t actually protect one’s right to say whatever in private spaces, as you, Jason, point out) are doing the exact thing they decry. I’m going to have to remember and practice that one.

  27. says

    A little mea culpa on my previous comment:
    I just read Rebecca Watson’s post on the issue and she does, in fact, call Justin a misogynist and an MRA. So SOME people are actually saying that, just not the author of this post or any of the other posts I had read up until Watson’s.

  28. says

    Does it really matter if Vacula is or isn’t a misogynist in his heart of hearts? What is undisputable is that he doesn’t have a problem with misogynists–or, if he does, it’s outweighed by his animus against feminism.

    This person cannot be a leader of any group of people that includes women and people who don’t hate them.

  29. jhendrix says

    Coming back to this thread and looking at it after some down time, and I’m just going to have to apologize and mea culpa. In hindsight, I can see that I was effectively tone-trolling, thinking I had a good point about the distinction between posting on a site like that and whether or not the article in question had actual misogyny in it.

    Technically there’s a distinction, but really, what does it matter? It was still a stupid ass decision to publish on such a place, even if that alone “isn’t grounds for a petition.” The point was that he did do shit that is worth bringing this crap up.

    I guess I was too taken that I actually do agree with him on the point that banning the shirts/fake-jewlery is going too far, but that’s a minor point in the context of the larger debate, where I do not share his views. I didn’t follow the Twitter wars, so there’s way more than I knew at the posting.

    Overall it’s a shame, he did have some good stuff to say on actual debates/counter apologetics.

    I’m also saddened since the SCA seems to be the only major atheist org that was going to do something in my state.

    TL;DR – Sorry for the tone trolling.

  30. permanganater says

    Hyperdeath @ 18 says:

    “Doing so is like writing for Stormfront, and complaining about being called a racist.”

    I am seeing this exact same ‘like writing for Stormfront (whilst) complaining about being called a racist’ comment all over the interwebs all of a sudden. Is it Godwinning?

  31. carlie says

    And after all this, here’s how good Edwina is at communicating: according to this op-ed in the Washington Post, during a huge, designed to grab attention meeting on Capitol Hill, she said this:

    “What does that do to our non-theist community?” asked Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, which bills itself as the only full-time lobbying group for atheists, agnostics, humanists and the like. “What does that do to our minority religions like voodooism, etcetera?”

    “voodooism, etc.”

    She could have talked about Buddhism, Hinduism, heck, when talking about how Jesusy everything is, even Judaism. You know, the religions with a lot of mainstream cred, the ones with millions of adherents in the US, the ones people don’t actively want to hurt? But no. She went for voodoo. Nice way to throw us right back into the stereotypical witch category, there. Heckuva job, Edwina. Heckuva job.

  32. Jack Rawlinson says

    Same old self-serving, self-congratulory and utterly blinkered distortions.

    The big names who are fed up with feminism, names like Richard Dawkins and Jeremy Stangroom and Russell Blackford and Paula Kirby and Sarah Mayhew.

    You see, Jason, this is why so many of us are sick to the back teeth of you lot. Because you just keep tossing out lies like this in order to justify your increasingly absurd denial of what’s really behind the schism. You insist that these people are “…fed up with feminism”. No, they are not. They are fed up with dishonest insolence such as that. They are fed up with being relentlessly demonised and lied about in this way.

    The way you people dismiss critics as misogynists, MRAs and so on without the slightest concern for fairness or accuracy is pathetic, and actually reveals that you know – at least subconsciously – that you need to resort to this sort of lazy generalised slurring because if you were to fairly address our real position you’d be up shit creek.

    The bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys. They never do.

    Yeah. Try reflecting on that statement a little more deeply for a while.

  33. julian says

    Anyone backing A Voice for Men is hostile to feminism. Whether they’re feminists like Stangroom or contemptuous of them for perceived slights like Mayhew.

  34. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    You see, Jason, this is why so many of us are sick to the back teeth of you lot.

    because you can’t stop hero-worshipping long enough to take an honest look at what’s happening?

    because being skeptical requires looking INWARD as well as outward?

    because admitting the bitches have a point will make your weenie fall off?

    who knows and who cares? If you truck with misogynists, don’t whine about getting covered in their slime.

  35. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Yeah. Try reflecting on that statement a little more deeply for a while.

    Take your own advice. Who’s the “bad guys”, exactly? The person posting the personal information of those he doesn’t like in an obvious attempt to terrify her and silence her? Didn’t he think about how that puts her in danger, or did he just not care?

    Oh no, the “bad guys” are the people speaking out against such derranged bigotry and callous disregard for the safety of others.

    yeah, what horrible people we are. Not sitting by quietly while a women’s life is destroyed because Vapidula has not a shred of decency.

  36. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Not sitting by quietly while a women’s life is destroyed because Vapidula has not a shred of decency.

    Grr. !@*&%$&*^$>! fucking c & p!

    Not sitting by quietly while Vapiulda tries to destroy a woman’s life because he has not a shred of decency.

  37. says

    No, folks, that’s not what guilt by association means:
    You’re a catholic and therefore a child-rapist: guilt by association.
    Why do you give your time, money and credibilty to an organisation that covers up child rape? : Legitimate question (and I want a very good answer to that)
    You’re a muslim and therefore a terrorist: guilt by association.
    You go to a Salafist mosque and thereby condine their Islamist positions: Legitimate onclusion.
    You’re a man and therefore a misogynist: Guilt by association
    You post on a misogynist hate site and are therefore condoning thier stances: legitimate conclusion.

  38. says

    I have also noticed a weird conspiratorial thinking aimed at FTB. I blog for Atheist Experience, and nobody instructs me what to think or post. I have free reign to post/not post at will–whatever I like. I get an e-newsletter thing from FTB, but I don’t even read it, since I’m swamped with e-mails at TAE on top of my day job, which is pretty hectic.

    When I really clearly realized this conspiracy theory thinking was at work was when I was asked to address “A+” on a podcast I help out with, and I had never heard of A+ at the time. So, I frantically went online to read up on what it was and what people were saying. The first few blog posts I read were actually against it, and then one linked to an article he was replying to–which was for it. After reading a handful of pro and con articles I thought the criticisms were pretty thin and thought the A+ thing sounded like a good idea.

    As soon as I began to express I liked it–I was labeled as part of a “hive mind” and an FTB drone. I found this interesting, as I’d simply looked it up, read up on it independently and formed a private conclusion based on that in all of one day. How that made me part of any sort of group think, I’ve no clue.

    Later, when I spoke about it at a conference in Denver, I talked about some of the criticisms during a Q&A session after the panel talk. The very things I addressed, were then posted in comments under the video of the event at Youtube–where people simply stated things like “It’s just Secular Humanism”–even though I’d clearly rebutted that in the video. The critics in comments gave no arguments, addressed none of my points, and it was as if they simply were posting comments and not even watching the video–going off a script full of assumptions instead of actually listening to my points and responding to them in any reasonable way. Why even post a comment at a video you haven’t bothered to watch? It’s like saying you don’t care for a movie you’ve never seen. For people to do *that*, and then turn around and call *anyone* else part of “group-think” or “hive-mind” is the height of ridiculous irony.

    I’m sure there are people who aren’t very thoughtful on any side of any issue, but certainly this Conspiracy Theory type of thinking is something that I couldn’t miss if I were blindfolded. It’s pervasive recently. I suppose it’s easier to dismiss people you disagree with if you can pretend they haven’t thoughtfully considered their points to begin with? Then you don’t even have to listen to them–you can just post your views at the video and and pretend whatever they said in the video is what you assume, and the result of thoughtless hive-mindedness.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>