The SCA’s decision making process

You might be interested in this comment at WWJTD by Michael Gobaud:

JT, you may already know this, but all these phone conferences the SCA has been doing in their national expansion effort have been recorded and put online for anyone to listen to (you can even scan through the recordings to particular speakers, very useful). Anyway, I just listened to the first 2 PA conferences to see exactly how Justin was made co-chair of the PA chapter (this is all very interesting to me because I might become a co-chair of the NV chapter, I don’t really know much about Justin). So you might wanna listen to those recordings to see the process of Justin’s appointment, it was actually very enlightening for me because I wanted to understand your complaint better.

Here is the SCA PA website with links to all the recordings:

Here are the relevant parts on Justin’s appointment:

1ST PA CONFERENCE CALL (50 minutes):
Justin Vacula (7:02): “I’m Justin Vacula. I’m calling from Scranton, PA…”
Edwina Rogers, JD: “We don’t know you guys… I’m taking notes.”
Justin (32:55): “[I was in the press recently about the bus ads and have done a lot of media. You could speak about the SCA on my podcast].”
Edwina (36:00): “We’ve got three solid people with extreme talent in Pennsylvania… Hoping we can turn the Republicans around… We’re looking for a committee.”

2ND PA CONFERENCE CALL (34 minutes):
Kelly Damerow: “[Scott, Brian, Stacks, and Justin expressed interest in taking a leadership position].”
Jusin (15:00): “[I have spoken with my legislature in the past].”
Kelly (25:00): “[You guys are all pleasant to work with and cooperative, making my job easier].”
Kelly (26:00): “Do any of you have any interest in being a chair or co-chair?”
Stacks Rosch: “I would nominate Justin.”
Kelly: “Justin you’ve been nominated, what do you think?”
Justin: “Thanks, I’ll accept the nomination.”
Kelly: “Excellent, is anyone else interested and want to be co-chair?”
Brian Fields: “I wouldn’t mind working with Justin. Justin and I work really well together, we’ve done a lot of stuff in the past.”
Justin: “I’ll nominate Brian.”
Kelly: “Ok Justin and Brian, you guys are going to be our co-chairs of our executive committee… Thank you so much for accepting… Woo hoo!”;1MzkwNTMxMjc=1

Well there ya have it. It looks like despite Justin’s presence on the internet (positive and/or negative), Edwina and Kelly had never heard of him (and neither had I until somewhat recently). His co-chair “appointment” took all of 60 seconds, and pretty much anyone who accepted a nomination by a fellow founding member was “approved.”

I don’t really read blogs much, so perhaps I am just out of the loop on how “bad” Justin is. But I think that’s sort of the point: a lot of activists in our movement (e.g. Edwina, Kelly, myself, etc.), just don’t keep up much with all this internet drama stuff; it’s just not a big deal for many of us (for better or worse). I think there is definitely merit to some of your complaints that you have backed up with evidence, but I just don’t think it is enough to warrant an attempt to systematically ostracize an activist from our movement who seems to be doing SOME positive things and many people seem to respect.

He is DEFINITELY polarizing, and has apparently made some pretty bad judgement calls, so you and others who dislike him should certainly ban him from the orgs. that you guys control, but is it really necessary to attempt to exclude him from ALL corners of this movement? Show me that this guy has a history of violent crimes/felonies and then MAYBE you would have a case for total exclusion. But I mean, are you really going to circulate petitions outlining the allegedly nasty things he’s done online to get him fired from every secular leadership position he ever achieves his whole life? Seems like a hopeless pursuit…

To the last two paragraphs, by not even Googling the guy’s name they missed out on learning all the many ways the man is a terrible fit for representing our movement and undercuts inclusivity for his divisive and polarizing attacks on members of said movement. They were missing a hell of a lot of information in their decision making progress and in their haste to “make their jobs easier” have incurred some terrible blowback.

The goal here is to provide that information. SCA has to now decide to stand by their man to the exclusion of the people that man alienates, or not.


  1. says

    But I mean, are you really going to circulate petitions outlining the allegedly nasty things he’s done online to get him fired from every secular leadership position he ever achieves his whole life?

    As long as he’s manifestly unfit for positions of responsibility, then, why yes, he doesn’t belong in positions of responsibility.

    Also: “allegedly nasty”?

  2. Pteryxx says

    Joe pointed out on the Lounge that Staks “no worthy women atheists this year” Rosch made the nomination.

    my reply’s more useful here.

    Joe, that’s a better catch than I realized… because there’s a problem with systemic misogyny and chilly climate, the recommendations of folks who work closely with a person can’t necessarily be trusted to capture their attitudes toward marginalized people. Obviously, if the person’s actions contribute to a chilly climate, they’ve selected for misogyny tolerance in their compatriots – and that’s who’s making the recommendations.

    There have to be principles of vetting specifically for inclusiveness.

  3. says

    Are you KIDDING me? That was the WHOLE process?

    Is this intended to make SCA look better? Because really it just makes them look like a bunch of lazy incompetents.

  4. Pteryxx says

    Joshua: we don’t know if that was the WHOLE process. IMHO as a volunteer (for other things) this should have been a preliminary nomination pending follow-up vetting. There’s no evidence that the SCA did any such follow-up.

  5. says

    Fucking Google, how does it work? (To the beat(?) of ICP)

    “…But is it really necessary to attempt to exclude him from ALL corners of this movement?”

    Easy: YES! I can’t remember who it was now, but someone here on FtB (maybe Benson or Zvan…OK, it was Benson) was pointing out that if Vacula had a history of making raciest remarks, the SCA would have never appointed him. Looking at this, that may not be the reality because it appears the SCA is not very good about vetting their candidates (didn’t anyone learn anything from John McCain!?!), but I do wounder if people like Michael Gobaud would defend such a person at all.

  6. says

    This just serves as further proof that Edwina Rogers was put in charge of SCA for the sole purpose of neutering SCA as an advocacy group that has any chance of actually hindering the Republican agenda.

  7. Pteryxx says

    Also, recall that it’s easy for organizers to slip up and think that trusted personal recommendations preclude the need to vet an applicant. (FTB accepting Thunderf00t partly on PZ’s recommendation, for instance; which led to a tightening of FTB’s applicant process.) It’s very, very easy to overlook the problematic aspects of someone’s character when they’re not busy marginalizing YOU.

  8. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    He is DEFINITELY polarizing, and has apparently made some pretty bad judgement calls, so you and others who dislike him should certainly ban him from the orgs. that you guys control, but is it really necessary to attempt to exclude him from ALL corners of this movement? Show me that this guy has a history of violent crimes/felonies and then MAYBE you would have a case for total exclusion. But I mean, are you really going to circulate petitions outlining the allegedly nasty things he’s done online to get him fired from every secular leadership position he ever achieves his whole life?</blockquote

    Wow. Got that ladies? Nothing Vapidula does is bad enough to warrant excluding him. All your silly fluffly ladybrainz just need to understand that constant harrassment, lies, and posting your personal information to the internet is just “internet drama”. Nothing bad EVER comes from that. Nosiree! The REAL problem is not utilizing this great resource of bullying, divisiveness and bigotry. What a loss to the movement if we didn’t have that!

    Wouldn’t it have been quicker for Gobaud to say Bitches: Fuck ‘Em?

  9. elphabagreen says

    Gotta love Red Herrings. We’re talking about a person who’s being put in leadership over us who terribly represents our values, and this commenter asks about whether we are taking it too far in “systematically ostracising” him.

    We’re not tarring and feathering him and driving him out of town. We just don’t want him in a leadership position.

  10. says

    Yeah, but see how fast they would disavow a feminist activist… we know how this game is played. Misogynists have to commit violent crimes to be ostracized, women just have to be feminists to be shunned.

  11. Pteryxx says

    Wouldn’t it have been quicker for Gobaud to say Bitches: Fuck ‘Em?

    (this is all very interesting to me because I might become a co-chair of the NV chapter, I don’t really know much about Justin).


  12. Aliasalpha says

    So if he had a violent criminal past, they MIGHT not support him?

    “Sure he presided over systematic genocide but Mr Pot is one of the best project managers we’ve ever had!”

  13. says

    I don’t really read blogs much, so perhaps I am just out of the loop on how “bad” Justin is. But I think that’s sort of the point: a lot of activists in our movement (e.g. Edwina, Kelly, myself, etc.), just don’t keep up much with all this internet drama stuff; it’s just not a big deal for many of us (for better or worse).

    For worse. People who don’t grasp the importance of the internet in this movement have no business being in leadership positions.

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    Raging Bee @ # 7: … Edwina Rogers was put in charge of SCA for the sole purpose of neutering SCA as an advocacy group …

    The main problem with this hypothesis is that Rogers is acting in ways that seem calculated to destroy SCA.

    If you want to neuter a group so that it never accomplishes anything positive, you would place a Democratic Party insider as executive director.

  15. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    We’re not tarring and feathering him and driving him out of town. We just don’t want him in a leadership position.

    Exactly. But apparently, not giving a leadership position to someone who has demonstrated that he gives not one fuck for the safety of other people, and not allowing this person to have even more access to the personal information of others, is ostracizing him over “internet drama” to Gobaud. That chills me right to the bone. I sincerely hope he is as clueless as he claims, because that is some seriously callous, heartless bullshit.

    I wonder if he would feel the same way if Vapidula has published Gobaud’s personal address and a photo of his home. I wonder if it would merely be “internet drama” if it were Gobaud’s being harassed and threatened.

    What great publicity for the SCA. “Join the SCA! We have no idea what’s going on, but we’re sure it’s just “internet drama” that we’re totally too superior to bother with and we only hire the people least qualified to do any good.”


  16. Rodney Nelson says

    Apparently the vetting process was “Staks says he’s okay, so he’s in.” Now Gobaud is complaining because some people think Vacula might not be the optimum choice for the SCA position. “Okay, so he’s been slightly sexist on the internet, but who pays attention to that thing? If you can show that Justin was convicted of murder, then perhaps you’ll have a point about his fitness to be PA co-chair.”

  17. says

    One weird aspect of this kind of rationalization is the idea that if something is said on the internet, that’s just “internet drama.” As though the things one says and does on the internet don’t really count. It’s very much like people who say things like “I don’t really trust anything on the internet.” The internet is just a means of communication. Saying you don’t trust anything on the internet is like saying you don’t trust anything said over a telephone, or in a letter. It’s all quite silly. He’s said and done some pretty vile things; that they were said and done on the internet does not make them any less real.

  18. Sivi says

    @14 Salty Current

    That quote says a lot, eh? Since when is Edwina Rogers an atheist activist? Basically just since she joined the SCA. And the whole thing smacks of “our organization doesn’t care about what happens on that ‘internet’ and ‘blogs’ the kids keep going on about.”

    On the other hand, good news for people who were worried youthful indiscretions on Myspace would hurt their job prospects, since apparently lobbying groups don’t actually bother to check up on their members.

    Though apparently posting agreeing stuff on hate sites doesn’t give anyone qualms about hiring you either.

  19. jackal says

    Is it really necessary to attempt to exclude him from ALL corners of this movement? … I mean, are you really going to circulate petitions outlining the allegedly nasty things he’s done online to get him fired from every secular leadership position he ever achieves his whole life?

    Who exactly is trying to exclude him from “ALL corners” of the movement? We just don’t want him in a position of power. And to answer the second question, no. If he disavows AVfM and all they stand for, apologizes for his past involvement in bullying and harassment, and demonstrates through good behavior that he has changed, then he’d no longer face this kind of opposition.

  20. Aratina Cage says

    That probably doesn’t capture all of the vetting that took place if that conference call happened after this inteview Vacula did with Rogers (and Damerow):

    The tagline for that interview:

    Episode 18 of the NEPA Freethought Society Podcast — featuring my interview with Edwina Rogers and Kelly Damerow from the Secular Coalition for America — is now available! The podcast was recorded as a guerrilla episode from the Secular Student Alliance’s 2012 conference which I had spoken at. A special focus on Pennsylvania — in addition to national concerns — was included in this episode.

  21. John Horstman says

    @18: Exactly that. The disinhibition effect of pseudonymity in no way means the sentiments expressed are any less ‘real’ or problematic or impactful than if they were expressed in some other way. It just means people are more likely to tell you what they really think (at the moment), with less reflection (this can be good or bad). I think part of the whole “the internet doesn’t matter” attitude comes from the fact that its a relatively unregulated platform with the potential to reach an arbitrarily large audience, so it gives people whose voices are usually marginalized (‘don’t matter’, for good reasons or bad – for example, I support the marginalization of White supremacist ideas and the people who buy into them) a forum for expressing their ideas, and it provides a space for ideas that aren’t considered Serious Business by those controlling other mass-communication systems. As an open forum for voices that ‘don’t matter’ or ideas that are ‘frivolous’, the platform itself is marginalized. For the over-forty crowd, it may also simply be an expression of latent technophobia/neophobia.

  22. carlie says

    Is the SCA an important organization, or not? If they want to dismiss this as “internet drama”, and the SCA as simply being “a corner of the movement”, fine. That’s ok if you’re a podunk little group without any clout. But if you want to be seen as a leader, as one of the big umbrella organizations, then you have to expect some scrutiny of your actions, and you have to act in ways that show you’re worthy to be a leading group. Complaints that it’s too trivial to discuss are by default saying that the SCA is too trivial to discuss. And I highly doubt that’s the message they want being broadcast.

  23. Pteryxx says

    *blush* thanks Jason. It’s not the screw-up so much as what they do to address it… if anything.

    Horstman @21: to be clear, pseudonymity doesn’t enter into it in this case, and internet =/= pseudonymity =/= problematic sentiments. Vacula’s problematic internet activities have all been under his own name.

  24. says

    Can someone explain to me why a “professional” organization would, when caught being so deeply unprofessional, would stand by their behavior rather than using the same lack of measured, considered decision-making to fix their problem that they used to get into it? I mean, if you make an impulse buy, can’t you make an impulse return?

  25. F says

    just don’t keep up much with all this internet drama stuff

    Fuck. You. It isn’t “internet drama”. The internet isn’t some separate space divorced from reality where people exist as fictitious characters. It’s “real-life bigotry” that is the problem.

    And the nomination/vetting process is a fucking joke. Looks more like a mere formality to insider “hiring”. (Yeah, I know he wasn’t “hired”.)

  26. says

    I live in Philly (although I’m moving to Atlanta soon), and I’ve gotta say, this new info about the vetting process makes me super-uncomfortable. Staks Rosch is a member of the local meetup group that, as a somewhat non-social person, I’ve just barely started to sort of get involved in. When I met him in person at the meetup a couple weeks ago, he seemed like a reasonably engaging person, and I was willing to give him the benefit of assuming that he’d probably learned from the “no qualified women” top atheists list incident a while back and would try to do better in the future. But now I see that he casually endorsed Justin Vacula for this position in the PA community, after all the nasty crap that Justin has been a part of lately. Maybe Staks just didn’t know about that stuff, and I hope that’s the case, but it makes me wary all over again.

    We have got to put an end to this stuff.

  27. says

    Anne C. Hanna,

    I’d say Rosch is totally in on it, especially since he and Vacula are both on a blog network created by a sad, bitter ex-FtB blogger in order to create an “alternate space” for people who hate the victims of the last year’s hate campaign against feminism.

  28. says

    Huh. Lookie that. I haven’t really followed Rosch or Loftus’s network (which apparently is now “Skeptic Ink” as of like yesterday, which made it very hard to track down), but Rosch is indeed over there (“Dangerous Talk”), sharing space with all of the usual suspects. That’s distressing. Makes me glad I’m leaving this state soon, so I won’t be having to decide whether to make an effort to integrate myself into a social circle that includes those particular individuals or to be isolated from the atheist community. I imagine the general misogyny thing is probably a little harder to run away from, tho.

  29. iknklast says

    Internet Drama. Except…for many of us (those with two x chromosomes) it isn’t internet, and it isn’t drama – it’s horror. This bleeds over into the world the rest of us live in, even if SCA and their volunteers live in a different world. Many of us have to get up and go to work every morning, teaching the kids that have been swimming in this sewage, and have managed to adopt the posturing of the MRAs as if it were gospel. It bleeds into our classrooms, our boardrooms, and everywhere else. The Internet is a giant octopus that spreads its tentacles everywhere, and can affect even those of us who spent the majority of our lives somewhere else.

  30. alysonmiers says

    He is DEFINITELY polarizing, and has apparently made some pretty bad judgement calls, so you and others who dislike him should certainly ban him from the orgs. that you guys control, but is it really necessary to attempt to exclude him from ALL corners of this movement? Show me that this guy has a history of violent crimes/felonies and then MAYBE you would have a case for total exclusion.

    First he characterizes a consistent pattern of misogynist bullying as “some pretty bad judgement calls,” and then he moves the goalposts on destructive, divisive behavior that disproportionately affects women, particularly outspoken feminists? Color me surprised.

  31. Epistaxis says

    Well, sounds like they don’t vet their state chairs. Someone should probably send them a polite little note privately letting them know that one of the guys they’ve appointed is probably not a good pick. I’m sure they’d be grateful for the tip.

  32. permanganater says

    Oops, spell-checked version follows!

    I’ve gone away and read read into this over the last few days. I even went to the sl*me pit and read their stuff. My subjective and therefore flawed conclusions follow:

    (Seriously, though, can I give something of a trigger warning? Skip this if you only read stuff you like because I’m too jaded to sugar-coat).

    1. JV is politically on the nose and likes attention – the two are often related – and that hardly makes him Robinson Crusoe ’round FTB specifically or the SA community generally. He has demonstrated slightly shit judgment under pressure. Robinson Crusoe.

    2. He has a fair-to-solid track record of actually DOING atheism and secularism-related shit and obviously doesn’t have much patience with slacktivists;

    3. He got a volunteer gig because basically no-one else put their hand up(!);

    4. The whingeing about number 3 above is too-late-regrets (there’s a German word for that, isn’t there? There should be). Basically, you’ve got an issue because JV is politically smelly, but you’ve come along too late. Boat missed.

    5. As a practical matter there nothing to do now but wait for him to perform or blow up. I give him a 15% chance of achieving both at the same time. Heads you lose. Tails you win;

    6. I’ve hunted high and low for “consistent pattern of misogynist bullying” but it aint there, in the sense that IMO his ‘emperors’ clothes’ calling-out and fainting-couch shit-stirring falls far short of misogynist bullying. I’ve dealt with doc cropping separately, below;

    7. You were right to kick and scream about Edwina, in that she’ll be politically effective to the external aims of the movement, but is unlikely to be troubled about cajoling the internal FTBers and other outliers.

    Two things before I go away and re-lurk: The part of the drama I had the most trouble getting a handle on was the doc dropping re Surly Amy. It was elusive. I saw a summary at the Sl*me Pit which, if it’s even nearly accurate, means you are kind of sort of misleading people (a lot):

    “Background: Justin got DMCA’d by Amy for showing a pic of her necklace in an article about her (considered Fair Use as far as copyrights go). He appealed it, and that process requires him giving out his own real name/address. The next step would have been for her to file legal papers where her name/address would get revealed.

    “So, they accused Justin, saying that he was appealing just to find out Amy’s address. He said no, that wouldn’t be necessary since Amy has already made her own address public on a business listings website. To prove it, he showed the listing that Amy herself had made public.

    “When he copied it here to the Slimepit, they suddenly accused him of docdropping, said Amy has to move now, and then they proceeded to docdrop Justin, who’s info was NOT listed publicly the way Amy’s was.

    “They know the real story and that Justin never docdropped Amy, but they are cherry picking just his copying of it to the Slimepit, to make it look like he did.”

    Seriously, is this last bit even remotely true? “…and then they proceeded to docdrop Justin, who’s info was NOT listed publicly the way Amy’s was.”

    I’m sus, but if it is true, then…wow!

    The other thing is about the Sl*me Pit, which is kind of related, because I’ve seen the argument that JV’s doc-fropping wasn’t an issue but for where it occurred.

    Anyway, I have read for ages on FTB that SP is a ‘hate site’ so didn’t even bother looking; indeed I avoided it to minimise traffic/revenue. Well, I went there. I read back to about the first week of September, or to when Jen M skied the towel.

    Ahhh… Hate-site? Misogynists? Really? First of all, BF can see that the two or three ‘haters’ are more eccentrics than dangerous weirdoes. Also, there seems a fairly even spread of boys and girls. This flies in the face of the FTB-line about Sl*me Pit (which I’d previously accepted without looking) that Sl*me Pit is all MRA teeth-gnashing.

    I can definitely see why you don’t like them. Rebecca Watson cops it but some people will always be irresistably attracted to ego-pricking. Whilst I have a bit of a soft spot for RW becuase I think she can be smart and funny, I’m the first to concede that in the ego-pricking department she presents, how can I put it, a ‘generous’ target;

    It can’t come as a complete shock that people calling out couch-flouncing and freeloading would give RW a touch-up.

    So the overriding impression I gained over a week’s on-and-off reading is the S-Pitters do call out a lot of FTB navel-gazing, couch-flouncing and attention one-upmanship. They genuinely resent the fact dissent isn’t tolerated at FTB, let alone encouraged. Yes, some have called FT-bloggers they don’t like fat, which is a not cool. But none of these are ultimately hanging I-hate-you-for-ever offences. Well, not in my book.

    There’s also a hell of a lot of hard-and-fast critical thinking and current affairs dissection and analysis going on. Also, discussions of food, music, and art. There’s a lively tea-drinking community who’s posts about preferred blends and techniques are never-ending and cool in equal measures.

    The ability of anyone to post anything about everything is actually pretty cool to see in action and it seems to largely police itself.

    There’s almost no discussion of ‘Peezus’(he he, even I had to laugh at that!) and what there is includes a lot of genuine disappointment over PZ getting lost on the road to gender politics; My impression is the majority of Sl*me-Pitters seem to think he always was a bit dodgy and hatey and the more he marginalises himself the better. But that’s hardly a million miles from the view of the wider-web-world about the latter-day PZ.

    I discovered a respectable proportion of Slyme Pitters spend an awful lot of time trawling through the science and data on gender issues (probably due in no small part to being labelled gender-traitors and women haters – so it has some value) and the conclusions they come to are pretty middle of the road and would definitely be at home on some of the FTBs.

    If there is a whiff of intolerance about the place, it is for privileged whingers, privileged freeloaders and last but not least, the endless rehashing of memes which would have died a natural death but for their being reliable traffic/revenue generators. And that isn’t only directed at FTB. I mean, we’ve all got to make a living.

    Also, one guy there is called cunt, but if that’s directed to the subject-matter of his avatar, then sl*me pit and FTB would be in furious agreement for once.

  33. says

    I can’t address all the points you’ve made right now, but some are valid, some I strongly disagree with. Some are predicated on some elisions and framings of old fights that aren’t borne out by the actual recorded history. There’s evidently a not insignificant amount of history you’re missing, too.

    You should, if you want a flavor of what we’re talking about when we say “the slime pit”, read the original threads that were archived on Scented Nectar’s blog. No, I won’t link it. When ERV was forced by NatGeo to close those threads because they were full of terrible nonsense, SN took an archive of them before they were deleted, and some of their members decided to “own the slur” and create their own slymepit with a Y. They also decided to try to “turn over a new leaf” and self-police and focus on the matters at hand — which means, countering feminism which they see as an encroaching evil, and avoiding the rhetoric they’d gotten into before. They’d alienated a few of their members, most notably Justicar (/ IntegralMath) with their rules that apparently get in the way of free speech or something. And there’s a lot of holdover of the “nasties” that you’ve mentioned, the really gratuitously offensive ones who deify offense as its own good, who come directly from the original (and who were actively attacking us before they congregated at ERV’s in the first place). By us bloggers banding together to host our blogs on our own server, we’ve formed something that looks like the Avengers or the Sinister Six depending on who you ask, even though that was never our intention. The other side formed the counter-group.

    I’m not up on all the details, but yes, the new forum — while it still serves to organize counter-feminist offensives — is significantly tamer than the old one. The people and tactics and bete noirs are still largely the same though. And they still float from victim to victim, attacking en masse in much the same manner that they accuse us of.

    I am impressed that there is more actual skeptical and critical thought going on there now than there ever had been at ERV’s, where it was just a two-minutes hate stretched out into months (and now years). Now if only they could drop the hatred and just let us do our thing and have our supporters and they can have theirs, maybe we’d stop having to deal with so damn much hatred in this movement. Let them go tribal, that’s fine. Just tell them to stop staging incursions all the damn time. It’s irritating and unbecoming of our movement. I’d never mention them again if they’d just leave me and my friends the fuck alone.

  34. says

    Also: I have no idea about any doc-dropping on Vacula. This is the first I’ve heard of it. I did know that to file a counterclaim, you have to give your name and address, so the ElevatorGATE blog / twitter hate account’s owner had to give his name to someone placed well enough to make sure he’s turned away at conferences as a potential security risk. But as far as I know, no addresses were published except for Amy’s — and that, just out of Vacula’s spitefulness to prove that Amy had to register her trademark and Amy’s not exactly rich enough to own a business address, nor did she have any idea she’d incur hate campaigns to necessitate a PO box (the mail equivalent of a pseudonym).

  35. permanganater says

    Jason, many thanks for responding.

    I will cop to not being across the histories beyond what I’ve picked up from reading FTB (I came via reasonable doubts podcast 10 months ago) and from looking into the JV thing since last week.

    I’ll take the doc dropping on Vacula on notice and see if I can find out.

    No-one comes into this without their own history and context. I’m fairly feminist I think. My family was a pretty rare beast for the 1960s through 1980s; a professional working mum and stay-at-home dad, and that gave me a good grounding. (Dad dug his role, though. A lot!),

    But I do struggle with a lot of what I see here at FTB around sexual politics. I think that is in part because where I live is a pretty rare place that women are at least as privileged as men in education, social and legal services, and career. Many women I know think they’re significantly privileged over men in education, social services and career, and aren’t entirely OK with it.

    Two of my sisters are school teachers, pretty politicised, and hard core feminists, one was and may still be close to being a rad fem. But with their boys now in high school, they’re really worried about the low matriculation-to-college proportions for boys to girls (36 versus 64 percent). The boys aren’t dim, but three decades of programmes have come at a cost.

    My sisters are a bit bitter about being sold the line that things would peter out when equality was achieved when that’s not the case, and now they’re wearing the outcome of that.

    My boss is a woman, her boss is a woman, and I work in an industry (construction) in which women were largely unknown 20 years ago. If the is a person amongst the 8,000 employees here who has a skerick of an issue with women running the joint, I haven’t seen it. If he or she voiced such a thing he’d be laughed at as an irrelevant, if harmless, dinosaur.

    Anyway, anecdotes and data and all that.

    I guess I’m privileged to look at (if you’re not from around here), but looking at me won’t tell you I’ve been to (metaphorical) hell and back and had to pull myself up by own bootstraps. I barely made it back from the precipice, but I did.

    All this adds up to someone, and probably not the most sympathetic eye/ear to everything I see here. I wouldn’t give a toss but I see a lot of potential being squandered on procedure and minutiae.

    And big thanks again for responding.

  36. says

    Jason @38- The whole sordid story of someone “doc dropping” Vacula is outlined in this YouTube video.

    I watched the whole thing and it seems legit. I just don’t think it matters. Is “S” (the woman accused of “doc dropping”)being nominated to a co-chair with the SCA? No? Okay then.

    I suppose the point is to show that there is systematic bullying of Justin going on; that the petition is just an extension of this pattern of behavior. In other words, it is a distraction to avoid giving weight to valid concerns. He knowingly and willfully published an article to a site that is a harbor for hate speech. He inappropriately gave private information about a person he was feuding with to prove a point. He has participated in behaviour that he himself condemns out of the other side of his mouth. Those are not the only reasons I signed and support the petition- they are merely the reasons that I think are both indisputable and germane to whether or not someone is fit to take a leadership role with a national organization.

  37. says

    Yii. That actually does look pretty bad, George. I agree that it doesn’t change what Justin’s done, or his suitability for a leadership role in the SCA, but publishing his parents’ address and asking people to send them letters about his terribleness is a little too similar for comfort to what was done to Surly Amy and Jen (in nature, although definitely not in degree).

    Maybe he’s earned it for what he’s involved himself in, but I don’t want to be dismissive of *anyone’s* families getting unfairly dragged into this mess — it *does* matter, and it shouldn’t be happening. Obviously, none of Justin’s prominent opponents can be said to bear any personal responsibility for this, much as he might like to blame them, since they neither did it themselves nor encouraged or applauded it. But I think it’s still important to call it out as an unacceptable way to handle this matter, in order to set the right tone for the discussion. S, whoever ze is, is really not helping.

  38. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    but publishing his parents’ address and asking people to send them letters about his terribleness is a little too similar for comfort to what was done to Surly Amy and Jen (in nature, although definitely not in degree).

    I can’t believe someone did that. His parents have nothing to do with this. They aren’t to blame for his douchbaggery and bigotry. Completely and entirely not okay, not cool, not acceptable. At all.

  39. says

    Anne @41
    I totally agree with everything you said. When I re-read my comment, I do notice that I downplay the significance of what “S” did. Let me clarify that I meant that this “doesn’t matter” in the sense of whether or not the concerns in the petition are valid or worthy of action by the SCA- not, and I repeat, NOT– in the sense of whether it matters in the broader sense. It does matter. It matters a whole hell of a lot.

    What “S” did was bullying. Period. It was unequivocally stupid and retaliatory. She should never have done it and if I knew who she was I would never support her for any position of authority in the atheist community. I would have ZERO respect for her until she exhibited a boatload of contrition and personal reflection on the matter.

    What I find astounding is the number of people whom I do respect who are willing to look past very real and very valid criticisms merely because they don’t like the messenger and feel that the subject of this criticism has been attacked unfairly at some point or another. To me this is like saying that evolution is correct because it has been attacked unfairly for so many years.

  40. says

    Glad to hear, George. I didn’t think you really meant to dismiss it, I just felt it was important to get it out there clearly that “our side” doesn’t consider that kind of thing dismissable. But as you say, it also doesn’t negate what Justin did.

  41. says

    No, I don’t like this one bit. However, it does illustrate exactly how easy it is to get ANYONE’S address, and ease of obtaining the address does not excuse publicizing it for the nutters who don’t have that (minimal) bar of knowledge. It’s impossible to make your address completely private unless you blog/comment pseudonymously, and even then, there’s lots of ways to narrow down your identity.

    None of that makes this right. At all. Not one whit.

    Finding out, say, Dave Mabus’ address so you could give it to the cops is significantly different though — because you’re giving it to law enforcement, not to a forum on which you have no idea whether there are vigilantes. Vigilante justice isn’t justice. I don’t care if you’re as objectively shitty a person as Vacula, you don’t do this.

    One thing I find interesting though — nobody knows who this person is outside of Vacula and his friends. The screenshots were taken and the post deleted, apparently. I can tell you this though — it was definitely not Amy’s facebook account, because she does not have “surly” at the front. Scrubbing the person’s identity in the screenshots is an interesting choice, and a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t one in fact. If you scrub it, nobody knows who the accused is, and whether or not they are actually members of any communities we’re part of, so we don’t know if there are vigilantes in our midst. And if you don’t scrub it, you could get accused of name-and-shaming.

    However, I’ve noticed there are apparently folks blaming Amy for the doc-dropping on Vacula despite it not being her screen name, and despite the fact that Amy would have had access to his address from the DMCA Counterclaim and wouldn’t have to look up phone books in Scranton.

  42. says

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I wouldn’t have a problem with “naming and shaming” someone who doc-dropped. I would think that position just a hair untenable.

    Maybe Justin feels like he is showing that he “learned a lesson” from the Surly Amy fiasco- but I think people who publish other people’s personal information deserve to be called out.

    The lesson wasn’t that you don’t call people out when they seemingly misbehave- it was that maybe you could fall somewhere south of giving their home address and a picture of their house.

  43. says

    For the record, “S” is autistic and complains about not having any good ways to learn the social rules of the internet. She also says the address posting was a hoax perpetuated for no more than 20 minutes. I presume that means it wasn’t a correct address posted. And yes, I do know who “S” is, because someone was passing around a pic of the first part of the exchange that didn’t have her name redacted.

  44. says

    Interesting, because Vacula acted like it’s definitely his address. If it wasn’t then he was feigning victimhood, I’d say, because he sees it as another opportunity to tarnish all feminists with the misdeeds of one. Just another way to throw others under the bus to improve his own rep.

  45. says

    A hoax? How weird. And still not good — some random person totally unrelated to all this mess could have ended up getting harassed as a result. Did she think that by doing this she was somehow supporting the women who have been harassed? ‘Cause she sure as hell didn’t — she just gave the slimepitters another club to beat them with. It’s just straight-up wrong either way, and if she didn’t know that before, I hope she knows it now.

    Also, I wonder why Justin is acting so upset about it if it wasn’t really his family’s address. He certainly claimed it was in the video George linked. I don’t have a terribly high opinion of Justin right now, but if he’s lying about that, it would be the first I’ve seen of him being so far gone as to just outright make shit up. Is there any other evidence that he’s that much of a lying scumbag, or is this really just his word against hers about whether it was f’realz?

  46. checkit says

    Vacula was straight up harassed by someone over the Amy thing. There were some threats and harassment thrown at him far nastier than anything he ever said or did.

    I don’t know his full history I’ve just read some of his blog and he seems to be one of the tamer ones out of all the people critical of FTBs.

    But don’t listen to me listen to his own words.

  47. says

    Just want to mention, I got a chance to hear a bit of Staks’ take on this issue tonight during chat before the Sam Singleton concert, and it sounds like the bottom line is that he really truly didn’t know, because he’s just been trying to stay away from this kind of discussion altogether after he got so badly burned with the “top atheists” list.

    And, in addition to him (and quite likely the others) not really knowing about this stuff, it sounds like there just really was nobody else who was actively involved even remotely looking like they were offering themselves for the job. So the guy who was there on the spot willing to do it got picked. In my experience with small organizations, this is pretty common, and, although it almost always leads to problems, it’s not entirely trivial to avoid when you just simply don’t have enough people to be choosy. I suspect this kind of thing is going to be endemic to the freethought movement as long as we remain a small and often-disengaged minority.

    So it’s starting to seem to me like this is one of those things where the best way to fix it and avert similar future incidents is probably for more people to step up and become active. Vacula might stay where he is for now, but if enough people who see things differently start putting ourselves forward for leadership roles, it won’t matter so much, because he’ll be drowned out in a sea of more positive voices. I’m not the right one for this particular job, on accounta I’m totally a n00b and am moving soon anyway, but I’m certainly going to take this as a lesson for my involvement going forward.

  48. says

    Stephanie, just to clarify, are you referring to my #51 or my #54? Just in case it’s #54, I want to clarify that I’m not saying that it’s okay for SCA to appoint people who have done the kinds of things Vacula has, just proposing a strategy to avert such things and/or deal with them when they can’t be averted.

  49. glengarry says

    “Fuck. You. It isn’t “internet drama”. The internet isn’t some separate space divorced from reality where people exist as fictitious characters. It’s “real-life bigotry” that is the problem.

    Feel important.

  50. permanganater says

    Any of you lot got the guts to put your hand up amidst the wider feeding frenzy and correct the record as regards the JV doxing? I can’t or I’ll be put into moderation or banned.

  51. says

    @59 permanganater
    Are you talking about him doxing Amy or “S” doxing JV? I’ll happily take a stab at the former:

    I will concede for the sake of argument that Justin meant no ill will toward Amy by publishing her personal information. For me, this is not germane to the discussion- and it is imparting unknown motives. So by my estimation, Justin published Amy’s info as a response to a comment from someone concerned that a DMCA complaint might be used to gather personal information on someone else. Not an entirely unfounded claim, but perhaps a bit conspiratorial and alarmist. It would have been enough for Justin to just point out how a DMCA complaint is a relatively complicated way to get someone’s personal information- especially when they have an online business. It would have been enough to tell the commenter that they are being alarmist.

    Instead what Justin did is post the address of Amy to prove a point. The information was in the public domain- but that doesn’t mean it was his information to give out with reckless abandon. It really served no purpose outside of bragging. My address is in the pubic domain- so is my full name- my job title- my employer’s name and address- even the name of my children and with enough know-how likely the school they attend. The question is not “is it legal to give out that information?”, the question is “is it right to give out that information?” and “is any good served by giving out that information?”.

    I don’t care where the information was posted- but don’t mistake my ambivalence for importance. Publishing someone else’s personal information online shows a lack of respect, a lack of judgement, and a lack of understanding of basic internet etiquette.

    Did Justin have a right to do what he did? Sure, whatever. Does that make it a desirable thing to do? Fuck no. Just because YOU CAN do something doesn’t mean YOU SHOULD do something. This is a question of whether or not we want someone in a leadership position who is absolutely daft when it comes to social mores. It is a question of whether that person is a desirable leader of any movement. Have others done the same thing? Yep. Are any of them currently being considered to lead a national organization? Not so much.

  52. says

    Anne, I was agreeing with you that what “S” did wasn’t good. It seemed so obvious to me that I didn’t think to say it in my first comment on the topic, but sadly, nothing is taken as obvious these days.

  53. says

    Stephanie, yeah, there’s enough mess going on these days that I’m always afraid I haven’t put enough caveats in place to prevent myself from coming off the wrong way. I’m finding myself starting to hedge more and more and ask for clarification more and more for fear of carelessly stepping into something I didn’t even know existed. And even then it’s usually not enough. :/

    Anyway, glad to confirm that we’re on the same page about this one at least.

  54. says

    I’m finding myself starting to hedge more and more and ask for clarification more and more for fear of carelessly stepping into something I didn’t even know existed. And even then it’s usually not enough. :/

    Jebus but do I know that feeling.

  55. says

    Wow, I can’t believe that my first time commenting on a blog is so controversial that it gets posted on another blog! Well, I’ve read through all these comments and I can understand why some of you took issue with my opinion on this situation. Perhaps my characterization of this whole fiasco as “internet drama” was inappropriate and unintentionally came off as belittling. I admitted in my post that I don’t keep up with the online community as much as many other atheist activists and that I am probably out of the loop with a lot of this. So to an outsider like myself, who just tried to do some balanced research on this issue, the conclusion is not as one sided as many of you believe it to be, and it can appear on the surface that what is going on can be characterized as “drama.” Nevertheless, I can appreciate that this is a very real and grave concern for many of you, and I didn’t mean to discount it.

    I think that “permanganator” @36 did a pretty good job of summarizing much of what I also discovered in my research on Justin. Basically, there are two camps out there on this issue who are diametrically opposed to each other: one side thinks Justin is a “vacuous douchebag troll,” and the other side thinks he is a fine activist who is being bullied and sabotaged. Both sides think that they are 100% right and that the other side is ignorant and/or deceptive in portraying their message. Personally, I think that there is some merit to both sides, and there is also a lot of irrationality and bullying on both sides.

    It also seems like both sides stick to reading primarily sources which they tend to agree with on the issue, thus leading to the illusion that EVERYONE feels the same way. I really hope people on both sides can at least recognize that BOTH SIDES EXIST. You are welcome to think that you are completely right and that the other side is composed of idiots, but you are either ignorant or in denial if you think that the ENTIRE skeptic community is on YOUR side–they aren’t, there is a split (even if you haven’t seen it). So it is not completely absurd for the SCA to chose to withhold judgement on an issue they are not intimately familiar with (and yes, allowing Justin to volunteer IS withholding judgement because that is how all other people are treated; “firing” him would be taking a positive stance on one side).

    Anyway, incase some of you haven’t heard, Justin actually just resigned his position with the SCA on Thursday ( I’m sure some of you will celebrate this, but I would just hope you at least recognize that there are many people who are upset by this, and it just MIGHT be hypocritical to celebrate this if you criticized those on the “other side” who celebrated Jen McCreight’s hiatus from her blog. I don’t think anyone in our movement should be celebrating when ANY fellow activist decides that they can’t deal with the bullying anymore so they quit a project. I would say to take this as an opportunity to be the bigger person, but from the foul language and attitude directed at me by many in this thread already, I’m not sure that EITHER side is interested in winning a battle of integrity or civility. And if this is the common atmosphere found online, I can see why both Jen and Justin quit, and I am not very convinced that I need to immerse myself anymore in this arena of activism–people are much nicer in real life, even those who vehemently disagree with me or even dislike me!

    This might explain some of the problem:

  56. says

    Welcome, Michael. You might want to read this to see why your “both sides” argument falls way flat, and this to see our real-time reactions to the Vacula resignation.

    Needless to say, holding someone to account for bullying is not, itself, bullying.

  57. says

    Jason, thanks for responding. Interesting article on the “both sides” argument, I think there’s definitely some merit to what you say there. However, I’m not sure that it really responds to my point that we all need to recognize that there is NOT total agreement in the skeptic community on Justin, and that an outsider doing research on the subject would not necessarily come to YOUR conclusion immediately. I understand that you 100% think the “other side” uses far more despicable tactics in their battle against “your side” and they are only “an incredibly tiny but incredibly vocal slice of our community.” Now that very well may be true, but you should recognize that those conclusions are not completely obvious to an outsider researching the issue (such as myself or the SCA). I mean, do you have some data showing that “their side” actually IS the minority even, or is it just anecdotal on your part? I’ve seen BOTH sides make this claim that a majority of the community adheres with their stance and would love to know who is right.


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