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The one way we lost in the battle for the SCA

We pointed out Justin Vacula’s feet of clay, and nearly a thousand signatures were collected on the petition demanding that SCA either address his misdeeds by forcing him out or stand by those misdeeds. Vacula has stepped down from his position after this controversy didn’t go away.

Which naturally means “the terrorists” and “bullies” have won. (According to the real bullies, the anti-feminist and anti-woman contingents of our movement.)

I was really hoping this post would be “thank you Justin Vacula, your second chance begins now” but there’s absolutely no acknowledgement that the charges against him in the petition were evidenced. They are, instead, characterized as a whisper campaign by people with a vested interest in pushing him out of dialog. Among other choice salt-the-earth lines, he says the following:

My detractors did not only brand me as an ‘enemy of the people’ in a similar fashion to the eponymous play written by Henrik Ibsen, but also attacked the Secular Coalition for America – an organization with with women as staff members including the organization’s executive director – claiming it “dislike[s] feminist secular activists in Pennsylvania,” is responsible for “alienating women,” and “is woefully out of sync with the atheist movement” to just mention three items. Those who demand respect and object to disrespect — as should be apparent — offer no or little respect to others, thus not modeling the behavior they wish to see.

I can’t even begin to express my sadness that Vacula has learned absolutely nothing and has gained absolutely no measure of introspection from this. Instead, he’s slurring and mischaracterizing and eliding the arguments against him and the reasons people might sign the petition. That’s hardly the optimal outcome — that being, that Vacula realizes his missteps and apologizes for them so we can move on. Of course, he claims that he’s made mistakes, but never specifies what he’s done that he perceives now as having been a mistake, and continues mischaracterizing the arguments against him notwithstanding.

We’ve won big on this, owing to the numbers in our community who agree with the assessment of the evidence. We won in that we’ve refused to accept a bully and witch-hunter as a leader, and the SCA has hopefully learned a lesson from this, that you have to look deeper into the beliefs and actions of people you choose to represent you in leadership positions. They did precious little to vet him because they have hardly any volunteers, and are by all appearances pursuing an all-fifty-states initiatives. But that hardly matters. What matters is that they learned that one can’t just presume they know everything about someone because one person vouched for them.

FtB learned that lesson when PZ vouched for Thunderf00t, and continued to vouch for him during the first few weeks of him going slash-and-burn on everyone who blogs here both privately and publicly. Resolving the issue required messiness, and we had no idea the depth of the damage to which Thunderf00t was capable. Now SCA has learned that some people aren’t followed by controversy, but instead generate it themselves through their actions.

But we took losses in winning this battle, including the slurs and lies and elisions that are peeling away names I recognize and names that should support our goals, and the fact that Vacula had to slam the door behind him to knock as much china off the walls as possible is the saddest loss of all. I guess we just have to take solace in the fact that the folks who would rather inculcate the chilly climate and entrench sexism and bigotry in our community (whether knowingly or because they think feminists are just too shrill and hysterical) are truly a minority.

Vacula, the moment you recognize your misdeeds and make an effort to reach out to us, I’ll personally forgive you and give you another chance. Not a chance for leadership, but a chance to work together to be atheist activists without rending our communities over gender politics. I know this means little, coming from the guy who still thinks your argumentation is vacuous and your tactics often trollish. But it’s a sincere wish that you’d have a moment of introspection and actually consider that the people who find your actions offensive might have good reasons, rather than imagined fascistic ones.

Comments

  1. fastlane says

    Vacula, the moment you recognize your misdeeds and make an effort to reach out to us, I’ll personally forgive you and give you another chance.

    Given his reaction and digging in of heels, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    I will still donate to the SCA, but it will be a smaller donation this year, and I’ll be keeping a closer eye on them. They are competing for a fairly small pie of contributions, and my particular contribution might not mean much to them, but I hope the combined effect is enough to make a difference.

  2. says

    It is the dishonesty/delusion of his posturing that makes it clear that he’s unrepentant and either refuses to accept the reality of the criticism against him or is incapable of engaging with that reality. There’s no “whisper campaign” and his “I did something wrong” only exists as a platform to launch more dishonest attacks, and make himself a martyr for his partners in hate.

  3. says

    There is no loss here. The goal was never to make angels smile upon the world and right all wrongs. The goal was to keep someone with every demonstrated intention of using any power he had against people out of a position that would give him greater power. That’s it. That happened. Goal achieved.

    We can and do make a difference by what we do. Don’t slight it by saying we didn’t do something we never tried.

  4. says

    Oh, and BTW… don’t use the word “terrorist” to describe these people, please. Terrorists murder people, blow up and set fire to cars and buildings, throw acid on people, etc. These aren’t terrorists, although they ARE bullies and assholes.

  5. says

    I’ve softened some of my statements of dismay somewhat to address Stephanie’s concern. Yes, we won bigtime, and the SCA knows now that they need to look at who they’re taking on and are on notice that you can’t put someone so divisive and evidently power-hungry in charge. I am still sad that there’s no introspection. Sue me.

  6. birdterrifier says

    Jesus you can’t even win graciously. No need to spike the ball, sir. This shit will absolutely never end.

  7. baal says

    “Vacula, the moment you recognize your misdeeds and make an effort to reach out to us, I’ll personally forgive you and give you another chance.”

    I doubt I count as objective but this strikes me as the language formulation of the neocon’s on dealing with recalcitrant mideast countries.

    It smacks of ‘I’m right (or I AM The Power), bow down to mmeeeeeeeeee’ cartoonishness.

    That said, I’m very glad you took the time, effort and personal costs to get him removed. He’s odious and I don’t believe he could have carried out the role successfully (for every reason you mention).

  8. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    This shit will absolutely never end.

    Not until the bigots grow up and learn to take personal responsibility for their actions, no.

    For this post to be ball-spiking, he’d have to be mocking Vacula. There is nothing mocking Vacula in this post at all, just expressions of dismay that he said what he said and learned absolutely nothing.

    Funny though how you only have tone-trolling comments for FtB though, and never those doling out bigotry and harrassment whereever they go.

  9. John Horstman says

    @5: I’d argue that ongoing and coordinated efforts to harass people to get them to shut up or drop our of a social movement counts as terrorism.

    @12:

    I doubt I count as objective but this strikes me as the language formulation of the neocon’s on dealing with recalcitrant mideast countries.

    Maybe, but context matters. Extending the possibility of reconciliation when you’ve knocked down someone defending his right to be an asshole to members of marginalized social groups is way different than doing so after you’ve just successfully kicked someone who’s already down.

  10. birdterrifier says

    What I mean by spiking the ball is that you didn’t even try to understand why Vacula might have written that as he was leaving. It’s human nature to try to save face as you are being pushed out and I might have done something similar if faced with the same option. It’s incredibly difficult to give in, first of all, and then way difficult to completely say that one is wrong and will try to fix one’s self. When do you ever see that in public life, except when a politician is found cheating or charged with a crime? You could have just been gracious, accepted that he did what you wanted him to do and chalk up his last post as an emotionally charged response but, no, you had to break down even the last post.

    If you remain so hypercritical of others then you will slowly whittle down the range of people that you can relate to and then you will only have choirs to converse with. In other words, be charitable.

  11. birdterrifier says

    @Illuminati I doubt that you can be so positive that I am tone trolling or that I do not criticize bigoted views. I believe that one can only be a troll if one is only concerned with causing outrage. I never want to stir the shit but I am a cocky person who thinks that people should care what I say so I go on blogs and twitter to spout off on things I find distasteful/tasteful. I do think tone matters though because a poor tone can make it impossible for the recipient to accept the arguments of their opposition. It’s human nature to go on the defensive when our character or like is attacked and to completely miss all cogent arguments lying therein. So yes, tone matters.

  12. LeftSidePositive says

    I love that Vacula thinks that apparently the presence of some women must mean the SCA couldn’t possibly be alienating other women–even when those women sign petitions and explicitly state why they are alienated!!

    And the fact that Edwina Rogers is a woman isn’t exactly comforting–and I’ve noticed more than a few Vacula supporters (IIRC it was at WWJTD?) saying that we were alienating women by criticizing Edwina Rogers…as if we didn’t bend over backwards to give her a chance, as if any of our comments had anything to do with her gender, and as if she weren’t an embarrassingly transparent liar and woefully unprepared to address the community! (And, since then, when Dana Milbank DID trash Edwina in gendered terms even some very harsh critics of her on FTB said “this is not okay,” because picking on a woman’s clothes instead of her competence is unacceptable no matter what her politics!)

  13. F says

    birdterrifyer @ 15

    Regarding your first paragraph: While that is an accurate observation of human behavior, such behavior is classified as being immature or being an asshole. Saving face is bullshit. It is also ineffective when too many people already know the truth.
    But we’re all just supposed to play along to soothe an ego, and wait for that person to continue to pull the same shit before calling it for what it is?

    Never mind that this contention isn’t over a single remark or incident, but a long term pattern of behavior.

  14. hjhornbeck says

    birdterrifier @ 15

    What I mean by spiking the ball is that you didn’t even try to understand why Vacula might have written that as he was leaving.

    How can we know what he intended? All we have to determine that (as of now) is Vacula’s resignation letter itself. And given that he characterizes an open, specific petition as “a campaign of lies, character attacks, and distortions,” I think it’s fairly obvious he meant this resignation letter as a back-hand against his opponents, instead of an attempt to ask forgiveness for real “errors of judgment” and move towards something better.

  15. says

    I’ve generally stayed away from this particular drama. But I did recently decide to unfriend Vacula on Facebook after I could no longer make excuses for keeping him around. For me, it was his increasingly dishonest, passive-aggressive approach to his sexism that chafed.

    The last straw was when he posted some link to a blog post by Rebecca on Skepchick, and accompanied his link with deceptively neutral questions (“Rebecca Watson says X. What do you think, readers?”), all in the interest of sounding like the calm voice of reason in the face of controversy. What happened next, of course — and what Vacula certainly damn well knew would happen — was that hordes of misogynists and MRA-types on his friends list immediately flooded the comments with the usual profane, sexist personal attacks against Rebecca. It all just struck me as an especially weaselly way to go about your bullying: post an “innocent question” and then let the great unwashed do your dirty work for you.

    He probably has other character flaws and dirty deeds to his name, but that was the one that pissed me off.

  16. birdterrifier says

    You all expect complete capitulation and refuse to try to put yourself in the same position.

    You have removed a volunteer from the PA chapter but do you care if the next person is as qualified at battling the encroachment of church on their state? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to gather volunteers in meat space?

    From my own experience in Oklahoma, we have a local AU chapter that is mostly comprised of older non-theists and older, traditional Baptists as well as a sprinkling of younger non-theists. Of course, we have no problem organizing a monthly meetup at a pizza parlor that attracts over 50 people but the activists are always the same die hards and there aren’t many of them. I think that’s part of the reason why Edwina did not bother with a background check making sure that FTB/Skepchick approved of their volunteer that wanted help them in their incredibly difficult endeavor. Was this really about your concern for how SCA is organizing to maintain the wall between church and state or a personal grudge?

  17. says

    To address baal’s point @12, this post is partly in response to all those folks who complain that we can’t be charitable and give Vacula a second chance. He hasn’t even finished, as F said, with screwing up his first chance. First you have to understand and agree that your behaviour was wrong, and apologize with contrition.

    Us taking Vacula to task for behaviours he’s never even recognized as wrong, behaviours that could land the SCA and other skeptical organizations in hot water, is nothing like demanding capitulation and fealty and whatever other fascistic hyperbole you make up.

    And make no mistake, you’re employing the exact same tools to shame us for believing what we believe, birdterrifier. So anything you claim we are, you are too.

  18. says

    Additionally, your post amounts to “fuck the people he’s wronged — he did bus ads and a podcast! He MUST be good!” Vacula offers nothing that could not be equally offered by people who aren’t bullies and witch-hunters.

  19. hjhornbeck says

    birdterrifier @ 24

    You have removed a volunteer from the PA chapter but do you care if the next person is as qualified at battling the encroachment of church on their state? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to gather volunteers in meat space?

    Yes, actually. Good volunteers are worth their weight in gold. Those that could alienate other volunteers, or damage the organization they are volunteering for, are worth shedding at the first available moment. Vacula’s actions, and lack of remorse for said actions, put him in the latter camp. The short-term pain of losing that person is better than the long-term pain of having to defend such a person, or having to remove them once they’ve become comfortable.

    Was this really about your concern for how SCA is organizing to maintain the wall between church and state or a personal grudge?

    Vacula has done nothing to me personally, and I’ve praised some of his activism before. I don’t carry a grudge. If Vacula carries on with this behavior, however, he could hurt the SCA’s ability to fight for secularism by attracting controversy or driving away potential volunteers. Is that so tough to understand?

  20. says

    I would like to be able to just say, “Yay, a victory for not-sexism,” but honestly all these fights, necessary though they may be, just make me feel sick inside, no matter how they come out. That’s not to denigrate all the work people do when they put themselves out there to fight this stuff, it just sucks when even a victory doesn’t mean an end to the hostility and might even create more of it, at least in the short term.

    For me, this is the first one of these incidents that’s actually involved (tangentially) people that I’ve met in person and had some positive interactions with, which makes it even more distressing from my perspective, and all the more difficult to negotiate the drawn battle lines. I don’t know how all y’all who’ve been dealing with it at that level for the past year and more have managed to cope. I can see why a lot of people just conclude that the internet is too much of a clusterfuck of empathy fails and hate spirals and drop out. I wish there was a way to fix this. :/

  21. rowanvt says

    You all expect complete capitulation and refuse to try to put yourself in the same position.

    This may be difficult for you, Bird.

    When I do something wrong, when I make a mistake, when I have been mean to an individual without merit, I go and actively admit my fault, work to correct the error, and apologise profusely to the person I have wronged.

    There are plenty of mistakes I have made at work that I could have kept quiet about and none would have been aware a mistake was ever made. I have admitted them all, because I believe in taking responsibility for my actions.

  22. birdterrifier says

    @ImprobableJoe Vacula made a mistake posting a public address on a thread where people were ragging on Surly Amy and was callous towards a blogger whenever she was going through emotional distress from being constantly trolled. This is not exactly Mussolini material.

    @Jason I’m not trying to shame you like you were a wicked child, I was just curious what your answers might be to questions that I didn’t think you had considered. That might be something you could have done with Vacula on a podcast or something in an attempt to understand his point of view instead of constantly blogging without any hope of reconciliation. Effectively talking around each other.

    So you say that anyone could offer what Vacula could offer but that’s not what I’ve encountered. What’s the volunteer situation for your local church/state activist group (AU for example) versus the general meetup group in Minnesota?

    Hell, the president and vice president of our social group don’t even reveal their actual names on the web site so I doubt they’d be able to take the kind of abuse that Vacula has sustained in the past. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care what harm Vacula has done to others but was curious if you even cared about the church/state activism situation in PA.

  23. birdterrifier says

    @rowanvt I believe in being honest and owning up to my mistakes but I don’t always do what I ought. Also, I’ve never had the light shine so brightly on my faults in the way that Vacula has experienced.

  24. says

    birdterrifier, the part of Vacula’s behavior that disturbs me the most is actually his choice to post that article on the “A Voice for Men” website. If he hadn’t done that, I might be willing to consider the possibility that his comments about Jen were just a bit of one-off juvenile dickishness, and that the thing with Surly Amy’s address was just thoughtlessness and poor judgment. Just, maybe, y’know, personal disagreements that got badly out of hand. Merely, as you suggest, a bit of callousness and a mistake. Still not good, but not necessarily indicative of deep-seated misogyny or anything. But AVfM is committedly and proudly misogynist, and the fact that he willingly put an article there and hasn’t given any indication that he understands what’s wrong with that makes it much harder to give him the benefit of the doubt on everything else. It’s “not exactly Mussolini material”, but I also don’t want unrepentant AVfM authors running any movement that I’m part of either.

    I do think it’s good that he at least admits he made mistakes, I just hope he starts thinking about exactly what those mistakes were and what about them was problematic. I don’t want him driven away. I just want him to do the right thing, by which I mean, I want him to show genuine contrition rather than just, “Yes, maybe I made a little bit of a mistake, but you were really mean about how you pointed it out, so screw you.” And yes, the fact that he just got slapped down very hard and very publicly undoubtedly makes it much harder emotionally to do the right thing. But if he succeeds in doing it nevertheless, it would be a pretty damn good testament to his intellectual honesty and the quality of his character, and he would probably find that he’d get a very positive reception for it. I hope he’ll keep that in mind.

  25. Anonymous Atheist says

    “… saying that we were alienating women by criticizing Edwina Rogers …”

    That reminds me of some of the Sarah Palin supporters’ attitudes.

  26. GumboFood says

    Any more news about Surly Amy doc-dropping the private information of a Twiter user via a DMCA counternotice?

  27. permanganater says

    @36 and 37. This not-just-uncomfortable-but-downright-bloody-dangerous-to-the-Party fact has been spelled out but it keeps getting swept under the carpet. See my comment @36 here, and what follows.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/10/02/the-scas-decision-making-process/#comment-82975

    I was sitting on the fence prior to this JV episode but the sheer, bald-faced reinvention, lying and four-legs-good-two-legs-bad-lynchathon has me thorougly disgusted.

  28. says

    GumboFood: perhaps you have more information than I have, then. My understanding of the situation is that Amy provided the name she received from the DMCA counterclaim to conference authorities so they were aware that the ElevatorGATE hate-blog owner would be flagged as a potential security risk, and some unknown entity floated some name (that nobody’s confirmed as belonging to ElevatorGATE) on some forum or other. Did anything come out other than hir name? Was it confirmed hir information? Perhaps you could provide links, since you’re looking for “news” about this?

  29. says

    CiizensOnPatrol: No. Flat no.

    We a) don’t know who that person is, though Vacula and a few people who’ve seen the screenshots know who it is but aren’t telling; and b) don’t know that this information is actually Vacula’s.

    But you’re welcome to keep asking if we’re doing things to poison the well. Here’s some more examples:

    “Were FtBers responsible for the dinosaur die-off?”

    “Where were the FtBers during the Beer Hall Putsch?”

  30. says

    permanganater: if you call the comments at that link “sweeping it under the rug”, you and I are speaking a completely different language with idioms that don’t mean anything alike. Here in reality, “sweeping it under the rug” means trying to cover something up. Usually something odious that someone has personally done.

    Since nobody here did the thing you claim we’re sweeping under a rug, but rather all involved agreed that posting a person’s address to a forum where there might be even just one cracked vigilante is completely morally reprehensible, perhaps you’d like to provide better evidence than has been offered. And perhaps you might like to examine why it’s both:

    1. perfectly acceptable for one person to find through easily available public records someone’s address and posting it to a forum of their ideological opponents;

    and

    2. completely unacceptable for one person to find through easily available public records someone’s address and posting it to a forum of their ideological opponents.

    FtBers are saying both are wrong. You’re defending your hero’s actions while excoriating identical actions by some unknown third party and blaming us for it.

    Think on that.

    You’ll all have a long time, since you obvious trolls are being binned.

  31. B-Lar says

    Also, I’ve never had the light shine so brightly on my faults in the way that Vacula has experienced

    As a potential leader, higher standards of investigation must be expected. For me, this wasnt about Vacula (because I had seen his work before and had already drawn my conclusion… I was interested to see if his response to this would change my mind, but it doesnt seem so) but more about the SCA appointment process.

    In the rush to get a man on the ground, they didnt look at the man. They didnt investigate as strongly as a leadership position demands. I will be interested to see if they double down like Vacula, or if they can rise above his sterling example and write a letter explaining what went wrong and how its not going to go wrong in the future. Maybe they will sweep it under the rug and immediately/unquestioningly appoint someone who is simply not known on the internet, hence learning the wrong lesson

  32. permanganater says

    Whoa, I said ‘sweeping it under the carpet’. Not rug. Huge difference! OK….just jokes to break the tension.

    Justin, I’m not a troll. I hope I’m not a toll. I’m a regular Joe/Josephine trying to make sense of all this. I read here and on A+ that JVs more notable sins included doxing someone at a hate site. I go looking and divine this isn’t the case, that he was defending himself against allegation of intending-to-dox in the context of the DMCA dispute by saying look here, these particulars are two clicks away.

    The responses this generated – apart from grudgingly admitting the sl*me pit maybe isn’t a hate site but was in a previous incarnation (which I did not know until you told me)- dissembles the primary point as to whether their really was a meaningful doxing.

    Justin, given the gravity of what was being alleged, without context or correction, I saw this amounting to a sweeping under the carpet (rug).

  33. says

    You’re hilarious, permanganater. First, my name’s Jason. Second, I just got done saying, it doesn’t matter if her address was in the US trademark database, nor that his was in the Scranton phone book. It doesn’t matter how public the info is. Defending yourself from accusations that they intend to “drop dox” by “dropping dox” (gads how I fucking hate that term) is kind of ridiculous. That’s like defending yourself from charges that you’re violent by punching the accuser. It’s a serious own-goal, you must realize this.

    And no, neither what Justin Vacula did by finding her address in a public database and posting it, nor what that anonymous S-person did by finding his (potentially his) address in a public phone book and posting it, were acceptable.

    IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW EASY IT IS TO FIND THE DATA.

    Posting it to a forum full of ideologues — especially where a number of those ideologues have threatened creeper actions in the past — is directly endangering that person.

    If you think what S did was wrong, then you think what Vacula did was wrong too. Or you’re too busy with your cognitive dissonance of “FtB Bad, People Against FtB Good” to look at the salient details. The events were identical, and you’re defending one (Vacula’s), and using the other to attack unrelated people (us). Do you know how blinkered that makes you look?

    Don’t answer that. Unless you’ve got something really good, I’m done listening to your “I’m not a troll” slur slurry.

  34. permanganater says

    Justin, one quick housekeeping matter, as a postscript: You said: ‘Here in reality, “sweeping it under the rug” means trying to cover something up. Usually something odious that someone has personally done.’

    Well, that is one meaning, but the less common in my experience. I was using the expression in the ‘ignore’ sense, one of the two meanings; I was trying to say that the meat of the issue was whether JVs doxing in fact amounted to doxing, in its context of the DMCA exchanges. That’s what was ignored.

  35. permanganater says

    And sorry Jason re the Justin thing. I work with two Jason’s and a Justin and (and two Katherine, a Catherine and a Kate) and they’d laugh hard but knowingly seeing me wrong-footed again over the opening phonetic of someone’s name. That is a meaningful apology. Well, meant as such.

  36. says

    Apology accepted, though what you call me actually matters very little as long as I know you’re addressing me. I was pointing it out mostly to suggest that maybe you weren’t really paying much attention.

    And I think it does mean that.

    Someone suggests that Vacula was just trying to get her address via the DMCA counterclaim so he could post it online. Vacula says “I don’t have to wait for the counterclaim, fuck it, we’ll do it live” and posts it immediately.

    Does it matter how easy it was to obtain? Does it matter how easy it is to obtain a person’s address, no matter who you’re talking about? Is it less wrong for someone to look it up in a Trademark database than in a phone book? Is it less wrong to do it to prove how easy it is, than to try to give a person pause about how cavalier they were with the information? Is it okay to do it to strike fear into the person’s heart on purpose? Is it okay to do that unintentionally?

    Answer all of them “no”, and you and I are in complete agreement. And that means Justin Vacula did wrong, “S” did wrong, and people need to start admitting it and owning up and smartening the fuck up.

  37. permanganater says

    I am paying attention, and I think what Justin did was stupid. As I said on the other thread, that he did so demonstrated shit judgment under pressure.

    I suppose where we part company is whether his online cv amounted to a hanging offence as regards the PA SCA appointment; and the upshot seems to be that the SCA, to whom it fell to be the arbiter of this whole disaster, agreed it did/does.

    Justin’s motive for posting SAs personal details seemed (to me) designed to head off the charge that his DMCA appeal was motivated to flush out SA’s personal partics. I felt and feel that needed an airing.

  38. says

    I do agree with the sentiments here, that Vaculas appointment would have been divisive and potentially harmful to membership, as you stated in this reply here:

    the SCA knows now that they need to look at who they’re taking on and are on notice that you can’t put someone so divisive and evidently power-hungry in charge

    However, this works both ways. You need to be aware also that some of the people involved over here are also incredibly polarising individuals and would equally do a great deal of harm if appointed in the same kind of capacity.
    You may retort with the ‘but we are in the right’ line. I have to say that pragmatically that is irrelevant, it is in the nature of disputes that both sides feel they are ‘in the right’. Common sense dictates that any person liable to stir the hornets nest still further is unsuitable right now.
    Jim (np99)

  39. billopenthalt says

    @rowanvt

    When I do something wrong, when I make a mistake, when I have been mean to an individual without merit, I go and actively admit my fault, work to correct the error, and apologise profusely to the person I have wronged.

    There are plenty of mistakes I have made at work that I could have kept quiet about and none would have been aware a mistake was ever made. I have admitted them all, because I believe in taking responsibility for my actions.

    You do know that 70% of drivers consider themselves as above average, don’t you?

    For all we know, Vacula subscribes to the above sentiments. I surely do, but I also know enough of human nature (and psychology) to know that my appreciation of “me doing something wrong”, and another person’s appreciation of “Bill doing something wrong” are often diametrically opposed. To use Haidt’s analogy, the rider (our conscious part) is the advocate of the elephant (our non-conscious part), and does its best to find justifications for its behaviour. The elephant leans in one direction, and the rider looks for reasons to do so.

    From your point of view, Vacula was wrong and needed to apologise. From his viewpoint, he has been hounded down by rabid feminists, and if anything, he now even more strongly believes in the “male” cause.

    To make a connection, we need to understand the other person. It’s very difficult to connect when believing that the other is wrong, and we are right. Once discover the needs behind our own (re)actions, and look for the other person’s needs behind their actions, we can build a connection, and through that connection, we will grow closer.

    Growing closer implies softening of both positions, not one person adopting the position of another. That is capitulation, and no-one can be sure enough of their position to expect capitulation of the others. In other words, look for what links us rather than what divides us.

    None of us has a monopoly on the truth. And in matters of human relations, where science is not really capable of shining its cold light, when there are two opposing viewpoints, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

  40. says

    Can we clear something up? Kelly Damerow told me personally that she was aware of who Justin was and of the things he had done PRIOR to his appointment. IOW, the SCA had vetted him. They didn’t care. The activism he had done was more important than the bad judgment and sexism he had exhibited towards women. He was given a probationary period of four weeks in which to prove he could restrain himself. It was at that point the announcement was made.

  41. says

    Stephanie Zvan @50

    Ok.

    Noelplum99 @48

    Great point m8. Pleased to see someone looking at this from a dispassionate objective perspective – couldn’t have said it better!

    Jim (np99)

  42. hjhornbeck says

    permanganater @ 38

    I was sitting on the fence prior to this JV episode but the sheer, bald-faced reinvention, lying and four-legs-good-two-legs-bad-lynchathon has me thorougly disgusted.

    Where’s the lie? Zvan’s petition linked to specific actions of Vacula, backed up by evidence. Are you arguing he didn’t post to A Voice For Men? Are you arguing he didn’t post Amy’s address? And it’s tough to lynch someone you’d be willing to co-operate with in future. From the original post, no less:

    Vacula, the moment you recognize your misdeeds and make an effort to reach out to us, I’ll personally forgive you and give you another chance. Not a chance for leadership, but a chance to work together to be atheist activists without rending our communities over gender politics.

    The only thing that seems invented is your disgust.

  43. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    @Illuminati I doubt that you can be so positive that I am tone trolling or that I do not criticize bigoted views.

    I assume this is meant to be directed at me. I can be so positive that tone trolling is all you ever post on any blogs here.

    I believe that one can only be a troll if one is only concerned with causing outrage.

    Incorrect.

    I never want to stir the shit but I am a cocky person who thinks that people should care what I say so I go on blogs and twitter to spout off on things I find distasteful/tasteful.

    LOL very very incorrect. But thanks for the hilarious and pitch-perfect display of privilege. Couldn’t have aped it better myself.

    I do think tone matters though because a poor tone can make it impossible for the recipient to accept the arguments of their opposition. It’s human nature to go on the defensive when our character or like is attacked and to completely miss all cogent arguments lying therein. So yes, tone matters.

    It might have helped you to have learned what tone trolling is before going off on this entirely unrelated tangent.

  44. says

    I don’t want what EllenBeth said @52 to be buried under noelplum’s odd self-conversation.

    Can we clear something up? Kelly Damerow told me personally that she was aware of who Justin was and of the things he had done PRIOR to his appointment. IOW, the SCA had vetted him. They didn’t care. The activism he had done was more important than the bad judgment and sexism he had exhibited towards women. He was given a probationary period of four weeks in which to prove he could restrain himself. It was at that point the announcement was made.

    They knew what he was about before they accepted him. Others (like Staks) can still claim ignorance, but not the folks who said yes to his nomination.

  45. says

    billopenthalt, yes, changing people’s minds is hard because of the reasons you mentioned, and, yes, it can often be helpful to find a way to make concessions to one’s opponents in order to make it easier for them to make concessions to you. But that doesn’t mean that this:

    when there are two opposing viewpoints, the truth is somewhere in the middle

    is true, or useful. Sometimes one party really is completely right and the other one really is completely wrong. Sometimes both parties are completely wrong and the truth lies off in some other direction entirely. And even if it’s only the case that one party is mostly right and the other one is mostly wrong, while it might be technically correct that the truth lies somewhere in between, it’s still fairly insulting to the mostly-correct party to represent the truth as being just vaguely “somewhere in the middle”.

    There have been some bad things done in this situation by people who thought they were supporting FtB. I’m not going to deny that. That doxing, or hoax-doxing of Justin’s parents by S was one of them. But that doesn’t mean that it’s reasonable to ask the offended parties to soften their stance on the terribleness of his behaviors just because somebody else did a terrible thing to him. The most you can reasonably ask is that whatever nasty things that were done to him be acknowledged forthrightly and un-dismissively, and I think that’s been done at least to some extent. But even if it *hasn’t* been done, it doesn’t absolve him of the responsibility to acknowledge and attempt to atone for his own terrible behaviors.

  46. birdterrifier says

    @Illuminati Maybe you’re right that I don’t know how to spot and label trolls as well as you do.

    Kudos to Anne C. Hanna and billopenthalt for being reasonable in general.

  47. says

    noelplum99, here’s the thing. Coming into a conversation and staging an argument with yourself that serves no purpose but to introduce the idea that someone else did something wrong just isn’t funny. In fact, it’s the opposite. Once you’ve done that, you have to be really good to lighten the mood. You’re not that good.

  48. billopenthalt says

    @Anne C. Hanna
    I agree that there are matters where one party is totally wrong, e.g. AGW deniers, or Creationists. They are wrong because science “shone its cold light” in their direction.

    I was talking about human relations, where it’s difficult to determine objectively who is “right” and who is “wrong”. In fact, in those matters there is no right or wrong. We do know that we’re really good at finding good reasons for our own cause, and good reasons against the cause of people we don’t like. And we do this while thinking we’re the most objective persons this side of the Equator. Yet we’re not.

    You think Vacula (my spell checker suggested Dracula :) exhibited “terrible behaviour” and he thinks the same of “his detractors”. We know he’s into “man’s rights advocacy”, which is anathema to those of us who feel we’re living under the patriarchy. What interests me is if we can find some common ground, or at least an understanding of each other’s positions. If not, we risk replacing religious divisions by gender divisions. I want to get rid of us/them divides of all ilk.

    What do you think of the following:

    Clearly, many people suffer because of injustices linked to race, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, etc. Some of these injustices are institutional, some are ancient, some recent. Some of these people are more on the male side of the gender spectrum, some more on the female side, some in-between. Some are on the milk side of the colour spectrum, some on the coffee side, and some are café au lait. But before they are carriers of all kinds of labels, they are individuals, and their suffering doesn’t depend on the labels we stick on them.

    I don’t want to judge or label other people, because that’s the first step on a slippery slope leading to the horrors we see around us.

  49. says

    billopenthalt, I do indeed think that some of the stuff that Justin’s done is pretty terrible. I think it’s pretty terrible because I’ve paid attention to it. I’ve also paid attention to the defenses of it, and I’ve not found those defenses terribly convincing. I’m not the only one who’s come to this conclusion, either.

    So what exactly do you suggest all of us should do to find common ground with him and his defenders at this point? Where do you believe that common ground ought to lie? In my opinion, its coordinates include a fair bit of contrition from him, which has not yet been forthcoming. They may also include condemnation by his opponents of whatever inappropriate things were done to him, but, as I mentioned before, that’s already been happening, at least to some extent. What, specifically, do you expect from Justin’s opponents that is not already taking place? And if you can’t name specific things that they should be doing that they’re not doing already, then what’s the point of all this both-sides-ing?

  50. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    EllenBeth Wachs says:
    October 5, 2012 at 11:38 am ADT
    Can we clear something up? Kelly Damerow told me personally that she was aware of who Justin was and of the things he had done PRIOR to his appointment. IOW, the SCA had vetted him. They didn’t care. The activism he had done was more important than the bad judgment and sexism he had exhibited towards women. He was given a probationary period of four weeks in which to prove he could restrain himself. It was at that point the announcement was made.

    Oh, HELLO. Seriously? I did not know that. I am. Wow. I am really, really having a tough time holding onto my support of SCA.

  51. says

    From his viewpoint, he has been hounded down by rabid feminists, and if anything, he now even more strongly believes in the “male” cause.

    So? He’s wrong.

    To make a connection, we need to understand the other person.

    I don’t want to make a connection with Justin Vacula. If being part of the atheist/skeptic movement requires making a connection with Justin Vacula, then fuck the atheist/skeptic movement, there are other movements with perhaps more theists but damned fewer sexists.

  52. says

    Stephanie Zahn @62

    Let me give you a little ‘protip’ in the art of having a written exchange. Often, when you leave a comment or remark, with a little thought, one can anticipate possible responses. At this point you can choose to do nothing, or you can address the response in advance of it being made (as i did in my initial comment).
    The advantage of the latter is that is usually saves at least one round of messages (and demonstrates it is something you have already considered to boot).
    The downside is that it leaves you open to some wit informing you that you appear to be having a conversation with yourself, which you ably did. Well done.

    Jim (np99)

  53. oliviersantt says

    The guy in unbelievable. He poses as a martyr of a conspiracy, reverting all the deeds of MRA bigots and the like:

    Instead of mainly focusing on issues such as religious privileging, defending the separation of church and state, strengthening the secular community, engaging in ‘real-life activism,’ improving the perception of secular individuals, or even constructively discussing how to constructively guide others who may err – a ‘you are with us or against us’ attitude is coupled with personal vendettas and whispering campaigns taking the stage regardless of concerns about the cohesion of the secular movement.
    Organizations are attacked, leaders of major organizations are condemned, prominent authors are boycotted, and ‘real-life’ careers are targeted as a result of disagreements or misunderstandings which likely could have been resolved by a simple telephone call…or ignored. Many have left the secular community, similarly vacated leadership positions of national organizations, or have been discouraged from participating as a result. This is not a constructive and positive way to address conflict.

    Looks to me he’ll never learn anything from that: he blames his behaviour on others.

  54. Bill Openthalt says

    @64:
    I’m looking for ways to bring people together. Religion divides people into us/them camps, and I see the exact same thing happening here. This saddens me.

    @66:

    So? He’s wrong.

    I see that you are convinced that the people who acted to remove Vacula from his SCA perch are not rabid (I suppose you do agree they are feminists :). I also see that you don’t want to have anything to do with him, and that you’re so viscerally disgusted by Mr Vacula you’d rather believe in $DEITY than being “forced” to connect with him. Fine, I never asked you to reach out to Vacula.

    But if we’re going to convince him and his ilk to take a second look at their convictions, understanding what needs they are trying to meet is a prerequisite for suggesting alternative strategies. Undoubtedly, he’ll need a lot of empathy before he will be secure enough to reconsider what seem to be very deep-seated beliefs.

    As I said above, my goal is to try and remove us/them feelings, and see if it is possible to bring people together.

  55. says

    Bill, if you want to help stop the us/them-ing, you might want to talk with those who “them!” an entire half of the human population and who when called out on it just up the ante.

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