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Matt, I really think you owe them an apology.

Hi Matt. Long time fan, first time writer. Never called into your show, given your rule about preferring theists because they’re more interesting call fodder; and the corollary rule about not acting like a Poe.

I’ve listened to a great number of episodes of The Atheist Experience, and while I don’t have the full scope of the four hundred odd shows you’ve put on, I’ve certainly come to understand your frustration when you receive the same questions over and over again. When you hear the third caller on the same show bring up the ontological argument or TAG or Pascal’s Wager, I feel every ounce of your cringe and I fully agree with every time you hang up on a person who simply will not engage in the points honestly.

It’s gotten to the point where some folks have nicknamed that sort of battle fatigue “Matt Dillahunty Syndrome”, where you need to stop repeat arguments dead in their tracks because they’re a waste of everyone’s resources, and your own are worn thin from past battles. This isn’t a new phrase made unique for this occasion — it is one I’ve seen in the wild for at least a year, and a recognition of the psychological damage that long-term trolling can actually take.

I respect that you’ve suffered from that, and had to be quick to hang up on abusive or potentially-abusive callers. I’ve seen your pattern recognition kick into overdrive where I didn’t detect a hint of abusiveness from the person, but trusted your judgment that you were making the right call for the situation, since you’ve been doing it for ten years, and you, after all, were the guy who would have to slog through it right then.

And I’ve seen the damage others have taken from those situations, where chipping damage has pushed Jen McCreight out of blogging, and forced Greta Christina to focus on her book, and Surly Amy to focus on her art, and forced Ophelia Benson out of speaking engagements. I’ve seen good people say really stupid things exactly once as a result of battle fatigue, and pay exorbitantly high prices for those solitary indiscretions. I’ve seen the real bad guys — who go out of their way to damage people who don’t deserve it for reasons other than their antisocial behaviour — incur absolutely no splashback themselves and go completely unpunished for far too long. And when they finally are called to account for their behaviours, the people demanding restitution are accused of being divisive or driving a witch hunt. I’ve seen too much injustice and too many good people fall to chipping damage by trolls.

So, I hope you can understand why so many folks feel betrayed by your so-called “concern trolling” a battle-fatigued forum about someone who got banned.

They really wanted to smooth things over with you, because of all the respect they — WE — have for you. So they delayed taking action while they tried to smooth things out. This delay cost the moderators of the forum very heavily in their users’ trust. The problem with your putting on a second account to make your points is not solely that you used a second account to prove that trust isn’t necessary about how right your points are. I mean, you obviously believe in how self-evidently right your discussion on how to treat strangers with less suspicion happens to be. I don’t know that it IS that self-evidently right.

The forum’s participants are threatening to leave in droves because the moderators screwed up in not treating your, frankly, rather offensive behaviour in advocating for someone who’d been banned, with the same sternness they’d come to expect from their community leaders. By a number of accounts, this person was banned perfectly reasonably — I know you’ve explained here that you feel it was less than merited, that the person was just overly snarky, but the people running the forum disagree. What happened here is like if you’d hung up on someone who may have had a valid point but just got on the wrong side of your tolerance for personal invective, then hung up on the next person who yelled about how you shouldn’t have hung up on the previous caller, but then lo and behold it turned out the second one was a very popular and respected community leader that even you look up to. So you waffle and bicker and commiserate instead of sticking to your guns, and the people depending on you to help provide a safe space for conversation in the manner of your choosing tune out because now the show is an hour of bickering about who gets to call in and who doesn’t, instead of actual theological debates.

Telling someone that they’re doing something wrong and having them listen earnestly does, in fact, require a level of trust from that person that you’re not simply some random troll. This is why the situation changed when you “took off the mask” and revealed that the Curious account was actually you. Especially when pattern recognition dictates that the overwhelming majority of the time that an argument is framed the way you framed it, it actually is a troll. By all appearances, you are examining a forum under stress, recognizing a weak point in that they are battle fatigued, and testing that battle fatigue in order to chastise them for not reacting appropriately as though they were still fresh. This is a very young forum — how long has it been around? A month? Two? I could find the exact dates, but it doesn’t matter. It’s barely crawling. And you’re kicking it for not being resilient enough to handle a troll or two, when the whole point of the place is to provide safe harbor with less of the usual trolling you get everywhere else on the intertubes. They have barely started building a coherent and unique userbase. And you’ve violated their ability to police the place by attacking — intentionally or not — their weak point in an effort to, what, make them stronger?

What’s more, in this specific case, you’ve really gone out of your way to advocate someone’s cause after they’ve been banned, doing far more damage to both yourself and the forum in the process than if you’d have approached a moderator privately and pointed out the ways their policies could be improved. With your real name, and your reputation, people would have been able to put aside the need to moderate heavily against concern trolls and rules-lawyering and undercutting forum moderators’ authority. Your points might be self-evidently right (and we can’t see them, obviously, because they’ve been lost to the deletion, so we have only your word that the elision of your identity did not also require modifying your arguments), but some things actually do require a level of trust to back them up. Not because these people are insufficiently introspective, but because these people absolutely must eye any newcomer who demands sweeping changes to their policies, policies built out of self-defense, with a modicum of suspicion — which you said was understandable, but wrong. I contend that it was not wrong at all. Self defense is decidedly not wrong, when the people who might claim to you to feel shunned are actually actively probing for weak points and trying to waste the forum’s resources.

I am concerned that the longer you do not apologize for misunderstanding the stress these people are under — stress in trying to build themselves a protected forum for more “advanced students”, where they don’t have to worry about random outsiders triggering them or abusing them or wasting their resources on 101-level discussions over and over again — the more the damage will accumulate and aggregate. I get that you’re still feminist, that you’re still a social justice advocate, that you’re still pro-everything-atheist-plus. But in your not living a life where you’re bullied every day just for trying to build a nice quiet spot for you to have discussions with like-minded folk, you just played the role of the guy calling up to demand why that other guy got hung up on. Your ability to assume good faith on the part of every person calling in (and your pattern recognition in weeding out those calling in bad faith) is a facet of the privilege you hold in that the people jumping to talk to you are, in fact, mostly calling to talk to someone in good faith.

But the internet is different, and the person who got banned for trolling might also be sockpuppeting and be simultaneously a trusted and beloved forum participant. The newbie asking concern-troll-style questions might (and often is) just a troll looking to damage the place, even where there’s an off chance that they’re arguing in good faith. Or worse yet, a big name and a hero to these people whose identity is important in establishing trust.

As you are.

You absolutely had a good point about providing a path to challenge bans, or first-time posts, or about rules for making second accounts (that aren’t used to sockpuppet). In fact, I agree with all of those points completely. So did the forum moderators, apparently. But the means by which you brought it to their attention is a violation of their trust in you, and more importantly in their trust in their moderators to handle outside cases like this one.

Furthermore, I am not dissuaded from my concern that you got suckered in by someone trying only to damage the place, who was banned for perfectly legitimate reasons. Considering that original person who approached you, “Skep tickle”, was by their own admission posting for the purposes of challenging the place rather than to participate (Slymepit link, where “Skep tickle” has been welcomed with open arms), these fears are very well founded. This, by the way, is probably also why people think Curious was their sockpuppet questioning their own ban after being correctly and justifiably thrown out on their ear.

And this person had apparently approached a number of others at the same time, including Rebecca Watson. That earns the title of troll all by itself. Shopping around looking for people on top to go circular-firing-squad and damage a part of the movement that these trolls couldn’t damage themselves, it would seem. Stephanie’s seen this sort of troll herself very recently. I am concerned that this troll tactic of divide and conquer worked here, and that you’re doing tons of splash damage in entrenching yourself in how self-evidently right your position is that you’re failing to see the multiple tiers of abuse that are happening — abuse that you’re providing apologetics for. And I’m not even sure you’re aware you’re facilitating that sort of abuse, here. If this tactic gains in steam because it worked on you, succeeded in doing great damage to that forum with you as the troll’s unwitting pawn, you’re doing us all a great disservice.

I know you, from dealings on the back channel and from your public face, to be introspective and thoughtful about these things. I know you’re a good man. I know you want to do right by everyone. And I know the inclination to dig in, to demand that people accede to your superior understanding of the situation. I’ve felt it. I’ve lashed out when I should have listened. I’ve been decidedly unheroic. And I’ve apologized contritely for it when it happened.

Please, PLEASE, don’t dig in this time. Pause your righteous indignation, that fire your fans know so well, and chew over what people are saying to you. They deserve it.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad the structural changes got made, and I’ll probably recommend one myself–privately. However, if Skep tickle was there only to resist the “Kool-Aid”, and if Matt went in only to get himself an answer, I think the pattern detectors were working just fine. Neither one of them was contributing directly to the health of the discussion–the purpose of the forum–itself. Each was focused on their own concerns. I think most good mods are going to call that a fair cop.

  2. kamsly... says

    Lots of good points here Jason. I too have been a great admirer of Matt’s, so this whole thing has been a massive disappointment.

    I’ve modded forums before. Even on a relatively tame board it can be quite stressful when you often have to use your lunch break to try to mediate squabbles, always seeking the right words to sound fair and keep peace and make sure the good of the forum is maintained. Especially hard to do, when you think someone is wrong and a total fuckwitted tool, but you can’t say that because you’re the mod. The voice of reason. People are counting on you.

    And everyone who gets modded doesn’t like it. Never ever did someone read one of my carefully crafted private messages to bring it down a notch, take a breather, edit something out of their post and say, “Hey, thanks man. I got a little crazy there. I think I’m right but I shouldn’t have said what I said.” Never once.

    Let’s not forget the armchair moderators. Especially because that’s what Matt is doing here. Standing on the sidelines and taking potshots at their modding and their decision making. Easy to do when you haven’t been in their foxhole, getting fucking shelled every day for weeks. They are trying their best to make that forum live up to it’s vision, and it’s bad enough they’re catching shit from the trolls, but now some allies are piling on, too?

    Matt you were wrong to make a sock puppet. And when your post got deleted, you were snarky and rude about it. I read that thread. If you would have done that on a board I modded, I would have done the same thing. Whatever you were trying to accomplish, it was a bad plan. Executed poorly. You should back down and apologize. Or how ’bout this: Volunteer to mod with them for a week. Get a taste of how it is for them, and then see how you feel about someone complaining about a righteous ban.

  3. says

    Jason, I cannot tell you how much this means to me. TO all of us moderating. It’s such a relief to know we do still have some support on this.

    We have indeed made structural changes, because right or wrong, Matt’s actions did expose a problem with our procedures. We recognize this, and we aim to do better.

    One quibble: members haven’t left “in droves”. We have had one valued and beloved member leave over this, and a few others said that they were considering it. That is enough damage, though. And it’s tragic.

    Nonetheless, thank you again, Jason.

    And Stephanie, please, please feel free to contact us if you feel there is another change that needs making. We may not agree, but we’ll listen.

  4. Z says

    You absolutely had a good point about providing a path to challenge bans, or first-time posts, or about rules for making second accounts (that aren’t used to sockpuppet). In fact, I agree with all of those points completely. So did the forum moderators, apparently. But the means by which you brought it to their attention is a violation of their trust in you, and more importantly in their trust in their moderators to handle outside cases like this one.

    And this is why Wikipedia has an explicit policy guideline: “Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point”.

  5. skeptixx says

    Whether or not Skep tickle ‘was there only to resist the “Kool-Aid”…” without “contributing directly to the health of the discussion–the purpose of the forum–itself” is one of those assessments that depends hugely on the lens you wear. My perspective is that of Skep tickle, as I am she.

    Skep tickle’s 15 or so posts before the “overly snarky” last one (about litmus tests and examining the Kool-Aid before drinking it) included some probing in discussions about the forum whether the actuality of Atheism+ matched the ideal or goal in the eyes of the members & mods, because there seems to at least some observers and new members to be a significant discrepancy. (Likely another one of those assessments influenced by one’s lens.)

    Skep tickle questioned whether it would really be permitted in the “safe space” of the Atheism+ forum to say that [one group of people] was inherently inferior to [another group of people], as seemed to be suggested (by a couple of non-mods) in one of the discussions about moderation; one person finally said he/she didn’t think it would be okay but as a non-mod his/her opinion didn’t matter. No mod weighed in on that question, that I saw.

    Skep tickle questioned whether the Welcome! page at the entrance to the Atheism+ forum might in fact be giving visitors who might then sign on new members the wrong impression, and therefore contributing (inadvertently) to the “troll problem”, because of its description of the forum as a space (emphasis added) “for people…to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues, like sexism, racism, GLBT issues…”. Yet the application of skepticism to many topics is clearly not (currently, or recently) welcomed at the forum about “everything”, especially (again, at least through some lenses) not about “social issues”.

    Skep tickle asked what “safe space” was intended to mean, since participants seem to have different expectations and the “troll problem” seems to be largely seen as one of aggressors challenging the safe space. If the group is not clear on what a “safe space” is, how can such a space be created and maintained? Who is it to be safe for? For what purpose, from what challenge or harm, in order to do what? Skep tickle suggested restricting access to all or part of the forum, so that those who had passed some type of review (including potentially being recommended by trusted members) could have a space safe from voyeurs and trolls; that would take more mod effort up front, but presumably much less effort downstream in policing behavior and weeding out the troublemakers.

    Skep tickle also went poking around the internet, including in the Slymepit, to see what evidence she could find to support the claims against Justin Vacula. She missed the SPLC page critiquing AVfM, but (as she said in that thread), that didn’t really matter because in fact he didn’t “write for” AVfM; they posted (for him) a post he wrote for his own blog, when he couldn’t air it on his own site because of the DMCA claim. (It’s up on his own blog, now.) Skep tickle indicated in that thread that she would welcome any links to evidence to support the claims about him favoring harassment, etc, etc; as of this time, none have been posted.

    Skep tickle is an admin at another atheist site, IRL the director of a women’s clinic, and a scientist by training, so has had some reason to think about behavior and expectations online and IRL, creatining and maintaining safe spaces (for women seeking health care, at least), hiring, and skeptically evaluating claims.

    Whether or not there’s any chance of that overlapping with “contributing directly to the health of the discussion–the purpose of the forum–itself” may depend on what lens one looks through.

  6. piegasm says

    Jason, I want to echo Flewellyn and say how much I appreciate this. It really saddens me to see Matt doubling down on his behavior and I hope he comes around.

  7. says

    Your link to ‘skep tickle’s post should be
    http://www.slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=73&start=15700#p17296

    Is it possible to be friendly to people coming into the A+ forum with the plan to ‘prove’ all A+’ers are shits? Not just a presumption of innocence until they go too far – which I’d agree ‘skep tickle’s comment was clearly couched in anti-A+ rhetoric. Rather than a ‘thunderdome’ thread lock them to a ‘kill the trolls with kindness’ thread. Until and unless they actually show willingness to join in or go full-out troll.

  8. says

    This is an example of how someone can be technically right and STILL be dead wrong… which is one of the hardest things to apologize for. Matt may have had all sorts of useful things to say, but his entire approach was completely wrong.

  9. masakari2012 says

    Furthermore, I am not dissuaded from my concern that you got suckered in by someone trying only to damage the place, who was banned for perfectly legitimate reasons. Considering that original person who approached you, “Skep tickle”, was by their own admission posting for the purposes of challenging the place rather than to participate (Slymepit link, where “Skep tickle” has been welcomed with open arms), these fears are very well founded.

    Skep tickle’s original post was not offensive, nor was it an attack. It was reasonable questions based on the facts (not FTB’s interpretations of it, manufactured to fit your narrative). No one at the time knew what Skep tickle’s intentions were. But they assumed the worse, attacked Skep tickle, and received well-deserved attacks back. I understand FTB’s war strategy. I’ve seen it in action for the last year. If someone posts in disagreement, attack them. Once they retaliate, attack them for retaliating, then use that as an excuse to ban them. It’s the same old story with dissenters to FTB and A+.

    Why would Skep tickle be wrong with “challenging the place”? Are you trying to say that A+ doesn’t want criticism? Well, of course you are. Anyway, thank you A+. The more A+ tighten their grip, the more people will slip through their fingers.

    Carry on.

  10. says

    I disagree. I think the apology is owed to Matt if anyone has to explicitly apologize…ultimately I don’t think anyone is owed an apology. An action was taken, bans were given, the end.

    If you want truly safe spaces you’ll probably want to make those parts hidden from the rest of the world, only allowing members to them based on post count or something.

    You also don’t know what was in the initial, (accidently) deleted post anymore than anyone else does aside from Matt and Flewellyn, right?

  11. says

    Awesome stuff,
    You really can’t help yourselves. If I owned a company manufacturing shit-stirring spoons I’d be sending my best sales team round to visit you guys.

    Personally, as an active opponent of atheism+ this all brings a smile to my face, you are your own worst enemies, unable to resist an opportunity to claim another scouts badge for victimhood, even when it involves shooting yourselves in the foot.

    The only person I feel really sorry for is Matt. Poor bastard has been actually out and about on YT and on his show advocating for atheism+ whilst 99% of its membership get a nosebleed if they get within ten miles of a dissenting voice. If I was Matt I’d be feeling pretty hard done by now and probably somewhere between a rock and a hard place.

    Hopeless, headless but awesome to observe.

    Jim (np99)

  12. says

    He’s right, but he’s wrong. Got it.

    What this boils down to is basic rudimentary professionalism. Yes, TAE has struggled with this in the past, but they have ongoing efforts to improve themselves.

    They get a ton of trolls and cranks. How do they handle it? They start with an “innocent until proven guilty” on each call – even if the chatroom is screaming about how it’s obviously a fake call. The point is that you don’t want to turn off people who are legitimate.

    That stands regardless of the abuse. That what it means to handle these things professionally.

    I’m in full support of feminism and the original idea of Atheism+. Ironically, my position is that many of those implementing it are “technically right, but their entire approach is completely wrong”, mostly for the above reason.

    There’s a reason why the group has earned itself a reputation for banning people who disagree with them, and it’s shame to see what was a good idea implode on itself.

    If the goal is to create a save haven, then I suppose suppressing any disagreement or concern is the way to go – so at least in that respect it’s being successful.

    But to blame Matt for the fallout is just fucked up. He was correct, and the policy was changed. The fact is that the moderates fucked up badly. One shouldn’t need a reputation to voice a concern, because if you start banning anyone who has a concern, just because others abuse it, you’re going to be kicked away legitimate people.

    If this thing has gotten to the point where it’s blaming a full supporter that everyone knows is on their side for the mistakes the moderators made… this thing has deep DEEP problems.

  13. says

    A more recent member of the moderation team from the forums (I’ve extensive experience on phpBB forums elsewhere).

    Thanks very much for writing on this, Jason; Matt wandered in like a loose cannon waving his enormous unchecked privilege around, and has caused a whole lot of damage. His reaction on the video? “Too damn bad.” What sheer arrogance. What a demonstration of how not to be an ally. I suppose Wally Smith’s little social experiment in using ‘anonymous accounts’ a few years ago was just “too damn bad” as well?

    I’m extremely disappointed in Matt Dillahunty’s attitude; he’s sunk profoundly in my estimation.

  14. says

    He’s right, but he’s wrong. Got it.

    I detect sarcasm in this, which is very strange. Are you saying that someone can only be wholly right or wholly wrong over the course of a social interaction?

    Aside from the general social responsibilities we all have, the responsibility of a moderator of a forum is to the forum’s participants. Because a forum is a space for discussion, the participants of that forum are the people who engage in discussion. More specifically, they are the people who engage in discussion on the topics the forum has been set up to support and in the parts of the forum that each topic has been set up to support.

    That is the business of a forum. Supporting that means a moderator is being professional. Moderators do not need to make any commitment to people who are using but not participating in the forum, no matter how entitled those people feel to use he forum for their own purposes.

    noelplum99, your gleeful hostility is noted.

  15. julian says

    re #12

    That’s complete and utter bullshit. Moderators aren’t the general populace of a forum. They don’t get to snap constantly, they don’t get to be pissy at everyone and they don’t get to be snide. They’re moderators and their responsibility is to manage the discussions taking place.

    If there are concerns, fears, ect it’s their responsibility to assuage. This doesn’t only mean banning trolls. They have to be seen as impartial and fair by everyone who might become involved in the discussions. This is why they should be careful about weighing in on way or another during most discussions.

    So yes, Dillahunty acted obnoxiously. He shouldn’t have. He shouldn’t have tried this covert hing. But a moderator should not have handled that by blasting him on the spot. Moderators don’t get to claim stress as an excuse for failures. If you’re going to ban someone do it but don’t rub it in. Don’t tear them down. Don’t mock and belittle them as you show them the door.

  16. hjhornbeck says

    julian @13: Have you read the thread at all? From the OP:

    I know you, from dealings on the back channel and from your public face, to be introspective and thoughtful about these things. I know you’re a good man. I know you want to do right by everyone. And I know the inclination to dig in, to demand that people accede to your superior understanding of the situation. I’ve felt it. I’ve lashed out when I should have listened. I’ve been decidedly unheroic. And I’ve apologized contritely for it when it happened.

    Please, PLEASE, don’t dig in this time. Pause your righteous indignation, that fire your fans know so well, and chew over what people are saying to you. They deserve it.

    I see no tearing. I see no call for him to leave. I do see a call for him to think more carefully, and offers of reconciliation.

  17. julian says

    Reading back my 14 at myself…

    That’s stupid. I know where those thoughts came from but they’re not nearly as absolute as I wrote them. Way too preachy and callous.

    Sorry again all.

  18. karmakin says

    What Jasper said.

    Matt wandered in like a loose cannon waving his enormous unchecked privilege around, and has caused a whole lot of damage.

    Oh HELLS no. What Matt did was exactly the opposite. He put away his privilege. He took his atheist celebrity status, put it in the locker, and tried to do something without it. That, in my books isn’t “waving enormous unchecked privilege” around. It’s exactly the opposite.

    But, I guess I understand where you’re coming from, if you reject/don’t understand the concepts of group/tribal privilege, like unfortunately so many seem to do. Doesn’t make you right of course.

    The reality is that there’s a major tribalism problem. it’s not unique to A+…in fact it tends to form in this sort of community. But it’s still a problem. It can never truly be a “safe space”, either internally or externally while that is going on.

    This conflict, I think, by and large was started by trolling*, and quite frankly more trolling isn’t going to fix it. I find it VERY unfortunate that IMO innocent 3rd parties are hit with shrapnel as well, and quite frankly, that’s what pisses me off about the whole thing.

    *Trolling being writing/acting in a way designed to incite emotional responses.

  19. says

    People, mostly but not only trolls and ‘pitters, seem to think that criticizing other people creates DEEEEEEP RIFTS! That’s not the case, at all, even a little bit. What creates the problem is when a person reacts to the criticism by doubling down on the behavior and acting like a bigger asshole.

    For example, if I call someone a “bitch” around here, the response will be “we don’t use that sort of language around here, and if you want to continue to comment here you won’t use that language either.” The correct response is to for me to say “sorry, won’t happen again” and then there’s no problem. A less reasonable but still acceptable response is for me to say “fine, I don’t like your rules and will not comment again” and I move on with my life… that’s a small rift, but in the scheme of the Internet it doesn’t mean anything.

    A not at all acceptable response is for me to say “No, I can use whatever language I like because of free speech” or call everyone here a bunch of c*nts, or obsessively track the people here and join or even create websites to attack the people here. That’s not reasonable behavior at all, and yet that’s what so many of the “critics” of FtB and A+ engage in, and it is ridiculous.

  20. says

    Why don’t you A+ people just add an interview process and vet people into you tight little club so that you can keep your little world ‘safe’ from all the boogie men/women out there? Something like 5 steps, where everyone can have a say to reject the newbie… :-)

    Personally I never liked in-group boards. Everyone walking lock step. Seems pointless and boring. A cult. This is fine if that’s what you want, but don’t pretend to be this welcoming group of critical, skeptical thinkers because the very nature of creating your little ‘safe’ space defeats the idea of this.

    My baseline is Hitchens, and his approach as outlined in his debate at Hart House in Toronto.

    Flame away….

  21. julian says

    This conflict, I think, by and large was started by trolling*, and quite frankly more trolling isn’t going to fix it. I find it VERY unfortunate that IMO innocent 3rd parties are hit with shrapnel as well, and quite frankly, that’s what pisses me off about the whole thing.

    That’s where I’m at right now. I don’t like what Dillahunty did or how he behaved. But making him out to be the only one who was wrong or the only person who messed up just isn’t right. The system we had in place couldn’t distinguish between an ally having a rough spat with us and a troll looking to tear us down.

    Obviously that’s an issue and not one we can fix by putting the responsibility on others to signal “friendly.” 1)They won’t know how. 2)The community will become more and more introverted. 3)We’ll end up with an inexcusable amount of friendly fire. 4)People will, rightly, want to avoid us for fear of being maligned for a small infraction or perceived failure on their part.

  22. says

    I watched Matt’s video explaining that he is not upset about the ban, but is upset about being asked to apologize.

    There is NOTHING that will make ANYONE dig in their heels more than demanding an apology – nothing at all.

    Giving explanations of why things went down the way they did, GIVING apologies where they are due and explaining why you and others might be upset is a very good thing.

    However, framing that within a demand for an apology is not going to be effective.

    Telling someone NOT to dig in their heels, is the best way to make sure they dig in their heels.

    That’s just how most humans work.

  23. says

    “So, I hope you can understand why so many folks feel betrayed by your so-called “concern trolling” a battle-fatigued forum about someone who got banned.”

    I think what Matt did was the opposite of trolling. Trolling is the intent to cause disruption and harm. Matt lacked that intent.

    Furthermore, if Matt had had the insight to delete his first account prior to attempting to prove A+ haters wrong, the mods would have no valid complaints to fall back on.

  24. Garthmaul says

    “Concern trolling” – Which is what the first five paragraphs are, according to the use of it. Anytime someone has a concern now, it’s labelled as that type of trolling. Ludicrous and out of hand. People need to stop over-labeling the troll thing.

    I’ve noticed how people say they have been ‘stressed’ or made to feel ‘unsafe’, or that this was some sort of horrendous vile act against the community. Or that the moderators didn’t act quick enough to ban him, so they could not bear another moment on the forum. Woe is me, etc.

    How hyper-sensitive to you have to be to feel this way? I can find no reasonable explanation why people would be this sensitive to a forum issue. Unless…unless! Of course…it’s because of Matt’s celebrity status and him openly talking about it that you’re afraid that it will give the A+ forum a bad name. Which I may note, it had anyway to outsiders because of the way the forum is presided over by heavy handed, quick to trigger moderators and overly sensitive users. There is a distinct feeling of an eggshell floor on that forum. And that is a problem.

    It is not a huge problem however. It is after all just a forum. One of many on the net. But it is just a forum.

    A+ has some good ideas. But the community is very unappealing.

    Also. And FtB does this too, ya’ll seem to love hanging your bans up like trophies, in lists. Much like Vlad the Impaler was reputed to do along the road to his land. I figure it was to scare off people in those days. In the modern age, all it seems to do is immortalize a ‘troll’ giving them the attention they wanted in the first place. For people into reason and social justice, there doesn’t seem to be much of that going on.

  25. Cipher says

    What Matt did was exactly the opposite. He put away his privilege. He took his atheist celebrity status, put it in the locker, and tried to do something without it.

    Except that he didn’t, partly because he can’t. He hid the fact that he had that privilege, he was capable the entire time of walking away from the effects of not having it, and in fact, when he felt he wasn’t being respected enough, that’s precisely what he did. Maybe he doesn’t feel like he was waving it in our faces, but intent is not magic, and he was.

    Giving explanations of why things went down the way they did, GIVING apologies where they are due and explaining why you and others might be upset is a very good thing.

    We tried that. He ignored it. Telling the rest of our community that we wouldn’t accept anything less than an apology was necessary for our mods to regain some of our trust, and for a lot of us, it’s been insufficient.

    That’s where I’m at right now. I don’t like what Dillahunty did or how he behaved. But making him out to be the only one who was wrong or the only person who messed up just isn’t right.

    And nobody is doing that. As Jason explains in his post, as the moderators explain in theirs, and as you well know, julian, some policies were changed as a result of Matt’s experience. He is, however, the only one who messed up, doubled down, then twisted the knife by telling those of us he hurt with his behavior that he didn’t care.

    The system we had in place couldn’t distinguish between an ally having a rough spat with us and a troll looking to tear us down.

    In the creation of a safe space, false positives are better than false negatives. People who want to be our allies ought to know that and ought to accept that gracefully. I trust I don’t actually have to spell out the Schroedinger’s Rapist parallel here.

  26. karmakin says

    @22: I did. Right at the end.

    Trolling being writing/acting in a way designed to incite emotional responses.

    Although that probably should be amended to writing/acting in a way designed to incite counter-emotional responses, that is, provoking a negative reaction.

    There are people who think that’s a legitimate debate tactic. And maybe it is. But the negative emotional reaction is going to hurt a lot of people. And that’s a bad thing.

    For what it’s worth the real reason why I think this sort of thing is awful especially in these contexts is that it presents social justice concerns as “negative” instead of “positive”. That we’re tearing down instead of building up. And that’s a much harder (read impossible) message.

    So this is making what I’m doing (I.E. working on convincing people that social justice concerns are correct) harder. That’s why it matters to me.

  27. SimonT says

    Seems to me, Matt wanted to prove to the critics of the A+ forums, who were claiming people were being arbitrarily banned just for posting stuff the mods didn’t like, that they were wrong.

    Instead, he ended up proving them right.

    I think the idea of Atheism+ is on the whole a good one, but when it is being run by a bunch of radical reactionaries who kick out anyone who doesn’t think, feel, agree, or believe exactly the same way about all the same things they do, then its doomed to failure (that is certainly the impression they give off).

  28. says

    Telling someone that they’re doing something wrong and having them listen earnestly does, in fact, require a level of trust from that person that you’re not simply some random troll.

    So basically, anyone who isn’t a member of the in-group is presumed to be acting in bad faith? Is A+ about working for social justice or about finding enemies and taking action against them?

  29. says

    For what it’s worth the real reason why I think this sort of thing is awful especially in these contexts is that it presents social justice concerns as “negative” instead of “positive”.

    Thank you. That’s very well said. This has been my essential concern with A+ all along.

  30. says

    Ace of Sevens,

    Is most social situations, don’t people have to earn the trust and friendship of other people? Why is that less important online rather than more important, when we have less to go on to judge a person’s demeanor, intentions, intended tone, etc.

  31. Pteryxx says

    I don’t like what Dillahunty did or how he behaved. But making him out to be the only one who was wrong or the only person who messed up just isn’t right.

    That’s not true, unless you specifically mean that Jason should have pointed out the mods’ mistakes and/or apologies more obviously than he did here:

    You absolutely had a good point about providing a path to challenge bans, or first-time posts, or about rules for making second accounts (that aren’t used to sockpuppet). In fact, I agree with all of those points completely. So did the forum moderators, apparently. [with link above]

    The mods have admitted mistakes, given apologies, and opened several threads for discussion of how to better handle it. What they haven’t done is a) accept ALL the blame, or b) change the level of vigilance. To address that further:

    The system we had in place couldn’t distinguish between an ally having a rough spat with us and a troll looking to tear us down.

    Then with all due respect, suggest any system that CAN distinguish between a well-meaning but hurtful ally and a troll abusing the presumption of good faith. Abusing good faith is THE primary tactic being used to get sneak attacks past the mods. Even so, the mods did alter their policy specifically so THEY will treat new commenters with greater faith, while simultaneously using the rest of their mod tools to ensure ordinary readers don’t have to bear the brunt of dealing with hurtful commenters:

    http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1521

    Our forum software, phpBB, has an unfortunate feature, whereby if a moderator doesn’t approve a post, it gets deleted from the database. Our moderators disapproved several posts, in at least one case by accident, which did not deserve this treatment. Therefore, we will no longer be using post approval as a moderation tool. It will only be used to block spam, flooding, and the blatant reappearance of banned users.

    and

    http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1615

    Finally: in the interest of being more welcoming to new users, we have adopted a policy for moderators and administrators of assuming good faith on the part of the new users, unless we have clear evidence of them being trolls, sockpuppets, or spammers. Under the scale of offenses outlined in Siliddar’s policy post, this would be “Grievous” level offenses. Except for those, we moderators and admins will follow the policy of assuming good faith for the first few posts [...]

    I want to stress something here! The policy of assuming good faith for new users, and trying to be welcoming to them, is required only for moderators and admins! We do not require or expect regular users to do this! We encourage those who feel up to welcoming people, to do so, and if you wish, and feel you have the necessary brainspoons, to assume good faith on the part of new posters, but we will not expect this of you, and we will not look down on anyone who doesn’t feel up to it.

    Saying “Just assume good faith more often” as many are doing is NOT a solution. It’s the problem. The ONLY system of sorts that’s any use at all in determining actual good faith is, and has been, whether someone chooses to acknowledge and apologize for doing harm, or doubles down.

  32. Pteryxx says

    So basically, anyone who isn’t a member of the in-group is presumed to be acting in bad faith? Is A+ about working for social justice or about finding enemies and taking action against them?

    I suggest re-reading ‘Schroedinger’s Rapist’.

  33. says

    karmakin #20:

    Oh HELLS no. What Matt did was exactly the opposite. He put away his privilege.

    Except, as Jason explained, this attempt to “put away his privilege” was itself an expression of Matt’s privilege.

    (The rest of your post is similarly-privileged rationalization and has thus been disregarded.)

  34. smhll says

    Oh HELLS no. What Matt did was exactly the opposite. He put away his privilege. He took his atheist celebrity status, put it in the locker, and tried to do something without it. That, in my books isn’t “waving enormous unchecked privilege” around. It’s exactly the opposite.

    He tried to “put away his privilege” but he failed. He went for an anonymous name (Curious), but he still acted like himself, a guy that’s used to being in charge and a guy who has a lot of credibility. (And his bottom line was that the amount of openness on his podcast is the right amount of openness for other people and that his decision should prevail on other people’s turf.) His first post under the anonymous name was, from the description, a long argument with a moderator on a public thread about banning the previous poster who had posted in support of Justin Vacula, but who may have gotten a couple of facts wrong. Moderators can see that the post was created *after* the ban, just to argue. Very commonly, this would be a sock puppet or a best friend recruited for backup. I think the moderators made a perfectly reasonable call.

    It’s generally bad etiquette to argue with moderators about a ban, right in the middle of a topic thread. It’s just not good for the flow of argument a long fight to happen in a narrowly focused thread. (This thread was about the petition.)

    Now it is possible that our collective biggest blind spot at A+ is people who find good snippets among the dross in the works of A Voice for Men haters like Paul Elam. That may be a devil’s advocating bridge too far. Elam is an intensely polarizing figure, considering the harmful things he has written about women and the hateful language in comments at his site. Any time we talk about MRAs, things are likely to get heated.

    Anyway, I barely know of Matt Dillahunty, but I like what he wrote in the series for Surly Amy about harassment of women atheists. (Especially his use of the phrase “cartoonish arguments” which made me happy ALL DAY.) I do sincerely believe that Matt wanted to show his friends and correspondents that they were badly pre-judging Atheism Plus and that we could “see reason” if talked to reasonably. And, I understand why he would be frustrated that a post that took him a long time to write was deleted in a way that makes it irretrievable.

    I also know that if Matt D felt like apologizing to the moderators for starting a detailed argument with the moderators in public and stating that he didn’t care about the forum rules, 27 guys would line up to call him a “mangina” or new variations on that. (It’s a choice for a man to be a feminist, but those of us with vaginas can’t really ever drop it as a part of our identities. No matter how harassed you are getting on our behalf, you have an option to opt out that we don’t have.)

    Matt and A+ are getting voluminous amounts of vigorous criticism from many of the same relentless folks. And these folks make strikingly repetitive arguments. And I am tired of them. I just don’t understand the flood of mostly male atheists who are irked that feminists are “doctrinaire” and think beating us over the head continually with their counter opinions (rarely backed up with scholarly support) is necessary to improve our character and make us think better. For, me it can be difficult to see the difference between philosophical interrogation and harassment. Is it dangerous for my character and my train of thought if more than half a day passes without me hearing the most simple criticisms of feminism repeated? And then defended when rebutted? Yikes.

    Since everyone loves to draw parallels with religion, this fear that women may have terrible ideas reminds me of the extra concern the older men in the church have for the possible sins of the curvacious young parishioners. Somehow, the older male congregants have to dwell, with great concern and detail, on the nature of those hypothetical female sins. Apparently women are super prone to sin, error and emotionalism. Got to watchdog them about that constantly; or else.

  35. says

    M.A. Melby #24:

    I watched Matt’s video explaining that he is not upset about the ban, but is upset about being asked to apologize.

    There is NOTHING that will make ANYONE dig in their heels more than demanding an apology – nothing at all.

    Giving explanations of why things went down the way they did, GIVING apologies where they are due and explaining why you and others might be upset is a very good thing.

    However, framing that within a demand for an apology is not going to be effective.

    Telling someone NOT to dig in their heels, is the best way to make sure they dig in their heels.

    That’s just how most humans work.

    By this logic all social justice activism is a waste of time, because it involves demanding a hell of a lot more than mere apologies.

  36. says

    Is most social situations, don’t people have to earn the trust and friendship of other people?

    Before you let them handle money or dangerous equipment, sure. Before you’ll listen to them? Plenty of people do this, but it’s generally a bad idea. Think of the Bush cabinet circa 2004 for a great example.

  37. Adam says

    As someone who is a complete outsider on this situation, I have to say this all seems extremely petty and a pathetic waste of time. Seriously.

  38. says

    Ace of Sevens,

    Before you let them handle money or dangerous equipment, sure. Before you’ll listen to them?

    There’s a difference between “listen to” and “take seriously”. And once you “hear” someone, or read their post, you can judge them based on that post. If you’re smart, you tread lightly and build up a positive reputation and good will with new people in social situations, you don’t lead with something controversial or confrontational and expect people to give you unearned respect and deference.

  39. Pteryxx says

    There is NOTHING that will make ANYONE dig in their heels more than demanding an apology – nothing at all.

    Look again. The OP: “I really think you owe them an apology”. How is that a demand?

    Lots of other people, paraphrased: “I won’t trust Dillahunty again unless/until he apologizes.” That’s not a demand either. That’s a statement of boundaries.

    Yes, if someone is going to commit to social justice, they need to get over this hangup about apologizing. Not everyone digs in their heels when they screw up, much less BECAUSE whoever they hurt dared to say so. Learning to take responsibility for your actions is a valuable skill.

  40. Cipher says

    Trolling being writing/acting in a way designed to incite emotional responses.

    That’s just silly – that’s all persuasive writing.

  41. smhll says

    Think of the Bush cabinet circa 2004 for a great example.

    I’m old. When they taught us the concept of “groupthink” in Social Studies class they used the Kennedy cabinet in the Bay of Pigs as the example.

    How open minded do I have to be about everything? Do I think that “Skep tickle” wrote egregious and ban-worthy things on the Vacula petition thread on A+, not necessarily. Has he since outed himself at the Slymepit as a non-neutral interrogator with a hostile agenda? Yes, clearly. Do I think the moderators are proven right — yes. Would I trust them and even allow them to be wrong — yes. Is it reasonable to expect anyone to be right all the time?

    I’ve read a few posts at A Voice For Men, I’ve read on the /r/MRA subreddit occasionally. I’ve clicked over to the Slymepit and Rationalia on occasion. I’m not living in a bubble.

    I’m just not sure what the value is in allowing lots of hostile interrogation to exist on the Atheism Plus forum . I know people fear a totalitarian state, but I don’t think this group has it’s hands on the levers of totalirian power.

    Many of the ideas raised against feminism are crude and ignorant. I’m kind of tired of them. How does it improve my life or anything else to listen to them over and over? Can we mark these post in an odd color or transform them to a tiny, tiny font to make them easier to ignore?

    Sometimes “dissent” is valuable, but is “opposition” valuable in a movement that’s trying to move? (I speak for myself, not the whole movement.)

  42. julian says

    Then with all due respect, suggest any system that CAN distinguish between a well-meaning but hurtful ally and a troll abusing the presumption of good faith.

    I never said welcome every new person with arms open and eyes shut. I don’t believe that’s helpful or likely to win new allies and readers. But being welcoming has never required that. Especially in forums devoted to education and debate.

    There more than anywhere else you have grounds for heavy handed moderation. Split off threads. Restrict users to certain parts of the boards. Lock threads if they’re becoming to hostile/triggering. Delete threads if there are issues with it.

    I realize these are all things that were already being done (in part anyway) but the mods could take it much further.

    Restrict all new comers to the welcome, general and education board like was suggested. Limit posting on education or A+ threads to prevent spamming, dog piling ect. Have definitive rules of discussion for the non 101 level discussions.

    I’ve never been a mod for a site with that much traffic so maybe I’m speaking from ignorance. But a heavy hand and less free form rules might make the environment better for everyone.

    Abusing good faith is THE primary tactic being used to get sneak attacks past the mods.

    I know it is and that’s what makes this so difficult to fix.

  43. julian says

    I’m just not sure what the value is in allowing lots of hostile interrogation to exist on the Atheism Plus forum .

    Me either. It’s pointless to have it as it just distracts from what everyone else wants to do.

  44. says

    Pteryxx:

    Yes, if someone is going to commit to social justice, they need to get over this hangup about apologizing. Not everyone digs in their heels when they screw up, much less BECAUSE whoever they hurt dared to say so. Learning to take responsibility for your actions is a valuable skill.

    Not just that, but people need to learn that everything isn’t a debate where you need to score points, or a competition that you have to win at any cost. Especially if you’re not one of the people directly harmed by the issues at hand, it is difficult to see that you being right or wrong on some detail is meaningless compared to the larger issue, and that the way you go about things matters as much as what point you’re trying to make.

    I see that someone has already latched onto the “right but wrong” idea and twisted it to mean something different from what I intended.

  45. smhll says

    Not just that, but people need to learn that everything isn’t a debate where you need to score points, or a competition that you have to win at any cost.

    Joe – Do you think there is a difference in how men and women are socialized about apologizing? I have a gut level feeling that its “a big deal” for a man to apologize to a woman, where as women apologize to men and to other women nearly as often as they blink or scratch their heads. (Some exaggeration here.)I don’t want to be gender absolutist, but I think there is some cultural conditioning.

    There is some value in taking non-threatening disagreements to private channels as some people find it easier to admit being wrong privately.

  46. asdf says

    Wouldn’t the smart move be to say:

    “Hey Matt, we don’t like how you approached this problem, but we’ve fixed it so let’s all move on. We’re all on the same team.”

    Nope engage victim mode and demand apologies.

  47. pete says

    I think the “sock puppeting” charge is a red herring; this would be just as much of a shitstorm if Matt had never made his first (non-anonymous) account.

    I also have a problem with the analogy being drawn between moderating a forum and answering phone calls on AETV. For one thing, it looks suspiciously like a “tu quoque” ad hominem, but even if it isn’t intended that way, it’s a poor analogy. On AETV, time is severely limited, and only one caller can speak at a time. Every minute spent on the phone with a troll or a poe actually takes away opportunities for other voices to be heard. This necessarily sets a very low threshold for how much benefit of doubt the hosts can reasonably extend. An online forum can well afford to err on the side of benefit of doubt; AETV cannot.

  48. karmakin says

    @smhill: For what it’s worth I do agree with you about the concept of personality or social privilege, and that people who are confident ARE privileged.

    That said, most people seem to disagree with us on this, and when put that way I suspect you probably do too.

  49. karmakin says

    @Julian:What I’ve seen happen for places that get effective safe spaces, is you put basically everything except for maybe an introductions thread behind a password wall where you need an invite/membership to get in.

  50. says

    #39

    Okay – not demanding –

    Expecting
    Asking for one with conditions
    Saying someone “should”

    -any of those-

    Publicly, in writing, asking for an apology is not going to get you one, unless the person you are asking the apology of tucks his tail between his legs.

    It’s a social status thing.

    The way this works in an equal way – is to offer and apology and say something to the effect of “that wasn’t cool man”.

    If the person reciprocates, you have progress. However, they have to decide how and when and if that happens.

    If you put social pressure on them, especially in a formal way that includes conditions (if you apology, then and only then, will we give you a cookie – I mean, get back on the forums) – it is an insult.

    I’m getting the same vibe from JT when he demanded (okay – asked for with conditions) an apology from Vacula. Even if the person you are talking about or to, really really should apologize, ASKING for one sets up a situation where the other person does not have a out that will save face. All the sudden, once it is asked for, there is shame in providing it.

    This is diplomacy. Even if you think everyone should just get over it, it is what it is.

    It reminds me of my friend who planned to ask his girlfriend to marry him. He had it all set up. It was going to be really romantic, and then a day or so before his plans were going to be put into action, she had “the talk” with him about where their relationship was going.

    Long story short – he had to STOP his plans because now it would be awkward and seem as though he was just giving into her demands instead of asking her to marry him because that’s what he wanted to do.

    It’s not exactly like that – but I’m telling you that ASKING for something sometimes completely changes the dynamic.

    If you watch this video from Matt, he seems pretty angry about being ASKED for an apology, and essentially nothing else that I can see. So, then JT decides to write a very long post ENTITLED “Matt, I really think you own them an apology”.

    It’s like – HEY you’re mad about that? Haven’t even had a chance to calm down? Let’s poke you with a stick!

  51. says

    smhll,

    I am NOT going to go there. I am actually going to not go there so hard that if “there” is the next town over, I’m going to wind up on another continent just to be safe.

    Maybe there’s social conditioning involved, there usually is. I think there’s also an element of Dillahunty confusing his position as “a leader WITHIN the atheist movement” and “a leader OF the atheist movement,” because his behavior seems very sort of top-down schooling of the new kids by the old guard. He didn’t engage honestly and openly about a concern he had, he decided he was going to teach the board moderators a lesson. The first way could have been a conversation among equals, the second way treats people like children who need instruction.

  52. says

    Publicly, in writing, asking for an apology is not going to get you one, unless the person you are asking the apology of tucks his tail between his legs.

    It’s a social status thing.

    [...]

    This is diplomacy.

    And my response is check your fucking privilege and can this bullshit social convention you call “diplomacy”.

  53. Pteryxx says

    Publicly, in writing, asking for an apology is not going to get you one, unless the person you are asking the apology of tucks his tail between his legs.

    It’s a social status thing.

    You do realize that the point of social justice is to give voice and fair treatment to people who lack social status ?

  54. says

    M. A. Melby,

    Why are you obsessed with coddling the feelings of the person who owes the apology? How about if I drive my car into your car, and if you yell at me then I claim I’m justified in not paying for the damage because you were rude to me? Shouldn’t you spare my feelings and apologize to me? Hell, I was in a car wreck too! Sure I caused it, but if you criticize me too harshly then really aren’t you to blame for some of it?

    In real life, you don’t get to do wrong and claim victimhood because your victims don’t defer to your greatness.

  55. Pteryxx says

    Okay, trying to point something out here:

    Even if the person you are talking about or to, really really should apologize, ASKING for one sets up a situation where the other person does not have a out that will save face. All the sudden, once it is asked for, there is shame in providing it.

    [...]

    Long story short – he had to STOP his plans because now it would be awkward and seem as though he was just giving into her demands instead of asking her to marry him because that’s what he wanted to do.

    I’m really hoping that’s a terrible choice of analogy on your part, and that’s not what you actually believe – that one person’s freedom or ego or “face” or whatever suffers when the other person involved makes their wishes or boundaries known or openly consents to the interaction. All this shame, pride, saving face business *presupposes* that the point of the interaction is status, not mutually benefit.

    It’s not exactly like that – but I’m telling you that ASKING for something sometimes completely changes the dynamic.

    And that’s a problem where social justice is concerned.

  56. karmakin says

    Uhhhh no. His intent was not to “teach the moderators a lesson”. His intent was to show nay-sayers that many of the fears and concerns about A+ were overblown and that the A+ community was open to friendly, well-meaning good faith discussion of various issues.

    That he was shown to be wrong is besides the point.

  57. says

    Why are you obsessed with coddling the feelings of the person who owes the apology? How about if I drive my car into your car, and if you yell at me then I claim I’m justified in not paying for the damage because you were rude to me? Shouldn’t you spare my feelings and apologize to me? Hell, I was in a car wreck too! Sure I caused it, but if you criticize me too harshly then really aren’t you to blame for some of it?

    This.

    M.A. Melby, Matt Dillahunty is standing on our foot. He needs to get the fuck off our foot.

  58. says

    M. A. Melby,

    Yes, because stated intent is all that matters. Not outcomes, not perception of other people, nothing matters but whatever Dillahunty declares to defend himself?

  59. Pteryxx says

    His intent was to show nay-sayers that many of the fears and concerns about A+ were overblown and that the A+ community was open to friendly*, well-meaning** good faith* discussion of various issues.

    *for certain subjective interpretations of ‘friendly’ and ‘good faith’.

    **intent isn’t absolution.

  60. says

    Joe – no, what I’m saying is that assuming intent and judging people by the assumed intent instead of the stated intent is wrong.

    You were not mentioning the outcome in your post specifically, you were essentially making an accusation of intent when there is evidence to the contrary (the stated intent).

  61. Pteryxx says

    But stated intent is not very strong evidence. In this situation, where stated intent is the primary mode of manipulation, it’s almost useless. See all the research on unconscious bias and the excuses “I’m not a racist but…” and “I never said I hated women”.

  62. julian says

    Yes, because stated intent is all that matters. Not outcomes, not perception of other people, nothing matters but whatever Dillahunty declares to defend himself? -Improbable Joe

    That is an incredibly unfair reading of what M A Melby. They’re not arguing intent is all that matters. Just that how we go about mending broken fences or calming fears and anger is important. There’s a huge difference.

    And that’s a problem where social justice is concerned. -Pteryxx

    And how we approach this problem is just as important. Responses that further galvanize parties aren’t helpful when what we’re dealing with are known allies with fears and concerns. There are times when being unrelenting is important and when making demands work but this isn’t one of those times.

    I don’t get why this is such a point of contention. Dillahunty hasn’t been dissuaded from the “good” of A+ or anything like that. He’s become disillusioned and critical of how the boards operate. What’s wrong with being diplomatic right now and trying to see all parties fears addressed?

  63. says

    M. A. Melby,

    My ultimate point is that when stated intent and perceived intent don’t match, and when the outcome turns out to be pretty negative, it is time to APOLOGIZE. Not double-down, not try to justify, not face-save and insist that you’re right and everyone else is wrong. You just apologize and move on. Not apologizing, going out of your way to refuse to apologize, tends to reinforce the assumption that the perceived intent is closer to the truth than the stated intent.

  64. says

    “How about if I drive my car into your car, and if you yell at me then I claim I’m justified in not paying for the damage because you were rude to me? Shouldn’t you spare my feelings and apologize to me? Hell, I was in a car wreck too! Sure I caused it, but if you criticize me too harshly then really aren’t you to blame for some of it?”

    Actually, I was in a similar situation. I was in a car accident, that was my fault, and my child was seriously injured. Nobody decided to harshly criticize me because the fact that my child could have died was more fucking important than whose fault it was.

    I suppose we should have had a fight about the fact that I had a stop sign and the driver of the other car was speeding around a corner and who should have done what and who should apologize to whom and have a huge fight?

    …or we could deal with the fact that there was a frickin’ car accident, and take care of what and who needs to be taken care of – and in the best scenario fix the damned intersection so it’s less likely to happen again.

    Thanks for the analogy.

  65. says

    julian, why is the A+ board required to be diplomatic, and Dillahunty is not? The board mods HAVE been diplomatic, Dillahunty has not responded in kind. Demanding more concessions from the wronged party doesn’t make any sense.

  66. quietmarc says

    Karmakin @20: I don’t think anyone’s challenged you on this point yet, but, you said:

    “Oh HELLS no. What Matt did was exactly the opposite. He put away his privilege. He took his atheist celebrity status, put it in the locker, and tried to do something without it. That, in my books isn’t “waving enormous unchecked privilege” around. It’s exactly the opposite. ”

    I don’t think you understand what privilege is, because it isn’t something one can just “put away.” Matt could -hide- his privilege, but he always had it, and we saw this during the big reveal when, after things went against him, he brandished his name and received different treatment (ge, getting a grace period so that people could talk things out) than someone without his privilege would have received.

    The ability to pick and choose when and how you receive benefits from your position is another aspect of privilege. People without privilege don’t have this option: they don’t get to put on a different hat whenever they feel like it and suddenly experience the world treating them differently.

    Maybe it’s nice when the prince pretends to be the pauper, to learn about “the other side” but he’s still a prince, will always be a prince, and will always benefit from his prince-ness the second he changes his clothes. The pauper will never have this option.

  67. julian says

    Ptreyxx, to be entirely frank, so what? Are you dealing with a misogynist right now? A racist who’s going to limit the participation of racial minorities in the group?

    No. You’re dealing with someone who has legitimate concerns abut how something is being run.

    You’re angry at how he behaved. I am too. Those feelings are personal and not something to drag someone into a fight over. Dillahunty has rebuked people speaking poorly of A+ since this went down. He’s been clear and unapologetic in his support of our goals within atheism and elsewhere despite the number of people trying to draw him away.

    He’s still telling those people off. He hasn’t accommodated them anymore than he did before.

    So why the hostility towards him?

  68. says

    #56 Joe

    I understand that, and appreciate it. However, as far as tactics of diplomacy are concerned, asking for that apology instead of hoping for it, is counter-productive.

    Expressing displeasure, even anger, at the actions of someone else and being honest about how a situation…that’s well and good…but I think asking for an apology (because of how that is socially perceived and many other things) is going to have the opposite result than what you want (it has already had that opposite result).

    Instead of working on the problems and moving on, it’s most likely prolonged the “drama” aspect of it.

    While you are making conclusions about Matt’s intent, the commenters on his facebook are claiming that this post by JT shows that A+’s intent is drama and galvanized victimhood. They are also judging intent by outcome.

    I don’t think that’s a fair thing to do.

  69. julian says

    julian, why is the A+ board required to be diplomatic, and Dillahunty is not?

    He has been. He has continued to be unwavering in his support, in rebuking those spreading misinformation about A+. That never stopped. He could have easily given voice to others like Blackford, like Vacula, on this point but he did not. He’s still calling them out.

    That may be the bare minimum in the eyes of some but considering the fire he’s been under, the blow this must have been and how we’re not exactly extending a hand out to him, it’s a lot.

  70. julian says

    Instead of working on the problems and moving on, it’s most likely prolonged the “drama” aspect of it.

    Exactly. There’s no reason for this.

    If you want Dillahunty to apologize for his end of starting this, talk to him. Making this public just prolongs the drama even longer.

  71. julian says

    And no, approaching him on more private grounds isn’t about preserving his privilege. Not meaningfully anyway. It’s about getting him away from distractions and triggers that might prime him to become argumentative so you can share the ways in which you were wronged.

  72. says

    His intent was to show nay-sayers that many of the fears and concerns about A+ were overblown and that the A+ community was open to friendly*, well-meaning** good faith* discussion of various issues.

    If that was his intent, he failed very badly. He did not start a discussion about the issues the forum is set up to deal with. He started a discussion about how the moderators handle moderating. That’s an entirely different discussion.

    It’s also an absurd demand that is made over and over of this forum under the guise of being open to n00bs. The business of the Atheism+ forum is explicitly not to discuss whether the Atheism+ forum is valid. It is to discuss the issues the group has identified as being of common interest.

    That first discussion, whether the existence of the group and its setting of its own priorities is valid, is exactly the discussion the forum was set up to get away from.

  73. says

    That may be the bare minimum in the eyes of some but considering the fire he’s been under, the blow this must have been and how we’re not exactly extending a hand out to him, it’s a lot.

    yes.

    I’m on his facebook and he gets crap constantly for his support of feminism, A+, FtB, and Skepchick ALL THE TIME.

    I don’t think it is at all inappropriate (and I don’t think it is ever inappropriate) to consider how difficult this may have been for him, especially considering how much capital he has spend on behalf of those organizations.

    Obviously, this has been difficult for everyone, but asking for an apology is easily interpreted as a smack in the face.

  74. says

    ….and let me be clear…

    Asking for an apology is easily interpreted as a smack in the face, regardless of how much that apology is warranted or unwarranted.

  75. says

    Essentially, new users to the forum are guilty until proven innocent, they must first prove they are not trolls and until they do are heavily suspected as such, and at the first sign of perceived trolling then they are banned/disapproved. That is a horrible way to run a forum or any organisation. You will, and have, alienated many good honest people like Matt from A+. The difference being that the regular commenter isn’t as known as Matt so can’t prove their honesty unless given a chance which many are not.

    The ‘battle-wary’ excuse is not good enough. I have no doubt that there are a considerable amount of trolls on the forum but new people should be given the benefit of the doubt until they have clearly shown that they are not arguing in good faith. And people criticising does not mean they are trolling, if a person does nothing BUT criticise over time, then fine.

    My main issue with A+ from the start was the inability to differentiate between trolls and honest critics, this is still the case and Matt’s experience further proves it.

  76. quietmarc says

    Well, sure, no one ever wants to admit they might have been wrong, so being asked for an apology is never going to feel like a sunny day in the park.

    But unless he has reason to doubt the honestly and integrety of the people asking for an apology (and if he does, why does he feel this way?), then he really should step back from this and spend some time thinking about why people feel the way they do. He may disagree, but the language he’s been using this week has appeared to be very aggressive and offensive. He’s telling A+ers that they should be grateful for all he’s done for us on one hand, and telling us that he really doesn’t care about our feelings on the other.

    I’ll admit that asking for an apology can be seen as an attack, but there’s an equivalence here in that he isn’t being NEARLY as diplomatic about this as he could, either.

    Has he been standing up for feminism and A+ and all that because he thinks it’s the right thing to do, or ihas he been doing it because he wants cookies from all of us? If it’s the first, then how people feel about him right now shouldn’t affect that or even be a part of the conversation. If it’s the second, he needs to look at whether he ever was an ally in the first place.

  77. karmakin says

    @quietmarc: The prince could choose to never put back on his clothes. That’s always an option. Not exactly a fair or realistic option in most people’s eyes…(otherwise we’d all be quitting our jobs to give them to people who don’t have jobs currently).

    But it’s an option.

    But in terms of individual interactions? For sure people can put away their privilege. People can use gender-neutral names online. Religious believers can not lean upon their untouchable religious beliefs in moral/ethical debates. We can have job applications that go further in terms of “neutralizing” various privileges (I don’t think this is actually a good idea, and does more harm than good IMO).

    But there are ways in which privilege can be put away or minimized, at least temporarily.

    It doesn’t change the big picture in terms of privilege, I guess. That’s true. But that’s such a complicated web that blaming any one individual (or group) for it quite frankly ends up being counter-productive in my opinion.

  78. Pteryxx says

    julian: since you asked me directly, I’ll tell you.

    You actually don’t know my feelings about Dillahunty, thanks. “Angry”, “drag into a fight” and “hostility” are all your interpretation. As far as I can tell, you’re making those interpretations because I’m saying intent isn’t absolution, stated intent isn’t reliable, and asking for apology is not inherently some sort of insult or power play. In other words, because I’m not accepting those excuses for Dillahunty’s behavior.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not angry at him and when discussing the sockpuppet incident privately I was defending him *and* his experiment. It’s not personal *to me* at all. However, I’ve read the reactions of A+ regulars and mods and I accept that they have a right to be upset, feel betrayed, and request an apology (with differing degrees of vehemence). I support that right and agree with it even though I don’t feel the need for it myself.

    I agree that he’s showing great character in holding his stance under troll attack and even in continuing to support A+ while being criticized. I personally am willing to extend him some benefit of the doubt for that reason. I’m taking some criticism privately for saying that, which is fine. However it’s not MY place to tell other people that they have no right to expect more evidence of good faith, by way of an apology or whatever, before THEY can extend benefit of the doubt to him again.

    I also think it’s important to point out the disparity between expecting benefit of the doubt and criticizing those who don’t provide it, versus expecting apology and criticizing those who don’t provide it. Of course it’s a status issue. And it shouldn’t be. The whole point of social justice as I understand it is that status and trust do not in fact coincide and often directly oppose one another: having status means you can get away with more oppression, expect and demand more benefit of the doubt, get more trust from the privileged, and likely deserve less trust from the marginalized. Dillahunty stands to lose nothing BUT a bit of status if he chose to make an apology; but he would gain back a lot of trust. That he hasn’t, I think, says a lot about which he values more. (At this point. Given a few months he may feel differently.)

    That’s about all I have to say for now.

  79. says

    Given a lack of time and my working nights, I turned on “must have an approved post” to keep threads from going runaway while I sleep. Turns out this drew a lot of first-time posters on both sides of this issue.

  80. says

    “I’ll admit that asking for an apology can be seen as an attack, but there’s an equivalence here in that he isn’t being NEARLY as diplomatic about this as he could, either.”

    Yeah – he seems to be really pissed right now – so pressing the point publicly in this post is probably problematic to getting past this.

  81. quietmarc says

    @karmakin – the prince has prince privilege. He may choose to never put clothes back on, but he’s making that choice. And even if he was never recognised as the prince again, he still has his princely education, his princely manners, his princely appropriate-nutrition-growing-up, his princely knowing how to behave when one is in charge.

    And again, the choice itself is an aspect of privilege. Matt ALWAYS had the option of saying “Hey guys, psych! I was Matt all along!” and in fact he excercised that option. He didn’t put away anything. He might have meant to do that, he might have thought he did that, but he never did it. He had privilege, he used privilege, and people got hurt. And now he has privilege some more, because he has a lot of well-meaning and decent people offering him support and condolences over this situation, which he basically initiated on his own anyway.

  82. quietmarc says

    M.A. Melby> I’m not going to argue that point, but Jason’s post here has served more than one purpose. I know for a fact that some people on A+ are relieved to see a prominent blogger speaking up for them on this issue.

    Regardless of why people feel hurt, the fact that they feel hurt at all is REAL, and seeing Jason articulate it is very helpful in letting these people feel validated…which, for many of them, just doesn’t happen.

    I can respect calling for diplomacy, but the ability to engage in diplomacy itself is a kind of privilege. Maybe people DO need to calm down, but asking people to calm down sometimes makes it harder for them to do so.

  83. Cipher says

    Yeah – he seems to be really pissed right now

    So am I.
    Matt is not the only person involved here.
    The people who have actually been hurt? Are under fire. From a lot of sides. Including their “ally” Matt Fucking Dillahunty, whom some of them – including me – respected and liked a great deal prior to this incident.
    Thanks for scolding Jason for publicly taking our side, when it provided some well-needed comfort for us – you know, the people who were hurt by this.

  84. says

    As far as the general conversation of privilege – NO, you can’t just turn it on and off.

    I have an incredible amount of privilege associated with my job.

    Privilege is sometimes this bizarre tool that you can’t NOT have. The only thing you can expect from someone that has it, is that they acknowledge that they have it and that they refrain from abusing it as much as they can.

    However, you can’t just turn it off.

    When you use your privilege as a tool, it can be very problematic in some ways, but can also simply be modeled as spending social capital.

  85. karmakin says

    @Ptyrexx:The honest truth is that what you said is true.

    It just goes in both directions.

    What people like (and I apologize if I’m putting words in people’s mouths, but I think we’re on the same page here) myself and julian and Ace of Sevens and Melby are thinking and feeling on this, is that yes.

    The whole point of social justice as I understand it is that status and trust do not in fact coincide and often directly oppose one another: having status means you can get away with more oppression, expect and demand more benefit of the doubt, get more trust from the privileged, and likely deserve less trust from the marginalized

    I agree. Totally. 100%.

    The problem is that this goes for everybody. Well..the problem is that in order to understand the concerns, you actually have to take the concept of group privilege seriously. In-group people can get away with more than out-group people.

    And we’re saying that’s a problem. Full stop. Don’t get me wrong, to a degree that’s always going to happen. It’s a sort of natural privilege that is probably never going to be eliminated. Likewise we’re never going to end all gender roles/tropes. (The concept that you can ever “end” anything is myopic and even destructive in my mind)

    But this is going to be a particular concern in these circles, as in-group privilege is a strong feature of religion. So it’s going to get much more of a back-lash than we would see normally.

    So when a group forms, and basically claims that they’re going full-tilt for in-group privilege…well…yeah. Like a fart in a church.

    That’s the problem. That’s where a lot of the criticism is coming from, in terms of people who would otherwise be on your team. (I.E. people who actually support progressive social justice concerns).

    One final thing. I understand WHY people wanted the in-group privilege. They wanted a “safe space”. I get that. It’s just that my experience is that you can’t get there from here. Because the group is continually trimming off those who differ in different ways, your position is never truly safe.

    If you don’t have that experience, congrats. But as someone who has watched this go down (on multiple occasions)…it’s not a pretty thing.

  86. says

    I can respect calling for diplomacy, but the ability to engage in diplomacy itself is a kind of privilege. Maybe people DO need to calm down, but asking people to calm down sometimes makes it harder for them to do so.

    I can absolutely respect that, but that’s sort of my point.

    Asking someone to calm doesn’t work.

    Asking someone to apologize doesn’t work.

    I’m not asking anyone to hurry-up and calm down (that would be completely unreasonable) – only that time and calm are good – for everyone.

    If anyone got the impression that I think JT shouldn’t have blogged about it at all, or even taken sides, that wasn’t my intent.

    I’m saying that framing it in a way that asked for an apology may not have been the best choice, considering that appears to be the sticking point with Matt.

  87. karmakin says

    @quietmarc: I see what you’re saying. I still fundamentally disagree…as that I think that privilege is actually generally something that stems from human interactions and power differentials. And yes, some people tend to be privileged more often than others. That’s a given I think. And that does make people innately privileged. And yes, people who are privileged in that way can always “walk away” and go to a place where they are privileged.

    But people really can downplay that power differential. And sometimes we should. That’s all I’m saying.

    And yes. I hate it whenever anybody has their feelings hurt. But I seem to be in the minority when it comes to that.

  88. says

    @karmakin

    I don’t disagree with you, but that wasn’t the issue I was bringing up.

    I was attempting to point out that there are power struggling between people in personal interactions (those can be influenced by various types of privilege, sure) and that asking for apologies can socially paint someone into a corner so it’s not good diplomacy.

    That generally ends poorly too.

    That doesn’t mean you don’t express yourself and assert your boundaries, but asking for an apology, especially publicly, can be extremely damaging to conflict resolution.

  89. quietmarc says

    @MA> So in a way, those of us (like you and me) might be making the situation a little bit worse by advocating what we’re advocating. I don’t think either side needs to be told that diplomacy is the answer. We’re dealing with two camps made up of intelligent, compassionate people with their own concerns, hurts, and baggage.

    The way Jason framed things here was helpful to many. If he had tried to frame it differently, he might have ended up compounding the hurt that people feel and making it seem like he didn’t take their concerns seriously. Unfortunately, the way he’s framed it can be seen as hostile to Matt and fanning the flames.

    This may be one of those cases where there is no perfect answer or perfect response, and SOMEONE is going to get hurt no matter what approach people take.

    I’m not as emotionally invested as some other people are, but I do have a “side”. I really feel like if the request for an apology is a sticking point for Matt, he should back away from the whole issue completely. It wouldn’t do for him to offer an apology that isn’t sincere, and the longer he refuses to offer any apology, the worse it will get on all sides.

    A lot of people have come forward to say that Matt has done a lot of really good work on the issues that A+ers care about, and I can believe that. And I know that if he -continues- to do that work, trust can be rebuilt.

    Maybe both sides ought to step back from this and get working on something else. I feel like it would be best for Matt to take the first step, if only because there’s one of him and he can control his actions. The A+ people are still working through their feelings on this, and are also fighting other battles on other fronts. It will take time for the community to come to a place where we can make the first move toward reconciliation.

  90. Skullz says

    So, in general, what are you asking Matt to apologize for?

    * Making a 2nd account in violation of the forum rules?
    * Saying he didn’t feel like new members would be welcomed?
    * Causing hurt to the community?

  91. says

    So in a way, those of us (like you and me) might be making the situation a little bit worse by advocating what we’re advocating.

    Point taken.

    I spent much of last night on Matt’s facebook answering some of the more…umm….(searches mind for euphemism)….unfair comments by some of his fans there.

    I would like to think that was constructive.

    However, I think you’re right. Sometimes the peanut gallery (that would be me) giving advice isn’t particularly helpful.

  92. julian says

    So in a way, those of us (like you and me) might be making the situation a little bit worse by advocating what we’re advocating.

    Yeah, probably.

    Apologies to everyone, especially Cipher, for… well, making this conversation more hostile than it needs to be and dismissing what she and others went through because of Dillahunty’s borderline trolling.

  93. keane says

    I know I’m new here, though I’ve been lurking for months, but I’m going to post this rather lengthy response anyways.

    quietmarc said:
    “I don’t think you understand what privilege is, because it isn’t something one can just ‘put away.’ Matt could -hide- his privilege, but he always had it, and we saw this during the big reveal when, after things went against him, he brandished his name and received different treatment (ge, getting a grace period so that people could talk things out) than someone without his privilege would have received.

    “The ability to pick and choose when and how you receive benefits from your position is another aspect of privilege. People without privilege don’t have this option: they don’t get to put on a different hat whenever they feel like it and suddenly experience the world treating them differently.

    “Maybe it’s nice when the prince pretends to be the pauper, to learn about “the other side” but he’s still a prince, will always be a prince, and will always benefit from his prince-ness the second he changes his clothes. The pauper will never have this option.”

    So, it’s not on Matt for benefiting from his privilege; it’s on the mods for indulging that privilege. He didn’t ask for special treatment. It was given to him. How is that on him? How is that his problem?

    This idea that he allowed people to treat him differently, so he is therefore partly at fault, seems to ignore the context of the situation (and basic human emotions). This isn’t a case of him walking in there with his name and expecting to be treated differently. He used an alias to AVOID just that. He wanted to engage in conversation which was, ultimately, trying to be constructive. He pointed out flaws and tried to talk about how to remedy them. Then someone accused him of not wanting to be a part of the community because he was being overly critical, which is ridiculously thin-skinned (however understandable it may be on a forum which had to ban 28 people already, it’s still thin-skinned).

    Do you really expect Dillahunty, in the middle of that attack on his character, to stop, realize his privilege, and then excuse himself from the argument based on that privilege? That would take some remarkable self-restraint.

    If anything, then, he’s guilty of that: not having enough self-awareness to realize his privilege in the middle of a passionate argument. Or, slightly worse, he realized his privilege but did not have the self-restraint to stop himself from defending his own character while it was under attack. In either of these cases, you’re placing some rather high expectations on Dillahunty.

    So, it’s rather easy to blame him after the fact for this, but the mods are just as complicit in the process. If you’re going to argue that the moderators were put in a strange position at that moment, and that they couldn’t have been expected to make a snap decision to ban someone like Dillahunty because of his status, then they were just as (if not more) caught up in the whole problem of “privilege” as Dillahunty was. If they can be excused for their behavior (which I think they absolutely should be, and anyone claiming that they’ve now “lost trust” in the moderators is being absurd), then I think Dillahunty can be excused as well.

    And to say that when he revealed his identity he asserted his privilege, I guess you could look at it that way. I look at it as him making a point about how the mods were treating a newcomer in an unacceptable and uninviting way. Several changes have been made to the forum because of this incident, all of them for the better, and none of that would have happened had Dillahunty kept his identity secret. Sometimes, using “privilege” to affect a positive change–which several site admins have agreed has happened–can actually be a good thing.

    That’s why asking for an apology is bizarre. Several of the site admins have agreed that Dillahunty made valid criticisms of the process. At worst, the way he made those criticisms is, to them and others, distasteful. You know how that’s dealt with? You say, “Hey thanks for pointing out these problems, but I just wish you’d have done it in a different way.” You don’t say, “Hey, you’ve exposed some real problems on the forum, and that’s great, but we didn’t like the way you did it, and now we’d like an apology for exposing the forum’s weaknesses and damaging the reputations of our mods.” Again, that’s just bizarre blame-shifting instead of taking responsibility for your own mistakes.

    Dillahunty shouldn’t be asked to apologize, but neither should the forum. This “demanding an apology” thing is nothing more than blame-shifting self-aggrandizement because some people had their feelings hurt.

    I find it fascinating that after years and years of not caring how much we hurt the feelings of theists by challenging their beliefs, all of a sudden, now that we’re having in-group discussions, there’s this strain of “Hey, that hurt my feelings and emotions and I’d like you to apologize.” This was never acceptable when it came from theists in the past. Why is it acceptable now? You don’t have a right to avoid having your feelings hurt. If people are going to expect that all of a sudden, I don’t like how this is going at all.

  94. says

    Thank you for this Jason. The A+ forums have been in a decent bit of turmoil over this and quite a few of us don’t have the spoons to address Matt as eloquently as you did because of it. So thank you for doing so.

  95. says

    I am not really sure where else to ask this question, but I have always been a fan of Matt’s and I wanted to learn more about Atheist+. I registered online at Atheist plus, but no matter how many times I request an email registration it never comes, not in my inbox, spam, bulk etc. If there is anyone that is a member of Atheist plus on here can they contact a moderator on my behalf. My username i registered with is vindicarblack. It would be helpful if their was a contact box on atheist+ for such issues – thanks in advance

  96. Cipher says

    davidspitzer, this has happened at least once before – it’s not just you. The admin tried to add a contact button recently and it seems to have disappeared somehow. I’ll start a thread to ask about your registration though.

  97. says

    keane – That’s how things appear from my perspective as well – as a semi-casual observer.

    If there is any bit of information that might change that perspective, I would appreciate being corrected by those closer to the situation than I.

  98. says

    keane – I do have a small issue with that last paragraph though.

    Some people seriously don’t care when they hurt someone’s religiously-motivated feelings; however, I don’t think that is a fair characterization of the majority view.

    Caring about someone’s feelings and having compassion for what they are going through, is different than deciding to change your behavior or what you say based on that.

    You can acknowledge how someone feels and you can avoid hurting them simply for the purpose of hurting them; and still do what you think is right even when that upsets others.

  99. Cipher says

    davidspitzer, your account has been manually actiated.

    we’d like an apology for exposing the forum’s weaknesses and damaging the reputations of our mods.

    That is not what we’re asking for an apology for.

    Julian, *offers hugs* Of course I don’t speak for anyone else, but we’re cool. I know this has been hard on you too and I don’t blame you for getting heated.

  100. smhll says

    And to say that when he revealed his identity he asserted his privilege, I guess you could look at it that way. I look at it as him making a point about how the mods were treating a newcomer in an unacceptable and uninviting way.

    His “newcomer” post argued with a moderator about a ban. That’s usually what the banned person does; makes a brand new account and comes back and argues, or gets his best friend to do it. This is a special case, and most first-time posters do not fit this pattern.

  101. says

    Nor have I ever wanted to imply that Matt’s a bad guy. Because he’s not. He’s a very good guy. That’s why people feel especially bruised by his actions and are calling for an apology.

    The fact that actually asking for an apology is more likely to cause someone to dig in makes me think this attempt at advocating for the forum users’ position is never going to work.

  102. says

    For what it’s worth, I have a much more nuanced understanding of what’s going on than I had just listening to Matt’s video on the subject.

    My advice of not asking for an apology is very generalized advice. I think it’s very rarely the way to go.

    I’m also actually more likely to be involved in A+ after these discussions than the other way around. The reason is that someone on Matt’s facebook linked one of the forums where a moderator had made a mistake; and I had to read through several pages of very interesting discussion before finding the error (that had since been settled).

    I can imagine dealing with the crew that seems to have an insatiable need to justify their opposition to/fears about A+ is f-ing exhausting.

  103. says

    No, Jason, it worked. If nothing else, it was someone advocating for their position with the resources left to step back and articulate it well. That you could do so in a week when you’ve been nasty sick and working hard is a testament to you.

  104. says

    Monty (with email address [email protected]) should know that this sort of parody works only where people are unfairly tarring someone for actions they didn’t commit (or aren’t even objectionable). You know, like people seem to do with A+ers all the fucking time.

    And the fact that “to the stake” is apparently equivalent to “you’re a good guy, you did some people wrong, you should apologize”… Could you trolls gain some sense of proportion, please? Your ridiculousness makes it hard to actually talk about issues seriously.

  105. says

    There are definitely people who want to watch a fight. Most of our world sports marketing economics depends on that. People wanting schism is not so prevalent, as people are “more disposed to suffer while evils are suffer-able …” However, schism creeps up on us as we find our actions have, even without our notice, put us into positions that are too difficult or embarrassing to walk back.

    I think working through the moral value issues at the deepest level is the better place to start, even though I fully acknowledge that is very difficult. I have written about that here, and to the extent that can be done, it preempts fights over the meaning of what insult was done by whom and to whom, and so much else that is only the tip of a big issue iceberg under the water line.

  106. says

    I’ve decided to stay out of this specific controversy, as it involves a lot of he-said-she-said and interpreting intent. There is one thing I’d like to add, though, which I think is worth underlining and adding blinking lights to:

    atheism plus is not the same as atheismplus.com

    Let’s say the mods at that forum were complete jerks. Does that say anything about the validity of atheism plus, or the need for it within atheist culture? No. If you don’t like the way things have been handled in that safe space, set up your own. I’ll fully support you, as should most people who identify as A+. If you really do have a superior way of handling things, people will flock to your forum and everyone will benefit.

    Don’t have the time to set up your forum? Fair enough, not everyone is lucky enough to have the time for activism, nor the desire. But if you want to criticize the mods, bear in mind they’re devoting precious time to make that space the best forum they can. They face the difficult task of telling clueless and stubborn (but well meaning) newbies, from trolls that only appear clueless (but are definitely stubborn). Mistakes are inevitable, and you should recognize that and soften your critique appropriately.

    If you don’t think A+ is a good idea, though, any supposed misbehavior at atheismplus.com is not evidence in your favor. Pointing to Dillahunty or the mods is derailing the discussion. Either come up with a true critique of A+ as an idea, admit you don’t know enough to form an opinion, or concede it is a good idea. Don’t troll us with irrelevant arguments.

  107. says

    While the A+ forum isn’t the same as the A+ idea, the forum is where the idea is being fleshed out.

    That sort of thing takes time.

    I think the concept of A+ has a niche.

    If there really are people saying they will leave “in droves” over bumps along the way, well, then they just aren’t willing to put in the effort.

    One thing I dislike within organizations much more than asking for apologies is “threatening” to quit when things get rough.

  108. eNeMeE says

    One thing I dislike within organizations much more than asking for apologies is “threatening” to quit when things get rough.

    Yes, because no one has left because of this. No one has decided that, since the mods won’t protect people from social experiments and ban people who break rules that exist for a good reason, that the forum is not a place they feel safe anymore.

    To sum up, Fuck You.
    Taking a break from FtB for a month or six, too.

  109. quietmarc says

    M.A. Melby, I understand being wary of the flounce. I’m not gonna say that hasn’t happened. But please understand that many members of the A+ community are dealing with some very serious real life shit. We’ve got a lot of people that could probably qualify for PTSD treatment, who’ve been beaten and battered beyond what most of us could comprehend.

    For these people, A+ was an opportunity for them to -try- to engage with a community that reflects some of their deeply cherished beliefs, but by engaging with the community, they’re leaving themselves vulnerable to attack.

    No one is leaving “in droves” (and someone upthread pointed that out), it was an ill-chosen phrase.

    But keep in mind that a large part of the A+ mandate is to try to create a safe space for very, very vulnerable people, and that often means that those who are less vulnerable have to work harder and put in extra effort to make it work.

  110. Cipher says

    If there really are people saying they will leave “in droves” over bumps along the way, well, then they just aren’t willing to put in the effort.

    Do you think that invalidates their perspective?
    Do you think not being willing to “put in the effort” of dealing with allies treating you like shit is some kind of goddamn character flaw?
    Because that’s looking pretty dismissive, what you’ve said there.

  111. says

    M. A. Melby, I know you in person, I like you, I think you’re a good person and you mean well.

    I think this:

    If there really are people saying they will leave “in droves” over bumps along the way, well, then they just aren’t willing to put in the effort.

    One thing I dislike within organizations much more than asking for apologies is “threatening” to quit when things get rough.

    Was not a productive thing to say, and was quite hurtful. Our members who expressed an inclination to leave over this, even though most of them stayed, expressed a valid point: we mods failed in our duty to fairly apply the rules, and preserve the safe space, by giving extra consideration to a “big name”. This was wrong when Readercon did it, and it was wrong when we did it.

    The people who were considering leaving were triggered by that failure.

  112. says

    One thing I want on the record: the reason we mods did delay on enforcing the ban, was because Matt PMed one of our mods and told us that Greta had asked both sides to agree to wait until she had a chance to talk to the moderation team. We took him at his word on this and agreed to hold off. In return, he agreed in PM to not put up his youtube video, or post any more arguments on the forums, until after Greta had spoken with us. We weren’t happy with the idea of involving her, because of her own personal issues right now, but if she had volunteered herself to deal with it, we would wait. That was the agreement.

    Well, he broke that agreement within less than an hour after we made it. He kept arguing on the forums, and proceeded with his video anyway. This put us in an untenable position, because we had agreed to hold off on action under terms that were now violated. When he put up his video on Thursday, we decided that the agreement was moot.

    It was too late. Damage done. We had tried to keep our part of the bargain, and he had broken his. And by trying to keep to the bargain, we damaged our users’ faith in us.

    P.S.: For the record: Greta has not contacted us. Nor do we expect her to do so. We don’t fault her at all if she decides she doesn’t want to deal with this shit. It’s not something a freshly grieving person needs to have on their plate. I know firsthand that losing a parent is devastating, and saps your brainspoons like nothing else. So make no mistake, we don’t fault Greta one iota for anything about this at all.

  113. says

    I’m saying that, in any organization ever on the face of the planet, especially in the developmental stages of those organizations – there are going to be difficulties and failures.

    There is a difference in explaining what you are willing and not willing to do – and what you can and cannot deal with. To make clear the conditions of your involvement obviously is anyone’s right. That should go without saying. I’m sorry if I didn’t make myself as clear as I could have.

    I’m asking if this incident which has, by all accounts, been treated seriously and has resulted in improvements in moderation policy, and added to what appears to be an on-going conversation about ways to create safe spaces effectively; is resulting in massive threats of leaving.

    I said what I said more as support for those who are faced with doing the hard work of attempting to balance various (sometimes conflicting) concerns and dealing with realities of implementing policies that are meant to address those.

    Even if everyone who is involved in the A+ forums did everything as perfect as humanly possible; I suspect you would still encounter a number of people who become dissatisfied (and no, I’m not making value judgments on that dissatisfaction) and may attempt to influence the course of the A+ forum (or voice their anger) by announcing their possible departure.

    That’s something that’s happened in nearly every organization I’ve ever been involved with.

    If the wording of the original post was confusing (as you said) and JT is referring to people simply saying, “I’m sorry everyone, but I need to step back because of this” and not “I’m angry that things aren’t as perfect as they should be, so I’m going to threaten to leave in order to put pressure on the people I am unhappy with” –

    - then I sincerely apologize for making the comment.

  114. says

    Sometimes I should resist wading into friend’s disagreements, but I know Matt he means well more than most people you will ever meet. He is less likely to be motivated by personal gain than most people I have ever met. I have spoken with him about his concerns for the atheist movement. He said that he actually cried over his disappointment with Thunderfoot’s behavior. His concern for the movement is real, not at all trolling.

    If A+ forum is coming from the point of view of being battle weary from trolls, he is coming from the the point of view of real disappointment over the in-fighting and the casualties in friendships, trust, and cohesion over the past year.

  115. says

    I can confirm Flewellyn’s comment here as being a true representation of some of the actions the moderators were trying to undertake to resolve the damage Matt’s sockpuppeting had done. I can add to his comment that because the moderators were especially concerned not to involve Greta in her time of grief, that overtures were made to a couple of FTB bloggers to see if they would be willing and have the time to act as neutral arbitrators in working out a solution between the moderation/admin team and Matt. This too came to nought.

    One thing about “allies”, good and bad people. We expect the attacks from the bad people, and their capacity to cause hurt, while non-trivial, doesn’t cut deep. When an unintentional attack comes from a supposed friend, the hurt cuts especially deep because it is unexpected. The main problem that Matt complained about was mainly technical and has been solved. His video fails to provide any other solution for the multiple problems the forums face, and created others. His insistence that he didn’t care about the rules, provided that there was a good enough reason to ignore them (now that’s unchecked privilege, right there, please not it well karmakin) is in fact, an open invitation for anyone to sockpuppet the forums. That’s not a useful message from an “ally” in any sense of the word. It’s just one of the issues (identity issues and responsibility) that the mod/admin team would have loved to talk about with Matt before he released his video, except while we were open to talking with him, he made himself largely unavailable to meet with us.

  116. says

    Two minor errata to that comment:
    1. “doesn’t cut deep” really should be, “doesn’t tend to cut as deep” (an over-generalisation)
    2. “please note it well” — this one should be fairly obvious as a typo.

  117. ceepolk says

    One thing I want on the record: the reason we mods did delay on enforcing the ban, was because Matt PMed one of our mods and told us that Greta had asked both sides to agree to wait until she had a chance to talk to the moderation team. We took him at his word on this and agreed to hold off. In return, he agreed in PM to not put up his youtube video, or post any more arguments on the forums, until after Greta had spoken with us. We weren’t happy with the idea of involving her, because of her own personal issues right now, but if she had volunteered herself to deal with it, we would wait. That was the agreement.

    Well, he broke that agreement within less than an hour after we made it. He kept arguing on the forums, and proceeded with his video anyway. This put us in an untenable position, because we had agreed to hold off on action under terms that were now violated. When he put up his video on Thursday, we decided that the agreement was moot.

    It was too late. Damage done. We had tried to keep our part of the bargain, and he had broken his. And by trying to keep to the bargain, we damaged our users’ faith in us.

    P.S.: For the record: Greta has not contacted us. Nor do we expect her to do so. We don’t fault her at all if she decides she doesn’t want to deal with this shit. It’s not something a freshly grieving person needs to have on their plate. I know firsthand that losing a parent is devastating, and saps your brainspoons like nothing else. So make no mistake, we don’t fault Greta one iota for anything about this at all.

    WHAT THE FUCK.

    wow. WOW. It’s even worse than I had originally thought. That is so sleazy.

  118. says

    This incident is starting to make me wonder if we might be getting to the point where the level of general social intelligence, forum-specific knowledge, and careful self-policing that’s required in order to avoid trouble when talking about some of these community issues is becoming prohibitively high. There have been so many grievances accumulated at this point that it’s clearly very very easy even for people who are well respected and thoroughly integrated members of the community to fuck up and gently brush somebody’s (often completely justifiable) hair-trigger, and then the angry response can very easily flip one of their *own* hair-triggers, and, of course, once that happens, all the rest of us want to jump in and support the people we care about, and we’re off to the races all over again.

    Is there any way to cool things off and give everybody a chance to get a bit of distance so that there can start to be less of this rather than an rapidly tightening spiral of more? It’s getting to the point where I start to feel anxious the moment I load the FtB front page, and I have to imagine it’s a hell of a lot worse for the people who are actually directly involved.

  119. Pitchguest says

    In case you missed (or ignored) it, #7 skeptixx is Skep tickle. I don’t know about you lot, but she (a woman!) doesn’t quite seem to be the boogeyman you’ve painted her as. Maybe you ought to reconsider your invective?

  120. says

    What invective would that be, Pitchguest? That she defended Vacula against charges that he wrote for AVfM despite his characterizing it as “writing a guest post” himself? That she defended AVfM as not being on the SPLC’s “misogyny: the sites” list, though it clearly is? That she claimed his posting Amy’s address was in self defense — defense against a charge (by an unknown-to-me third party at an unrelated blog) that he only wanted to DMCA-counterclaim her to get her address, proving he wasn’t interested in “dropping dox” by “dropping dox” then and there instead? That she demanded evidence that he’d ever dismissed the harassment Stephanie received as being impossible because she’s a public figure, despite the easily findable blog post he wrote that argued that and only that? Or maybe that she’d given them the last straw when she said that accepting the (well evidenced) narrative damning Vacula for his behaviours was “drinking the Kool-aid”?

    The mods were spot-on in banning her. Especially since by her own admission she wasn’t there to participate, but to challenge. Why challenge what you can’t disprove except to do damage? And why shop around your cause to a number of skeptics until one picks up that thread and inadvertently does a shit-ton of damage to a bunch of folks’ credibility?

    Sorry, her being a woman doesn’t give her any sort of pass for any of this, and I don’t know why you think it does.

  121. says

    WHAT THE FUCK.

    wow. WOW. It’s even worse than I had originally thought. That is so sleazy.

    I’m with Anna.

    I’m trying my best as well, to reserve too harsh of judgments since it seems like a very complex situation that may have been affected by miscommunications and other complications that those not directly involved aren’t going to be able to sort through.

  122. gwen says

    I believe in the A+ forums and wild theists will not get me off that site. I understand new forums have growing pains, and I am willing to watch it grow. As for Matt…I like him and admire him, but I think he needs to step back and take a deeeeep breath, then he needs to stop taking this personally and talk to the mods ….privately, and work it out.

  123. skeptixx says

    One thing about “allies”, good and bad people. We expect the attacks from the bad people…

    “Good people” and “bad people”?? That’s a simplistic and off-base way to try to divide humanity.

    It rests on value judgments by those who are in the judge’s seat(s).

    It misidentifies people as “bad” when behavioral expectations (guidelines for what constitutes “good behavior”) are not clearly stated up front, and when they’re enforced unevenly.

    It puts a “safe space” in a tough spot when a “good person” behaves “badly”. MD was banned under the only-1-account rule, but clearly his behavior was also felt to present a threat.

  124. says

    wow. WOW. It’s even worse than I had originally thought. That is so sleazy.

    Is sleazy the right word? Foolish seems a better one. Judging by Flewellyn’s account it looks like something got the better of Matt’s reason and he went off half-cocked.

    I do think that Matt could do himself many favours by offering an apology and making a fresh approach. It would unbreak the logjam, everyone can give a sigh of relief and get back to talking again.

    On the whole ‘demands for apologies cause people to dig in’ thing, that’s undoubtedly true of many folk. However, I do read Matt as a man of good character, capable of acknowledging error. I really don’t think it would cost him a lot to make a move on this. I hope he does.

  125. says

    Anne C. Hanna @ 141:

    Is there any way to cool things off and give everybody a chance to get a bit of distance so that there can start to be less of this rather than an rapidly tightening spiral of more? It’s getting to the point where I start to feel anxious the moment I load the FtB front page, and I have to imagine it’s a hell of a lot worse for the people who are actually directly involved.

    Unfortunately, part of the reason tensions are so high is because everyone who identifies as A+ or is friendly to that view is dealing with an unusual amount of trolling. We have little control over that, either; when the mods at atheismplus.com clamp down, the trolls try harder and even allies can get caught in the crossfire. There are a number of ways to deal with the stress, though:

    1. You can always walk away for a while. There’s no shame in that, and there’s enough of us around to take up the slack while a subset recharges.

    2. You can block commenters you think are trolling. While I haven’t needed it yet, I’ve got KillFile installed for just such an occasion.

    3. Focus on solutions, not people. Not happy with how atheismplus.com has turned out? Set up your own private, invite-only forum and chill there for a while. Happy with how the mods over there have dealt with issues like this? Tell them as much. Tell the world as much. You’ll feel better for doing it.

    4. The trolls will complain no matter what you do. So just do it! Be careful not to act on emotion, though. If you’re not convinced you’ve got solid reasons, and what you’re doing won’t make things worse, put it on the back-burner for a day. If it’s a good idea today, it’s probably still a good idea tomorrow.

    I keep all four in mind when I’m on blogs that aren’t friendly to A+. They’ve worked well so far.

  126. smhll says

    On the whole ‘demands for apologies cause people to dig in’ thing, that’s undoubtedly true of many folk. However, I do read Matt as a man of good character, capable of acknowledging error. I really don’t think it would cost him a lot to make a move on this. I hope he does.

    I suppose he may be feeling under appreciated. And I just want to point out that the fact that he has stood up for Atheism+ in the past is not magically apparent to people who read on A+ forums but don’t follow him. (Sorry about that, but it’s true.) YouTube comments have a reputation for being wild and woolly and hostile and disgusting, or at least an unavoidable subset of them are. It’s not really surprising that marginalized people with flame war fatigue have little interest in reading them.)

  127. julian says

    skeptixx, I sincerely doubt you’re anything but disingenuous. In the off chance I’m wrong here’s a link SurlyAmy’s account of her issues with Justin Vacula. You’l find more here and at Almost Diamonds but you’ll actually have to look.

  128. julian says

    SurlyAmy on Vacula finding her home address and apartment complex.

    “This is utter bullshit. My address was not found via an ad for my business. It was found via the US Trademark office registry. Also, the US trademark office does not have a photo of where I live. Justin found that image for my apartment complex somewhere on the internet after searching for my address.”

    Vacula, contrary to how he and his friends have portrayed this, had to actually look for her home of record. He didn’t just stumble across it looking over her webpage. That was one of many deliberate lies on his part.

  129. julian says

    wow. WOW. It’s even worse than I had originally thought. That is so sleazy.

    Is sleazy the right word? Foolish seems a better one.

    Aye. Sleazy, to me anyway, implies it was deliberate. That he intentionally proposed letting someone else play arbiter so that he could get his hits in before anyone had a chance to respond. I don’t think that’s what happened but there’s no question that went a ways towards burning bridges.

  130. says

    Jason Thibeault@#143

    …Why challenge what you can’t disprove except to do damage?…

    I’ve seen this exact argument used by theists when questioned about existence/non-existence. I could be drawing the context out too far, though.

  131. says

    I’m not commenting on the rest of this right now, but:

    Flewellyn:
    “Well, he broke that agreement within less than an hour after we made it. ”

    That’s a lie. There was no “agreement” with you, I simply told the mods about the conversation and what my intent was.

    Once again, you’re assuming information that you don’t have. I had already talked to Greta – AGAIN. I had explained the video that I was going to put up. No agreement was broken and the video I put up PRAISED the mods, stated the facts and expressed optimism.

    As the initial cause of this – you should probably just stop piling on mistakes and accusations that are patently false.

  132. says

    Flewellyn #131

    Why wait til now to tell anyone this? This is information that should have been offered at the same time the apology was demanded from Matt. If it had been offered then you would undoubtedly have a lot less pushback now from Matt’s supporters.

  133. ischemgeek says

    wow. WOW. It’s even worse than I had originally thought. That is so sleazy.

    Is sleazy the right word? Foolish seems a better one.

    Aye. Sleazy, to me anyway, implies it was deliberate.

    No, I think it’s sleazy anyway, no matter which way I cut it. Bugging someone who’s grieving over a fight on the internet? Sleazy. Using that person’s name and grief as a trap card? Sleazy. I honestly cannot figure out a way where this is not sleazy, except maybe “someone hacked his email and decided to send out a message that looked like a trap card, and he posted his video independently of it.”

    Which doesn’t exactly seem plausible.

  134. skeptixx says

    julian, I’m not going to derail this discussion into the whole JV/DMCA thing, but when did he ever claim to “just stumble” over her address, or when did I say he did? It’s publicly available in a number of places online, since it’s the legal address of her business. An effective skeptic in the internet age would know how to check that kind of claim out.

    Back to the issue at hand. Matt presumably knew more about the initial moves to form “atheism plus” than most atheists & skeptics. But let’s see what the less-informed person might use to decide what the Atheism+ forum “welcomes” and what it’s “for”, shall we?

    At http://atheismplus.com/ the visitor sees this:

    Welcome!

    Atheism+ is a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime. For more information, see our FAQ.

    If you would like to talk about Atheism Plus, check out our forum.

    Now, emphasis added, let’s go back and look at what “Atheism+ is“.

    It’s a “safe space” (which, as of the time I was reading over the site and starting participating (or at least ‘posting’ for those who took offense at my involvement there)) was undefined. I suggested that better clarification, establishment, and maintenance of the “safe space” aspect would help with the (claimed) massive problem with “trolls”. Couple of other people made a few other comments to that regard. There’s now a moderation of 1st 3 posts approach, I think, which seems like a good step if a baby one.

    It’s a safe place “for people to discuss“, which seems to imply no restriction on the “people” who can participate, as long as they don’t break the undefined “safe place” aspect and as long as they wish to “discuss” the topics (which we’ll look at next).

    It’s a place for people to discuss “how religion affects everyone….”, which I haven’t seen be a problem there (but I might have missed it). Would everyone be able to present and support their views on how religion affects everyone? Seems unlikely, but that’s really not the issue at hand; let’s move on.

    …and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.” And here, especially, is where the rub is. The “Welcome!” page explicitly says that applying skepticism and critical thinking to all social issues and “everything” is acceptable and even, well, welcomed. Atheism+ risks the claim of hypocrisy here, in saying one thing but doing another.

    A critical thinker might assume includes atheism plus itself, though the FAQ page linked within the Welcome text disabuses the reader of that notion – that’s fine, as long as you make sure people read that (and also clarify some other expectations while you’re at it).

    The FAQ page linked in the Welcome text pulls back the welcome mat a bit, without placing or linking to clear limits. It starts with “What is Atheism Plus?”, which includes (emphasis added):

    Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community.

    It closes with”Isn’t this making a religion out of atheism?”, which includes (emphasis added):

    Atheism Plus is a collection of like-minded people using safe spaces to hash out ideas. There is no dogma, just a general consensus among participants that the particular social justice issues it focuses on are important to them. There is no hierarchy, just a number of people whose words have proven helpful in clarifying the need for such a movement, and whose consistently enlightening contributions have engendered a certain level of trust. There are no membership requirements beyond a commitment to taking seriously the need to have and maintain spaces where social justice issues can be discussed by atheists without interference from those opposed to the whole endeavor.

    So, atheism plus (or, the forum at least) is like-minded people who take seriously the need for spaces like it and those whose contributions have been consistently enlightening and who have engendered a certain level of trust, who are dedicated to promoting [things widely accepted as good, at least in the lay understanding of 'social justice'] and countering [things widely accepted as bad, at least in the lay understanding of these problems], with no dogma.

    So then, one reads around the Atheism+ forum for a while, including the education forum (subsequently renamed), and sees that people keep getting redirected back to the education topics until they know and accept the basic tenents of atheism plus (or, at least, of the forum), and sees that people express something other than those basic tenents are, frankly, treated in what would be considered a rude manner in most places: piled on, insulted, disciplined.

    Then if one goes to the thread at the Atheism+ forum where the opening post contains a link to “An Open Letter to Atheism Plus” by C0nc0rdance and says, in its entirety (emphasis added):

    Thoughts?

    I’m not him by the way, just thought it might be more constructive to try to have a discussion here rather than on youtube.

    and sees that the “discussion” is 2 pages of people whose opinion of the video are essentially the same, including this comment (referring to people critical of atheism plus; emphasis added):

    The sad thing is that we – as a community – have to take some blame for this, since we convinced many of these people that their often poorly-thought-out, reflexive opinions about why religion is bad were valid for the sake of increasing the numbers; now they’ve assumed that the same approach is true of atheism, and we’re on the receiving end.

    one realizes that the forum is shooting itself in the foot by claiming on the Welcome page to be welcoming to “people” who “apply critical thinking and skepticism to everything” but clearly, clearly, clearly, seeing people who actually apply critical thinking as “trolls”. (Flewellyn asked me, in the JV petition thread, whether I had anything “intellectually honest” to say and if not that I should stop posting. I linked & quoted a description of intellectual honesty and would challenge anyone to support the claim that the approach I’d taken in that thread was not “intellectually honest.” Yes, I missed one piece of supporting evidence for the part of the petition’s claim about AVfM, but also pointed out that whether or not I’d missed evidence didn’t matter, because that that claim wasn’t actually important.)

    So, back to the thread on the C0nc0rdance video. If one expresses a different opinion in that thread (agreeing with the video presented for “discussion”), one gets this special treatment. Now, in my case perhaps one misstep was to predict out loud that I would be piled on; Matt didn’t do that – apparently not expecting to receive that treatment – but he received it nonetheless (in a different area of the forum, expressing disagreement about 2 different specific topics – apparently questioning my banning, but that post was lost, then questioning the handling of that post).

    If you all at the Atheism+ forum want to cut way down on your troll problem, you should rewrite your “Welcome” page and you should make sure that new members have a really, really clear list, in one place, of the forum’s expectations; sure, it could be refined over time, but by now surely you have a sense of what that is – and it isn’t “apply[ing] skepticism and critical thinking about everything.” Members would “agree” to the terms as they join. See post #7 in this thread for some suggestions on other steps. And, though apparently I’m seen as a troll, a bad person, perhaps a gender traitor, I do sincerely wish you good luck. I just think you have to look hard at what your goals REALLY are and set the forum up to help you achieve that goals, rather than pissing off “good people” who could be allies or at least quiet supporters.

  135. julian says

    It’s publicly available in a number of places online, since it’s the legal address of her business.

    This is typical of Vacula’s defenders. Because information is “public” (meaning it’s listed somewhere) there’s nothing wrong with disseminating it, they argue. After all, it’s public, isn’t it?

    This is like arguing it’s not wrong for someone to give your abusive ex your phone number because it’s listed in a phone book somewhere.

    It’s absurd. If I’ve found, by whatever means, personal information of someone, I do not have the right to distribute it among people who openly hate that person. I don’t even have the right to pass it on to their closest friends. It’s personal information.

    And that’s all I’m saying to you. I’d wish you a nice day but I kinda want the opposite.

  136. julian says

    That’s a lie. There was no “agreement” with you, I simply told the mods about the conversation and what my intent was.

    Ok, so there seems to have been some miscommunication. The mods thought there was an agreement in place when there wasn’t any. Explains why there’s such heat around this right now.

  137. captainmjs says

    I really feel like the language that is being used in this essay is unhelpful at best. Trying to solicit an apology from someone is confrontational in nature. You are ascribing blame to them and claiming that in some way they owe you something. It would be much better if the forum would have simply stated to Matt how they feel that they were hurt by his actions and what effect they believe that his actions have had on their membership. I mean does anyone really want a solicited apology, especially from someone that is a friend and (I would say) an ally? How can you even give a sincere apology that has been solicited? I think if this situation can be resolved the use of this kind of language is an obstacle to that resolution.

  138. skeptixx says

    justin,

    You can go to http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1450&hilit=vacula#p20702 to see my examination of the claims I saw about JV. Feel free to rip me apart there if you like; I can’t reply, but that’s okay.

    Your focus on the JV example, rather than the bigger-picture analysis of hypocrisy in how the Atheism+ forum presents itself vis a vis skepticism, is noted.

    I’d wish you a nice day but I kinda want the opposite.

    Honest, perhaps, but IMO pretty petty, and a sad commentary on this entire situation.

  139. smhll says

    And, though apparently I’m seen as a troll, a bad person, perhaps a gender traitor, I do sincerely wish you good luck.

    Since no one called you a gender traitor (on this thread, since I can’t speak for the whole internet), your speculation about what people think about you is kind of silly and melodramatic. I’d have more respect for you as a source if you were scrupulous about being factual rather than fanciful.

  140. skeptixx says

    So, one problem in ALL OF THIS is people making assumptions and leaping to conclusions.

    What I wrote, literally, is that “apparently I’m seen as”. I did not state that I was actually called these names (though indeed I have been referred to multiple times as “troll”, at the Atheism+ forum).

    Regarding “gender traitor”, I used the adverb “perhaps”, which signifies ‘uncertainty or possibility’ and is ‘used when one does not wish to be too definite or assertive in’ a statement.

    Reading for accuracy: IMO a useful but underutilized approach.

  141. says

    It’s definitely a tell that you’ve been hanging out in the Slymepit though. Nobody jumps to “gender traitor” around these parts unless you’ve been there for about twenty minutes and have gotten suckered in by the lie that any woman who disagrees with us is labelled such. Your use of it here is poisoning the well in exactly the same way.

    And for the millionth time, one person used the term who isn’t even associated with FtB, and no bloggers here have ever used the term on anyone, to my knowledge. Not even Ophelia, the prime scapegoat.

  142. says

    Jason, is there any reason for Skeptickle’s diatribe http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/10/06/matt-i-really-think-you-owe-them-an-apology/#comment-83476 to appear in this thread in the first place?

    Didn’t you already address her complaints? Don’t you have a long running thread for bashing A+ already where these posts belong?

    Bah. Don’t bother letting this out of moderation, I don’t want to engage and go further off-topic, it just seems like it’s junking up the works to permit this rambling derail. Especially since it looks like Matt checked in and might respond once he gets past the the “you liars!” stage.

  143. says

    Yes Sheesh: her diatribe proves that she is abusive of discourse and of the truth, and only intended to try to catch the forum participants out on some sort of hypocrisy. Letting her hang herself here proves why she should have been banned from the forums. She never intended to participate, only to attack.

  144. Sheesh says

    See, this is why I was hoping my post wouldn’t even show. More sniping, more bullshit, more derailing. You forgot to repeat groupthink or something, though. We’ve heard it all before, really. So, so boring.

  145. skeptixx says

    Don’t worry. I won’t return to post in this thread, voluntarily (though if I’m banned that’ll also do the trick).

    I would urge, though, that those who want the Atheism+ forum to flourish take a look at my long posts above (#7 and #159, currently) and really look at the content there (except the JV comments) as feedback to try to help you reduce the troll problem you feel you have. I do wish you luck, as that’s the conventional phrasing, meaning that with clarification of what the goals are and how to reach them effectively, I think y’all could see progress towards those goals.

    Over and out.

  146. says

    Matt, we believed strongly that there was an agreement in place. If you are saying that, from your perspective, there wasn’t, that’s fine. But I and the other mods are not “lying”. We are disclosing what happened from our perspective.

    If nothing else, maybe this will help us all to remember to ask more questions to prevent miscommunication?

  147. says

    I respect Matt a great deal and Flewellyn is one of the sweetest people I know.

    I hope you are able to discuss privately what has happened and work it out.

  148. says

    You are one individual who has the power to make this right and fix the damage that has been done. You can deny you are responsible, you can deflect the blame to us, but it won’t change the minds of dozens of members, who still hold you responsible. The more you double down and defend, the worse it gets. You won’t accept anything less than for dozens of people to stfu and feel violated, so you, one individual can be right. Aside from being unfeasible it just drips, oozes, and bleeds privilege. Your ignorance of what the movement is demonstrated by that.

    You have the power to be the hero. You would be one instantly to your fans, you would become one to many who would be so grateful that you ended their anger and feeling if you, one person, took the initiative to suffer a little humility by acknowledge the hurt and anger shown the many pleas posted and blogged to you and make amends – (asking them what would fix it is more logical than announcing what you deign to give . Instead you choose to double down, drive your refusal deeper, and make yourself out to be an even more dastardly villain than you already are.

    You had the opportunity to work with staff – but instead you chose to act unilaterally, dictate what you think should be done. I have little confidence you heard Greta or Jen, if you even spoke with them. Being right took precedence over healing the community. By leaving a large and significant part of the Atheism+ broken, you showed how little you really do care about the movement. You have this nebulous idea of a movement, and don’t even recognize the huge chunk of the grassroots supporters that live right here in this forum community. You disrespected your allies and friends Greta and Jen, by doing damage to the forum they created and founded. Oh, and you get extra credit for an extra dose of disrespect to Greta after she posted this the day before your ‘social experiment”.

    [quote="GretaChristina"]My dad died today. This wasn’t unexpected, and in many ways it was a relief: he’s been very ill for a long time, and his quality of life has been very poor and diminishing. But even though it was expected, it’s still a jolt, and it’s still really hard. Among other things, Dad is the first person I’ve been close to who has died since I stopped believing in any sort of religion or any sort of afterlife. And it’s complicated by the fact that we didn’t really have a great relationship, and I don’t have a lot of that “At least he had a good life and you have good memories” stuff. I loved him, but it was a hard relationship, especially in the last couple of decades.
    I wanted to let you all know. Support and kind words would be appreciated. Also… this is going to sound weird, but if you’re about to say “If there’s anything I can do”… what you can do is keep Atheism+ going. Keep this community strong; keep going with the work and the battles that we’re engaged in. I’m going to be sidelined for a while, and it will be a comfort to know that this place is here, and is thriving. Thanks.[/quote]

    I’ve sent you you a couple of polite and friendly emails suggesting we have a dialogue, both of which have been deliberately ignored. My willingness to ascribe only the most ethical and honorable intentions to you, and give you the benefit of the doubt, lost the trust of some members when you revealed yourself TO BE THAT GUY. I was your ally, and you dismiss me like dirt.

    And finally, since you are openly discussing communication to staff, I post them here exactly as written, with your implied consent.
    Sent: Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:34 am
    [quote="MattDillahunty"]I was working up a video about the whole thing…clearing up some of the confusion and pointing out the mistakes and what we need to correct, on all sides.
    Greta, who is still travelling after her fathers death, sent me a quick message asking me to hold off until she could talk to the moderators. I’m not going to be posting here, or responding elsewhere, until either Greta and I have a chance to talk…or that anti-atheism+ crowd misrepresent this issue to the point where I’m forced to correct them.[/quote]

    Sent: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:07 am
    [quote="MattDillahunty"][quote="maiforpeace"]“Admittedly, I do wish you hadn’t changed your mind about not posting until you spoke to Greta”.[/quote]
    I didn’t. I had talked to Greta, several times…and Jen.
    I’m going to be posting a video later. Some sort of joint statement might be possible, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.[/quote]

  149. says

    Jason Thibeault #166

    “It’s definitely a tell that you’ve been hanging out in the Slymepit though. Nobody jumps to “gender traitor” around these parts unless you’ve been there for about twenty minutes and have gotten suckered in by the lie that any woman who disagrees with us is labelled such. Your use of it here is poisoning the well in exactly the same way.”

    I’ve never been to the slymepit and have heard the phrase gender traitor before. Much like I’ve never listened to Rush Limbaugh and have heard the phrase feminazi before.

    I think this statement leads directly back to the beginning of this entire kerfuffle in that Matt’s comment was “Just trying to help.” As a general rule, I intentionally avoid comment sections and forums. As such I would never have thought twice about trying to help someone understand something I thought was obvious. I know better now.

    This inability to separate the honest from the hateful should not be the new commenters problem.

  150. Cipher says

    This inability to separate the honest from the hateful should not be the new commenters problem.

    That is unavoidable. It’s not like the mods are going “EVERY NEW POSTER IS BANNED IMMEDIATELY.” They are using their best discretion, and as I said earlier, anyone who wants to be an ally ought to understand immediately that false positives are preferable to false negatives – and try not to look like a troll!

  151. says

    maidao –

    I’m really torn whether or not I should say anything about your post. I know, if it were directed at me, I would not respond well to it – for all the reasons I’ve been mentioning about the nature of asking for apologies. I don’t respond well to others attempting to illicit guilt, and I doubt many people do.

    The last year has played out pretty badly in general – and I know there has been a lot of strife. I really don’t have nearly as much emotional capital invested in the atheist community as others. So, I realize that going through all of this has been 100 times worse than what I have experienced personally and maybe that disqualifies me from saying anything.

    I’ll make a suggestion though – and this includes Matt and several others.

    If there isn’t a compelling reason to air interpersonal conflicts on publicly available media, could you not do that.

  152. says

    That didn’t even come out right.

    Maybe I’m just frustrated seeing all this play out, and knowing that the public nature of it probably isn’t helping it resolve reasonably.

    So – yeah – going to take my own advice there.

  153. krgrace says

    Maidao–

    As a bit of a logophile, I’d just like to thank you for “dastardly villain.” Simply delicious.

  154. says

    I so agree with about not doing it publically M.A. Mebley. I ALWAYS try to do it privately, and ideally on Skype. And that’s what I did – I suggested Skype to Matt.

    But, if someone deliberately ignores me, I guess I have to get the person’s attention somehow, eh? He’s communicating he’s not listening to me. So maybe if he knows others are listening in that will perk his ears up at least, and that’s some progress in my book.

    And if he feels any shame or embarrassment, maybe that’s a signal to that he should be paying attention, don’t you think?

    Anyone who knows me will tell you that my communication style is kind, open and willing to listen, so you telling me I could have been nicer is irrelevant. I was polite and he did not respond in kind.

  155. says

    Cipher #177

    “..anyone who wants to be an ally ought to understand immediately that false positives are preferable to false negatives..”

    That’s not what the moderators and admin thought at Atheims+. The moderation policy was changed to reflect the opposite.

    “..and try not to look like a troll!”

    That was my point. Is it possible to not look like a troll if you’ve never learned that trying to help is considered trollish?

  156. skeptixx says

    I wonder whether Skeptixx could actually link to a place where she has discussed social justice rather than discussing the people who discuss social justice.

    I’d said I wouldn’t post again voluntarily, so perhaps this is a rhetorical question?

    If not, I’d just point out that I haven’t claimed to “discuss” social justice.

    I prefer to take action, IRL, to address those issues I feel are both high priority and ones where my effort might help make a dent. I’m leaving in a few minutes to a fundraiser for the marriage equality referendum on the ballot in my state, and after that going to help a disabled woman from my UU church get into bed for the night. (A bunch of us take turns.) Then tomorrow I’m back at work as the director of a women’s health care clinic which includes figuring out how to most fairly allocate the funds we have to provide free care to some % of our patients, while a % of my wages twice monthly gets sent to 3 international charitable organizations that help provide food, clean water, and emergency medical care to people in dire conditions elsewhere in the world, because for me helping contribute to actually saving lives (or, more accurately, prolonging lives with improved quality based on health and opportunity) is of very high priority to me.

    But that’s doesn’t mean I’m claiming any kind of expertise in social justice. Instead, in that one post fairly high up, I told you that I am “an admin at another atheist site, IRL the director of a women’s clinic, and a scientist by training, so [I have had] had some reason to think about behavior and expectations online and IRL, creating and maintaining safe spaces (for women seeking health care, at least), hiring, and skeptically evaluating claims” – and it was that experience that leads me to look at the Atheism+ forum as a site that could address its “troll” problem by more clearly defining its goals then designing and implementing the measures needed to get there. (Load of privilege, there, perhaps. Sorry for that, if so.)

  157. Cipher says

    That’s not what the moderators and admin thought at Atheims+. The moderation policy was changed to reflect the opposite.

    No, it wasn’t changed “to reflect the opposite.” They are working to strike a balance, but they have a responsibility to the community to maintain a safe space, which they know and care about. Thank you for explaining to me incorrectly the moderation policies of a forum I’m part of, though. That was very helpful.

  158. says

    So the moderation policy wasn’t changed to make sure new users are less likely to be unilaterally banned for possibly innocent mistakes?

    I must have misread when Flewellyn said, “We have apologized for the way in which WE fucked up. We acknowledged that our moderation policies needed to change, that we mods and admins need to extend good faith to new users, and that we need to fix our post approval process so that only actual spam gets screened out. These are legitimate complaints of his, and we HAVE FIXED THEM.”

    http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=24488#p24488

  159. Cipher says

    So the moderation policy wasn’t changed to make sure new users are less likely to be unilaterally banned for possibly innocent mistakes?

    Look, if you’re going to keep twisting and/or ignoring my words like this I’m not going to bother engaging you any further. It’s a waste of time to talk to someone who fails to listen.

  160. Pteryxx says

    So the moderation policy wasn’t changed to make sure new users are less likely to be unilaterally banned for possibly innocent mistakes?

    Nope, since that isn’t what happened. The original post was deleted (unintentionally, now fixed) and the banning was neither unilateral nor due to subsequently changed policy: sockpuppeting did, and still, merit a ban.

  161. allansavolainen says

    They are using their best discretion, and as I said earlier, anyone who wants to be an ally ought to understand immediately that false positives are preferable to false negatives – and try not to look like a troll!

    This doesn’t sound very fair, now that you are in the safe place, it is ok for other people trying to get there to be hurt as long as you don’t get hurt. Isn’t this your privilege showing?

  162. says

    “And finally, since you are openly discussing communication to staff”

    Great spin there! Flewellyn makes incorrect statements about private communications and when I address them, I’m the one openly discussing communication to staff.

    Meanwhile, there’s a pity-party going on where I’m being called all sorts of names and moderators – like you – are even claiming that they don’t believe I spoke to Greta (I did). Others are claiming that, if I did, I’m somehow evil for bothering people who are grieving.

    This is the sort of uninformed, unskeptical jumping to conclusions that is the problem. As the conversation is privileged, I won’t be revealing it here – but I will say that I didn’t contact her, she contacted me.

    I was done with this after posting a video praising the corrections and stating I was optimistic about the forum – but someone clearly couldn’t leave well enough alone. They couldn’t even simply ban me without tossing around blame, starting a thread to whine about me and repeatedly demonstrating that they are unskeptical, reactionary individuals who care less about truth than they do about bruised egos.

    I’m not taking a shit on the truth to protect people’s bruised feelings. It’s sad that so many others seem eager to do exactly that.

  163. jackiepaper says

    I have the worst urge to invite everyone to my house for ice cream, hugs and beer.
    Mistakes appear to have been made. People have been genuinely hurt. Could we please put our efforts into moving on and repairing damage done? Can we listen to one another and try to learn how not to have a fall out like this again?
    Mr. Dillahunty, I don’t doubt that people have been uncharitable, and it is frustrating and disappointing that communications became so twisted and muddled. The mistaken assumptions made about you are cringe-worthy. But I don’t think your response was charitable either. You really did disappoint and upset people, though that was certainly not your intent. Yes, they are stressed. You and many of the folks on those forums have been caught in a constant barrage of insults. Those of us affected by the past year’s outpouring of sexist atheist troll dung are not just bruised. I, personally have been genuinely disgusted and terrified. Please take some time to think things over and return to this situation with a kinder response.

  164. says

    Hey, Matt, you know the difference between “lying” and “different perspectives”, right?

    Of course you do, you’re a smart person.

    Well, we have a different perspective on what happened than you did. I fully understand that things would look different from your end. But, y’know, that’s why communication is good.

    We’re not “taking shits on the truth” when we put our perspective out there. Neither are you, when you put yours out there. It’s just, well, hey. This was a matter of interpersonal communication, which is a subjective process and can mess up easily.

    So, how’s about putting the hammer down, and I’ll disarm my nose lasers, and we can TALK about this, instead of bloviating at each other?

  165. says

    Hi Matt. I want to offer you a sincere request to do that too. You still haven’t replied to my pm’s, or here, and I’m choosing not to be hurt because you must have a reason to be ignoring me, so what I want to do is let you know that I honestly invite you to share why.

    But I need to let you know too, that ignoring me like this does feel very disrespectful and that does hurt, and while I have been strongly critical, I have replied to every time you addressed me personally and don’t feel I deserve, at minimum this unprofessional treatment.

    I have group Skype, how about we get together for a few beers at my place? If I could buy, I most certainly would, but it is unfortunately BYOB.

    Let us know,

    Sincerely,

    Mai

  166. says

    Quoting Jason @ 166

    Nobody jumps to “gender traitor” around these parts unless you’ve been there for about twenty minutes and have gotten suckered in by the lie that any woman who disagrees with us is labelled such. Your use of it here is poisoning the well in exactly the same way.

    And for the millionth time, one person used the term who isn’t even associated with FtB, and no bloggers here have ever used the term on anyone, to my knowledge. Not even Ophelia, the prime scapegoat.

    “Not even” should be more like “certainly not.” That’s just not something I say, ever (except to quote it in meta discussions like this). I don’t know why the fuck I’ve been saddled with it, but then there are countless lies about me circulating for reasons that I don’t know.

  167. knighttyme says

    Flewellyn,

    In this particular case the notion of “different perspectives” doesn’t fly.

    For an agreement to be valid BOTH sides have to consent to the agreement.

    That you “perceived” the agreement to be consensual on both sides is immaterial given the fact that Matt indicates that he never agreed to anything.

    So far as I can tell based upon what has been written here, the mods received a message from Matt where he informed you of his intent.

    You then implied from his intent that there was now an “agreement” in place. However, agreements do not work like that.

    If I express an intent to sell something to someone, it does not and cannot imply that I have actually agreed to sell the item in question. The other person and I might not come to terms on a sale price, they might find a better deal elsewhere, I might decide upon further thought that I’d like to keep whatever it was that I had intended to sell.

    Intent NEVER implies agreement. That you jumped to this conclusion and then jumped to the further conclusion that Matt “broke” the deal isn’t fair and more importantly, it isn’t simply a matter of perspective.

    If you wanted an agreement to be in place, that agreement had to be explicit and I do not see evidence for that here.

    Your claim that it simply “looks different” from his perspective isn’t a fair characterization. If Matt did not perceive an agreement to be in place, then it is factually true that there was no agreement because Matt didn’t consent to one.

    Conversely, your “perspective” is factually wrong in this case for the same reasons. I very much doubt you would appreciate being held to an agreement you never explicitly consented to.

    Is it your contention that Matt explicitly agreed to the terms you outline and then broke them? If it wasn’t explicit then your perspective is flawed.

  168. dapartypoopah says

    How ironic. One very big activist for Atheism who is/was also a big proponent of Atheism+ goes on the forum to proof that the opponents of Atheism+ are wrong in that there are reasonable people who will listen to criticism and ended up proving the opponents right.
    And the hysteria about this is nothing other then pathetic. Oh dear god, somebody created another account trying to highlight a problem, dear mother of jesus what a betrayal, how wrong, such mischievous behavior. People saying they will leave because of this are just over sensitive whiners. What is their problem? In all seriousness, what is so wrong with creating a sock account for the purpose of highlighting a problem which would have been impossible to do with his original account? Who really gives a flying fuck? If you really think that is disgusting I think you should seek professional help. Really.

  169. daves not here says

    Correction, dapartypoopah: Matt didn’t create a new account to highlight a problem. He did it to prove to A+ detractors that they were wrong, and the problem didn’t exist.

  170. julian says

    Is it your contention that Matt explicitly agreed to the terms you outline and then broke them? If it wasn’t explicit then your perspective is flawed.

    Flewellyn was wrong to assume an agreement was in place but that’s a different issue from whether Dillahunty is right in characterizing Flewellyn’s behavior as he has. It’s one ting to say someone was wrong and wrong to believe as they did. It’s another to imply malice or a determination to obscure the truth.

  171. says

    I didn’t assume it. I was TOLD it, by Maidao up there. She believed him to be making an agreement.

    Now, if he didn’t intend for this to be an agreement, but was just stating his intentions, that’s fine.

    Then my perspective becomes “Well, he broke with his stated intentions within an hour.” So, either way, same result.

  172. stainless says

    I will declare now that I have not been persuaded of the necessity of Atheism Plus and I am a supporter of Matt Dillahunty, so take on board the following with that in mind and ignore it as you see fit.

    In the long run this incident, if allowed to fester, is going to have a more detrimental effect on the Atheism+ forums that it will on Matt Dillahunty. Why can’t you apologise to Matt, accept that there was blame on both sides for this incident blowing up as it has and that it was poor judgement to insist that Matt apologise for the damage he caused. You could still request an apology for setting up a second account in breach of the forum rules should he wish to return to the forums.

  173. arthur says

    The atheistplus forums started really well. In the first couple of weeks there was a lot of good feeling. Whole bunches of people were posting good links, organizing and so on.

    But it quickly became entrenched. Folks like Jen were nowhere to be seen. Instead, hostile figures took over, including various faceless anonymous moderators with bad attitudes. No more enlightening threads. No more organizing. No social justice. Just bad faith and miserable drama everywhere.

    All in the space of a month or so.

    A real shame.

  174. Cipher says

    Why can’t you apologise to Matt, accept that there was blame on both sides for this incident blowing up as it has

    Our moderators already did both of those things, with the added bonus of working on ways to improve the process.

    and that it was poor judgement to insist that Matt apologise for the damage he caused.

    It wasn’t.

  175. says

    First of all if the moderators had ended their commentary on the issue with “Thank you Matt for pointing out these problems, your assistance was invaluable, but your methods upset some members of this community, and we would appreciate an apology”, I suggest he would have done so. He certainly would have if that communication had been done privately.
    Secondly when Matt admitted that his accounts were correctly banned, and that he had no issue with that because he had broken the rules he was implicitly apologizing, or at least admitting that he was not without “sin”.
    Finally what I see (as the owner of a chat network for 12 years, and having dealt with hundreds of mods) is a group of them, who were made to look bad in their kingdom, throwing their weight around because of it, and without concern for the fallout as long as they “win” their personal battle.

  176. says

    mikepaps: From where I’m standing, that looks like exactly what happened. Once they knew this person wasn’t a random troll (read: Schrodinger’s Threat) trying to cut them apart, they apologized. It sounds to me like they were already taking the specific complaints seriously when they were pointed out and seen by more than the one moderator, even though there was a heaping helping of calls of “teal deer” (TL;DR) that really annoyed Matt. Except, the moderators apologized. The issues were addressed. They seem to be asking for an apology for how he acted. He has dug in, because he feels that the point could not have been made any other way.

    I contend that it absolutely could — that the problems with forum procedures could have been addressed separately from the questioning of the way Skep tickle was banned. Maybe even by the same “Curious” account. But for both to hit at the same time, the forum moderators — who absolutely have to protect the forum’s members — would have been extending too much benefit of the doubt.

    I’ve been emailing back and forth privately with Matt, as both our time allows. He keeps saying that Skep tickle was right on some points and wrong on others, and that the only thing remotely abusive that she’d said was the last thing about Kool-aid. I strongly suspect this is part of the problem between us, the first point of contention from which most other disagreements flow.

  177. says

    Something else these mods don’t seem to recognize is that Matt’s youtube channel alone has more subscribers than A+ forum, and each video he puts out gets more comments than the A+ forum does in a week.

    Matt has been relentlessly defending, and supporting A+ despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of his “fans” think it’s a bad idea, and have been constantly telling him so, and why. He felt his personally credibility with his audience was at stake. He didn’t do what he did to support A+, he did it to prove he was right in his support of it, and the criticism/namecalling he’d heaped on the naysayers.

    When he he was proven wrong, and the critics appeared right he took that as a personal affront to him, and a betrayal of the trust he had in A+.

    So now not only have they let him down with their behavior, they expect him to apologize for it? IMO the best choice he can make now is distance himself as much as he can from A+, and regain the trust of his fans, and admirers.

  178. says

    Many of his “fans and admirers” are the same goons just trying to tear that forum down. Consider the link I put in my last comment, please. There’s a reason a space full of minorities can’t extend the benefit of the doubt as far as privileged folks like me and Matt. And presumably you, since you don’t seem to understand this fact.

  179. says

    The rest of your comment sounds like “how dare the tiny and insignificant forum ask for an apology for perceived-to-be-shitty behaviour from the great and powerful Matt Dillahunty”. Argumentum ad populum ain’t a great tack for a skeptic. Just saying.

  180. says

    He keeps saying that Skep tickle was right on some points and wrong on others, and that the only thing remotely abusive that she’d said was the last thing about Kool-aid.

    On that thread, yes, this is accurate. That was the only really abusive thing that Skep Tickle had said on that thread.

    Had he, perchance, looked at her posting history? On other threads?

  181. says

    Said he looked at all 17 of her posts. I only see 16 now, but I do see this one from very early on:

    “And now, I predict that I will be told what I think or what type of person I am, and what I should do (“STFU” being one example that seems to occur with relative frequency here). I’d be delighted to have that not come to pass, but the odds are against that. Here, why don’t I lie down to make the dogpile easier. ;)”

    Doesn’t that sound just a bit abusive to the rest of you? She did admit she wasn’t interested in participating but only challenging everything and anything about the forum when she discussed the thing over at the Slymepit.

  182. says

    Many of his “fans and admirers” are the same goons just trying to tear that forum down.

    I’m curious Jason, have you ever really looked into the numerous criticisms of atheism+, and I’m not talking about those coming from MRA’s who I generally consider to be on par with whites complaining about “reverse racism”.

    There’s a reason a space full of minorities

    Then call it Atheist+minorities, and keep everyone else out, but if you want to be inclusive that doesn’t work, and the fact it doesn’t, and people know that is one of the criticisms coming from those you claim are trying to tear it down. If that’s true A+ is providing the ammunition.

    The rest of your comment sounds like “how dare the tiny and insignificant forum ask for an apology for perceived-to-be-shitty behaviour from the great and powerful Matt Dillahunty”. Argumentum ad populum ain’t a great tack for a skeptic. Just saying.

    If I was saying Matt is popular so you shouldn’t ask for an apology THAT would be an argumentum ad populum, but what I’m saying is he’s done a lot for A+, and could do much more if he isn’t alienated. They call that not shitting where you eat, or knowing which side of your bread is buttered. No Latin required.

  183. julian says

    I don’t think it’s abusive at all. It sounds like trolling. Like deliberately trying to provoke hostility and encourage antagonism from the forum. Something that would warrant a “cut that crap out” from moderators and a more severe response if the behavior continued.

    Which it did. So she was shown the door. Seems fair to me.

    In any case if Dillahunty feels (and I don’t know or think that he does) time would be better spent distancing himself from A+ he should. He doesn’t owe us anything and he’d still be a stand up guy.

  184. says

    Jason Thibeault @ 207:

    I’ve been emailing back and forth privately with Matt, as both our time allows. He keeps saying that Skep tickle was right on some points and wrong on others, and that the only thing remotely abusive that she’d said was the last thing about Kool-aid. I strongly suspect this is part of the problem between us, the first point of contention from which most other disagreements flow.

    So it’s just as I feared: a lot of miscommunication escalating out of control. The way out of this log-jam is simple enough:

    * Chill down the rhetoric, to cool down emotions and get everyone thinking clearly again. Based on this thread, the A+ mods seem to be doing a good job here.

    * Search out mediation, to get a view that isn’t biased by what each side is seeing. Dillahunty’s mentioned he’s been in contact with Christina, which is a good step forward.

    * Figure out the facts, with the help of the moderator. Both sides seem to have very different views of the same events, likely due to missing information. Replaying what happened with commentary from both sides, with the help of the mediator, should remove the fog.

    * Finally, start laying out apologies. There’s nothing wrong with asking for or offering them before the last three steps, but you do run the risk of asking for an apology that isn’t deserved, or apologizing for the wrong thing.

    I’ve posted favorably of the mods before. For his part, Dillahunty has been a strong supporter of the ideas behind A+, and as far as I know still is. He’s put up with a tonne of grief himself, from anti-A+ trolls to friendly fire from A+ identified people without all the facts. Both sides are on edge, so a flare-up of tempers is understandable. Both sides sound like they’re moving forward, though, and I’m hopeful most of this will be resolved within a week.

  185. knighttyme says

    As I see it, the main problem here is with the attitude of those within the atheism plus inner circle. In particular, they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to justify a set of double standards, don’t treat people as they themselves would like to be treated, and often dish out insults and accusations at the drop of a hat when they themselves simply can’t take it when insults are tossed in their direction.

    Case in point. In this very thread some of the atheism plus mods took umbrage at the implication that they had been lying about something. It was correctly point out that in order for something to be a lie, there has to be intention to deceive on the part of the so-called liar.

    So that is all well and good, and I happen to agree with that sentiment. In order to call someone a liar or to call something a lie it is critically important to know with a high degree of certainty that the person in question knows the actual truth and is saying something else intentionally.

    Yet prior to Matt’s accusation of lies being promulgated on the other side, here is a statement made by one of the atheism plus mods on their own forum:

    “From beginning to end despite what he claims, I feel certain that Matt’s actions were predominantly unilateral. There’s no way I can believe that he talked to either Greta or Jen as he claimed, and, if he did he didn’t hear a thing they said anyway.”

    Which basically boils down to an accusation that Matt is a liar. That while he said he was approached by Greta, that such a statement simply cannot be believed, that Matt has acted “unilaterally” and his story is simply a load of bs.

    So it is completely permissible to paint Matt as a liar with zero evidence to suggest that his story is in fact fabricated, but Matt was out of line for calling the same people liars who called him a liar. In fact it is Matt who requires an education on what actually constitutes a lie.

    Not to beat around the bush here, but over the past few days Matt has been characterized on the atheism plus forums as a privileged bully who sought to intentionally deceive the atheism plus community by making them participate against their will in an emotionally traumatizing social experiment. Once the experiment was concluded he unilaterally contacted two prominent members of the atheism plus community in order to essentially strong arm the moderators into an agreement that they would never have normally agreed to. In coercing this agreement it was also pointed out what a shit Matt was for using misusing his friendship to encourage a grieving individual to advocate on his behave to get this agreement in place. Then to top things off, once the agreement was established, Matt waited one hour and then breached the conditions of that agreement as one last FU to the atheism plus community.

    I wish I was exaggerating here, but anyone is free to see for themselves that this is the narrative that has essentially developed. It is nothing more than an attempt to demonize and vilify Matt because once someone has been demonized, any and all bad treatment received by them is deserved.

    This story, as far as I can tell, has been concocted over there pretty much out if a series of half-truths, and the people guilty of promulgating this concerted character assassination include not only the membership, but also the moderation staff because they are far too trigger happy and jump to unsubstantiated conclusions time and time again.

    But sure, we should be focusing upon the fact that Matt was a bit too hasty in his characterization of one statement as a lie because in principle he should have said it was wrong instead.

    I happen to agree with the above sentiment actually, I don‘t like terms like lie and liar being tossed around too freely… but I also find it to be a tremendous double standard coming from a group who has failed to apply the same rigorous standards to their own behavior.

    It is obnoxious to expect perfection from others when you fail time and time again at the very same task. There is no justification for this type of behavior and until this changes many people are never going to feel comfortable with the environment fostered at the atheism plus forums. What appears to be true over there is if you happen to be within the in crowd, no insult or accusation is too big to toss maliciously at someone else, but if you are not within the in crowd, no insult is too small to get you eliminated by the moderation team.

    Just something to think about. If more people were treating others as they themselves would like to be treated in the same situation fewer of these problems would result.

  186. says

    Flewellyn posted this, on the thread about me:

    “For my part, “apology” would be nice, but what I really want is for Matt to just, I dunno, not bash us in public anymore?

    And then we can do the same: not bash him in public anymore, either. Y’know, for politics.”

    First of all, I haven’t bashed you. I’ve posted 2 videos – one describing the circumstances (which were already public and required a public response), the problems that were discovered and praising the moderators for correcting them and stating that I was (cautiously) optimistic about the future of the forum.

    There was no ‘bashing’ there. It was honest, factual and even supportive.

    After that, all of my actions and public comments on the subject were made up of clarifications to the A+ detractors that I hadn’t changed my mind on the issues and that this incident doesn’t necessarily support all of the claims made against the forum.

    I was silent – or doing ‘damage control’ (in the sense that I was striving to make sure that the situation wasn’t misrepresented as a problem with the ideal of A+ and wasn’t used to turn everyone against the forum as a place for communication).

    And then, you implied that I needed to apologize and that I didn’t care about the forum. You also set up a thread for people to trash me (or compliment me, but given the environment…). You then misrepresented the facts here, and several of you implied that I was being dishonest in other areas.

    I’m not the one doing the bashing here – but if you want me to start, that can be arranged.

  187. says

    Matt, please, reread what I wrote in a more charitable light. Assume good faith.

    I just said earlier that I was presenting the facts from my perspective, and that I understand that perspectives differ. I resent the implication that this is “misrepresenting” just because we don’t agree on what happened.

    It’s also worth noting that the thread I set up for people’s reactions, was not intended to bash you. It was intended for people to talk about how THEY felt. You know, making “I” statements.

    For the record, I DO appreciate you pointing out to people that this was a personal conflict, not a conflict of ideas, and that you still support the goals of A+. That is very important. Thank you for that.

    I just think we need to come to some kind of rapprochement here, and I’m more than willing to admit that we screwed up in several places. We’ve already taken steps to fix the problems you pointed out.

    It’s just, can you meet us halfway?

  188. smhll says

    Figure out the facts, with the help of the moderator. Both sides seem to have very different views of the same events, likely due to missing information. Replaying what happened with commentary from both sides, with the help of the mediator, should remove the fog.

    The metaphor that often pops into my mind is the story about the several blind men and the elephant, where everyone has a different perception based on what part of the elephant they are touching. It’s not a perfect metaphor for starting from different points of view, but it is a good metaphor for having just some of the facts. (Human beings seem to be extra good at filling in the “pattern” from very skimpy data sets.)

  189. says

    “It’s just, can you meet us halfway?”

    So, first you want an apology. Then you want me to stop bashing you – when I wasn’t bashing you…and now you want me to meet you halfway.

    Halfway between what? The truth isn’t halfway between right and wrong.

    I was supportive, I praised the corrections, expressed optimism, fully supported the ban and the correct application of the rules. I honestly represented the facts and did continual damage control in an attempt to keep the truth from being re-spun into more serious damage for the community.

    Meanwhile, I’m a dastardly villain and a liar and was never an ally and…

    Halfway is for you guys to stop digging. You’re deep enough.

  190. says

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that stuff that some of our members say about their personal feelings, represents official forum policy.

    We, the moderators, apologized, we corrected the problems you pointed out, we stated that we didn’t think you were an evil person or a dastardly villain, and I just expressed appreciation that you continued to fight the anti-A+ers’ misconceptions on public media such as Youtube and Twitter. That’s our “halfway”.

    That some of our members are still upset with you is not in my control. What do you want us to do, ban them from speaking their minds in their safe space? Sure, some of them are saying you’re a dastardly villain, and I don’t agree with that. But I’m not going to tell them to shut up.

    At any rate, I think I see a problem here. You are still approaching this situation as if it’s a matter of “THE truth”. Well, when it comes to purely interpersonal conflicts, one of the things I have learned is that it’s more useful to focus on what people involved think and feel about what happened, and what their goals are. If that means disagreeing about some aspect of what happened, agreeing to disagree to keep the peace is perfectly legitimate.

    MY goal is for us to be able to put this behind us and work together. I assume that your goal is much the same.

    What do we, both of us, have to do to meet that goal? I’d like to have that conversation with you. But I would like to have it in such a way that we aren’t hurling accusations at each other anymore. In particular, please, let’s give up this “this is THE TRUTH, and if you disagree you are misrepresenting” stuff. Like I said, with purely interpersonal conflicts, “the truth” is less important than “the peace”.

  191. knighttyme says

    Flewellyn,

    I obviously don’t speak for Matt, but I do not perceive the request being made on your end as simply asking Matt to “meet you half way”.

    Based upon the actions of those on the atheism plus forums, including the membership (for whom you are not responsible), other mods (also for whom you are not responsible), and yourself (for whom you are responsible) you are making a somewhat unreasonable request. It isn’t actually a “meet us half way” thing.

    Matt has been unfairly characterized by you and others in a light that more or less shows a complete disregard for his actual intentions going in to all of this. In fact, the sentiment has been expressed that his intentions essentially mean squat because of the fall out that has resulted.

    You are asking for an apology from someone who was trying to help you. What exactly is he supposed to fix on his side? The only adjustments he can make are to not care about your movement any longer, or he can care and just ignore your movement and remain silent. This is the reason we have things like good Samaritan laws, to protect those who have good intentions from being held accountable for less than ideal outcomes that might result from their intervention.

    For him to continue to care and act on that care in a way that he feels is constructive is for him not to change at all. What specific changes are you looking for Matt to make here and in the future?

    Matt pointed out very specific issues that required adjustment in your moderation procedures and as a result your team was able to address those issues.

    The only “problems” your side has pointed out about Matt are that he is essentially a liar who manipulates grieving friends, sets of social experiments on emotionally vulnerable individuals, bullies people around with his privileges status in the atheist community, etc… People have been pointing out character flaws, not procedural flaws.

    If Matt does not agree with those characterizations (which I don’t feel he should agree with because those are all unfair descriptions of what transpired) then how is he supposed to “meet you half way”.

    It would be helpful if you specifically outlined the issues you have the same way he specifically outlined the issues he had (for example, pointing out that it is not advisable to have a system that deletes posts that are rejected by a mod because it prevents review at a later stage). If you want him to meet you half way then it would serve you well to point out procedural flaws in his behavior and NOT character flaws.

    You really need to get specific like that. Then and only then is it even possible for someone to meet you half way. Please point out specifically what procedures you would have preferred Matt adhere to, please make constructive suggestions as well. Assuming what you point out is reasonable I doubt that you’ll have trouble getting people to agree with you.

  192. says

    Nothing is more important than the truth, to me. I’m not sacrificing the truth to keep the peace. I’m not going to be apologizing – that’s just the way it is.

    The truth is that you accused me of bashing you. Defend that. More than that, you imply that I’m continually bashing you. Defend that.

    That’s a public attack on my reputation and an attempt to characterize me as continuing the problem – when I was either silent or consistently doing damage control on behalf of the mess that you created.

    I was done with this after the first video, steps had been taken to improve the community and I was done – apart from continuing to clarify this in order to prevent undeserved attacks.

    But you folks had to imply that I should apologize. You made the post calling for an apology and accusing me of lacking concern for the forum membership. You accused me of continually bashing you – and that you wished I’d stop. You just suggest that if I stop bashing you (which I haven’t been doing) that you’d stop bashing me…which is an admission that you’re bashing me.

    Don’t come on here and try to look like the reasonable moderator, just seeking the peace….and blaming this on the opinions of forum membership. Put down the shovel.

    No, I don’t expect you to silence people. I would expect decent people to defend the truth and to correct the misinformation being tossed around, though.

    I’ve already arranged to do a Skype discussion with one moderator, I might do more…I tried to offer this to Jason, as well.

    But, quite honestly, you’re making it very difficult to want to do that.

  193. Cipher says

    I need a clarification here: What precisely is the “truth” that Matt thinks we’re trying to get him to deny here?

    Here’s what I, personally, want from Matt, and this is entirely me (i.e. not to be taken as a representation of the mods, whom I’m not, or the forum in general, which I’m just a part of), as a person who really really likes Matt and is very hurt by what’s gone on:

    I want Matt to care about the fact that his methods came off as dishonest and manipulative, regardless of his intentions, which are not magic. I want him to actually care, to try to grok how this looks from our perspective and understand why it would be hurtful. And then I want him to acknowledge that he cares, preferably in the form of an apology for causing that hurt, and for the repeated statements that he doesn’t care about it. I very much want Matt as an ally, because I do respect him a lot and have for some time. I’m not sure where the “denying the truth” accusation falls into this.

    I am exhausted by this. Matt’s behavior toward us has caused me a lot of pain and disappointment. I want to put this behind us. Unfortunately, I feel compelled to continue talking about it because of Matt’s responses to our moderator above.

  194. Cipher says

    Sorry, Matt, I was writing my post when you posted. Disregard it if it doesn’t apply. I’ll read yours now.

  195. Cipher says

    No, yeah, I’m mostly still okay with my post. Matt, what truth do you think you’re being asked to sacrifice here?

  196. says

    That’s a fair point, knighttyme.

    For the record: I, personally, do not believe that Matt lied when he said he spoke with Greta or Jen. I do not believe that he intended to look like he was bullying people with privileged status. I am sure he did not intend to actually bully anyone. Hell, the fact that I believed and still believe Matt to be someone of good character is why I was initially derisively incredulous (or incredulously derisive, if you prefer) about the new account being him. I can’t speak for anyone else on this matter, but I personally believe Matt’s intentions were good.

    Intent, of course, is not magic. It’s easy to accidentally step on someone’s foot, even if you’re trying your best not to. The point is, as internet commenter “Hershele Ostropoler” says, if you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.

    I think, basically, if Matt were to just say “Yeah, covert op, bad idea”, that would be enough. Because the covert aspect of things rubbed a lot of us the wrong way. And the other thing was arguing that because of his work elsewhere supporting A+, he was necessarily entitled to intervene in the policy decisions of a forum that, by his own admission, he didn’t participate in.

    I mean, yes, his whole point was to try to demonstrate that A+ers will listen to an argument regardless of who it comes from. But as Jason points out above, that’s not a fair thing to expect when it comes to arguments about how a community is run. Arguments about factual matters, sure. But “how are we going to run our community?” is a question best left to members of the community. I mean, do we let theists tell us how we should run atheist activism? Why not?

    That said, his arguments on how we run things, and how that should change, DID have merit. Which is why we introduced the changes we did. Still, he should have just said, as himself, “Hey, I think this is a problem.”

    Yeah, again, I KNOW he was trying to prove a point. But was the point worth proving? And were the people he was trying to prove it to going to listen anyway?

  197. says

    “Matt’s behavior toward us has caused me a lot of pain and disappointment.”

    What ‘behavior’ toward you?

    Aren’t you the person who started the accusations that I was being obnoxious for doing EXACTLY what I was told to do? Why, yes…you are.

    In the e-mail stating that my post had been denied, it instructed me to go to this forum and talk to a moderator. Exactly what was it that you said was obnoxious?

    “My post was questioning the merits of a ban – in the thread where the ban occurred referencing the specific subjects surrounding that ban.”

    So, you think that questioning a ban is obnoxious and you’re hurt by my ‘behavior’ toward you?

    Kindly fuck off.

    But thank you for exposing another problem they should work on: If you direct users to a forum to talk to a moderator, maybe you should suggest that non-moderators either stay out of the discussion or avoid mistreating new users who are doing exactly what they were asked to do, in an email, from the moderators.

    I’m done letting Cipher stir up shit.

  198. says

    “Matt were to just say “Yeah, covert op, bad idea”, that would be enough.”

    That’s not going to happen, because it’s not true. It was the only viable op.

    “Because the covert aspect of things rubbed a lot of us the wrong way.”

    Clearly. I wonder if you’d feel the same way if it hadn’t exposed so many problems. We’ll never know.

    “And the other thing was arguing that because of his work elsewhere supporting A+, he was necessarily entitled to intervene in the policy decisions of a forum that, by his own admission, he didn’t participate in.”

    Please point to where I made this argument. I’ve never claimed that I was entitled to intervene. I set aside my entitlement and I didn’t step on your feet.

    I claimed the same entitlement that ANY new user has. By virtue of being human and by virtue of being invited to participate, they are entitled to ask questions and offer their opinions. If you don’t want that kind of forum, that’s fine – don’t invite people. But if you do, and they do what they’re allowed to do, and you smack them around for it – you’re going to look bad.

    You’re stepping on their feet.

  199. Cipher says

    What ‘behavior’ toward you?

    I appreciate that you asked, although the fact that you then went on to rant about how terrible I am really doesn’t make me want to answer. I will anyway: Approaching us in a way I see as dishonest and manipulative to prove a point (a point which, incidentally, I find to be naive in its assumptions about how we ought to act) about us to other people, then pulling out your name with its associated privilege when you felt that people weren’t treating you deferentially enough (and as Flew’s pointed out, your intentions very likely were good, but the effects are the same), then repeatedly stating that you don’t care about violating the rules and norms of our community or about people being upset by it. It’s also very frustrating to me that you’ve been pretty uncharitable to our mods in this thread, most of whom have made an awful lot of effort to balance the interests involved in this discussion.

    Now, would you please do me the courtesy of answering my question? What “truth” are you being asked to deny/sacrifice?

  200. Cipher says

    So, you think that questioning a ban is obnoxious and you’re hurt by my ‘behavior’ toward you?

    Yep! Both. Critiquing the ban of a user I thought was pretty obviously trolling, especially on a forum beset by trolls, is annoying to me. (You’ll note that I also directed you to the appropriate thread for making such a critique.) Using us to prove a point with no regard for how we’d feel about your methods, then stating outright that you don’t care, is hurtful. Not sure where you see the incompatibility there.

    Kindly fuck off.

    I’ve already said I want to put this behind us, Matt. Painful as it is for me to get such negative remarks from someone I respect – and believe me, it is painful – I’m not going to “fuck off” just because you find me irritating.

  201. says

    “What “truth” are you being asked to deny/sacrifice?”

    I was a new user, who was mistreated while doing nothing wrong (as far as you were aware). The fact that I had an inactive account that no one had ever interacted with, is an irrelevant distraction from the events that actually occurred. If I hadn’t made an account previously, I’d have still been posting on that day, in that way, as Curious.

    I acknowledged that I violated the letter of a rule, without my knowledge and that this was my fault and that the penalty was valid.

    But asking me to apologize because people’s feelings got hurt simply isn’t reasonable. Why are their feelings hurt? Their feelings aren’t hurt because of that other account that they’d never interacted with, their feelings are hurt because their mistreatment was exposed. That’s not my fault.

    That it turned out to be me, is yet another distraction.

    The truth is that I’m the wronged party, here.

    Here’s a story I’ve been relaying, it’s mostly true…

    My grandmother is very old. People had been complaining about her driving and suggesting she stop. My dad defended her. “Hey, she’s got a license and no accidents and she drives her friends around without incident…she’s fine.” One day, my dad was out driving and spotted my grandmother, driving down the street – and something didn’t quite look right. So, a few days later, he decided to follow her, without her knowledge. She was squinting, driving erratically and while she wasn’t involved in an accident, she certainly could have been and could have even caused a few.

    My dad approached her about this and my grandmother agreed that it was probably time for her to stop driving.

    That’s a somewhat-true story. In short, my dad did accidentally sees something suspicious and then did follow her, without her knowledge. (I’m not sure if she has actually agreed that she shouldn’t drive, or not).

    Did my dad do something wrong? Does he need to apologize for anything?

  202. smhll says

    Since Matt and Jason are blogging under their own full names, I view character attacks on them (or anyone else similarly in public) to be very serious. Saying something really derogatory about someone who is known only by a “nym” has fewer repercussions, not that that makes it right in that case either.

  203. says

    But asking me to apologize because people’s feelings got hurt simply isn’t reasonable. Why are their feelings hurt? Their feelings aren’t hurt because of that other account that they’d never interacted with, their feelings are hurt because their mistreatment was exposed. That’s not my fault.

    No, no, no, no, no, no, no, and finally, no.

    THIS IS NOT WHY PEOPLE WERE UPSET.

    Where did you get this idea that this is why people were upset? It is TOTALLY not the case.

    IF you want to know why the members who were upset, got upset, you can find that out by going to the forums and reading the thread on people’s reactions. That’s what it’s for.

    But no, we mods were not upset that you exposed a problem with us not assuming good faith on the part of new users. Nor were we upset that you exposed a problem with our moderation policy being inconsistent.

    WHERE did you get that idea?

  204. Cipher says

    Their feelings aren’t hurt because of that other account that they’d never interacted with, their feelings are hurt because their mistreatment was exposed. That’s not my fault.

    This is a big and unfair assumption. The fact that, for instance, I’m blunt with new users (as with everybody else) was not a secret from anyone – and it’s not something I’m ashamed of, [tl;dr] although you may see that I’ve voluntarily toned it down in the past few days because I don’t want to add to the shit the mods have to deal with, because I have been taking an unbearable amount of heat and focus from actual trolls (including the one who played sincere-if-thick until he had the ammo to deliberately trigger me one week prior to your experiment, and whose genuinely horrifying posts were unable to be removed for some time after that happened because the mods weren’t available when he finally decided to cross the line), and because, for personal-life reasons, my stress levels now allow me to stretch out my patience a little bit longer.[/tl;dr] Here’s why my feelings are hurt: because the covertness of the op, especially when taken in combination with the big reveal, seems manipulative and dishonest to me. I have a very low tolerance for that. The fact that it was the only way to make your point doesn’t mitigate anything for me.

    Did my dad do something wrong? Does he need to apologize for anything?

    No. He did not interact with her under false pretenses – he watched. The equivalent here would be if you had come to the forum and lurked.

  205. trinioler says

    Their feelings aren’t hurt because of that other account that they’d never interacted with, their feelings are hurt because their mistreatment was exposed. That’s not my fault.

    Matt, you cannot prove this. You are not a mind-reader. You are not a psychic.

    Mind-readers and psychics do not exist. People have said why they are upset themselves. Unless you have contrary evidence, say other places where they say the opposite, you have no proof to contrary.

    This is unsubstantiated slurs against the users of the forum, implying they are only upset because of contradictions or exposure, not because someone many people respected and liked lied to them, used them to prove a point, and abused his privilege.

    Its like stepping on people’s toes. You may do it completely by accident, but you still hurt people. Do you refuse to apologize when this happens, even if your intentions were good? No, you fucking apologize.

    So don’t you fucking make accusations you can’t fucking prove, Matt. You can’t read people’s minds, don’t make implications you cannot back up.

  206. ischemgeek says

    I’d like to take this moment to point out that I was hurt by your actions without having commented in the thread in question. I did not treat you improperly. Hell, I didn’t comment to you at all.

    But I have a very low tolerance for bullying behavior due to having been bullied in my life severely for pretty much all of my public schooling. Your “Sincerely, Matt Dillahunty” bit came off bullying and arrogant in a, “Do you know who the I am?! I can fuck your shit up!” kind of way. It, to me at the time, seemed like an attempt to intimidate and bully the mods into submission. Regardless of your stated intent after the fact, that was how it came off at the time both to me and to several other posters on the forums. That upset me, and that hurt. That you then doubled down and did all the other things other posters have been talking about has not helped matters. That you did not intend to cause pain does not change the fact that you caused it.

    When I was a kid, I slammed my sister’s hand in the door by mistake. It broke her finger. Should I have said, “Well, I didn’t intend to break your finger, so yeah I get it your finger is broken but too damn bad.” Hell no. I should have, and did, apologize.

    I hope you can see the point of my analogy. You accidentally slammed peoples feelings in a door. That it was accidental does not negate the pain that was caused. At the very least, acknowledge that the pain exists and don’t dismiss it with “too damn bad” or try to brush it off as being angry at being called on unacceptable behavior.

  207. knighttyme says

    Flewellyn,

    Thank you for the kind response. Just a few points I’d like to address.

    I agree with you that intent isn’t magic. People can have the best of intentions and screw things up royally. That being said, I’d personally choose to have a friend who tries to help me and fails than an enemy who tries to hurt me and fails.

    The reason of course is that eventually these people will succeed and I’d much rather have someone actively attempting to push me forward than someone actively trying to hold me back.

    As for people being upset with Matt and the reasons why they are upset, I have tried to understand their feelings by reading through the various posts.

    The best I can tell, the anger at Matt feels very reminiscent to the anger an addict might have at being “tricked” into attending an intervention under false pretenses.

    I’m not sure if you have ever had a friend or family member suffer from a sever drug or alcohol addiction, but that is what tends to happen after an intervention. They don’t tend to immediately focus upon the issues that have been pointed out to them that they need to fix, they instead focus upon how shitty their friends and family are for whatever methods they used to point out the problem.

    While I agree that the mods have been more careful about this, the membership has been all over the map which seems like a really disproportionate response to what actually transpired. From my perspective, nothing Matt did was quite so awful that it should result in emotional pain that lasts for days on end.

    In my opinion sometimes to be a good friend you have to risk losing a good friend. Doing the right thing isn’t always the same as doing the easy thing.

    I feel like Matt did the right thing here, he obviously didn’t do the easy thing because the easiest thing would have been for him just to say nothing at all. The membership of the atheism plus forum may hate him for having done it, they may all think he is a piece of human garbage because they feel manipulated and deceived in the process (and this is exactly how some members are portraying him by the way).

    I personally would rather have a beloved friend hate me for pushing them to improve their life and get over a debilitating personal issue than to have them love me as I watch them standing obliviously as they flush their life down the toilet.

    Keep in mind I’m not trying to beatify Matt here either, perhaps there was a better way to achieve the exact same result. However, it isn’t clear to me what that method might have been.

    How could Matt have demonstrated the exact same issues he brought to light in a manner that was more open? It’s already been acknowledged that if he had posted under his own name that what he wrote would have gone through without any issues.

    Doesn’t that lend credibility to the idea that there might just have been no ideal way to resolve this particular issue? Just like there really is no perfectly ideal way to help a friend who is suffering from a serious personal problem such as drug addiction or gambling?

  208. says

    Uhhhhh…I fail to see how the comparison to drug addiction interventions holds up.

    Especially since, as I said, we moderators did immediately take action to correct the problems pointed out.

    And if you want to understand why people were upset, listen to what they say.

  209. stainless says

    I have to argue against the accusation that Matt was deceptive. He went to your forum anonymously to question the banning of an individual. This banning had been brought to Matts attention because of his celebrity in the community. I am certain that Matt never envisaged having to reveal his identity.

    He only gave his identity after being challenged to demonstrate what he had done for the community, from later comments it seems this challenge was intended to be about what he had done for the forum community, but it is understandable that he misunderstood this to be about what he had done for the atheist plus community.

    Matt may have appeared deceptive but is it really reasonable to ask someone to apologise for something they have not done, simply because the victim thought they had?

    Matt did not damage the forum, the moderators have even admitted that what Matt did has uncovered deficiencies in the moderation processes that are now being rectified. So asking Matt to apologise for damaging the forum was wrong.

    Triniola @238 does bring up a good point about apologising for hurt done despite lack of intention behind the hurt. I obviously cannot speak for Matt but perhaps he can be persuaded to apologise for inadvertently causing hurt to some members of the Atheism Plus forum. would this possibly be a halfway point that both parties cold agree on?

  210. says

    S’fine with me, stainless.

    Look, Matt, we’re upset. We’re probably going to be upset for a while. But we still appreciate the work you’ve done, you’re still someone we admire. We’re not going to keep fighting over this, Matt. In spite of all of this, you’ve been an awesome atheist spokesman and one of our relentless defenders. Take care, and maybe we can try talking again later?

  211. says

    I agree with Flewellyn — let’s all just back down and breathe for a while. Nobody’s trying to tarnish anyone else’s reputations intentionally, nobody’s attacking anyone, things are indeed a bit heated but there’s no point in recriminations.

    That includes us, Matt — I’m sorry, I’d love to do a Skype call, but I am slammed at the moment and I need to beg off of a few things in my meatspace world as well as my blogospheric world. I can’t really even sit down to fully reply to your last email. Can we revisit in a week or so?

    If you agree, I’ll close comments on this thread til then. No point in letting random first-posters drag this into territory that nobody actually is in.

  212. knighttyme says

    Flewellyn,

    It holds up in the sense that a person sees someone they care about potentially heading in a bad direction. As a result they concoct a method to get them to confront the issue at hand. As a result the person tends to get really angry about the method chosen by their friend as opposed to acknowledging the issues that came to light.

    Hiding behind the whole “we moderators did immediately take action to correct the problems pointed out.” while simultaneously defending the hurt feelings of everyone who is pissed off by the methods utilized to bring those problems to light seems precisely analogous to the behavior I’ve seen of people who go through interventions actually.

    If you don’t like that analogy that is fine by me, you are free to pick a better one if you are so inclined.

    “And if you want to understand why people were upset, listen to what they say.”

    I have tried very hard to understand. I have read and listened to what has been written. However much of what has been written is so over the top that it can scarcely be taken seriously. This isn’t meant to minimize peoples feelings, but there is such a thing as a proportional emotional response. Statements such as the following made by a moderator (note- not simply a member of the forum) on the atheism plus forum make it extremely difficult to relate to what is going on in their head:

    “Between “too damn bad” and “no” he’d have to solve world hunger, end sexism, racism and every other -ism, cure cancer, AIDS and everything else that kills people and achieve world peace before I’d consider taking him back. Personally. At the same time. At least.”

    I mean really???… Really??? What Matt did was so horrendously awful, cause so much emotional torment for this individual that he would have to personally and simultaneously snap his fingers to resolve world hunger, end sexism, racism, cure cancer and eliminate all other diseases and bring about world peace before they would ever consider giving him one ounce of forgiveness???

    I’ve listened to what the members of the forum have said. I’ve listened to what the moderators of the forum have said.

    I consider myself to be an empathetic and caring human being and I can’t manage to wrap my mind around the level of anger they have for Matt over there if the comment above is to be taken seriously.

    I don’t believe I have failed to understand their emotional state because I have failed to listen. I do not understand the degree of the emotional trauma they claim to have is so disproportionate to the offense that it boggles the mind.

    That someone can say something like the above is suggestive that something is wrong with the environment over there, that this can be considered a reasonable position to hold is astonishing to me.

    This is the position one might hold if someone was expected to forgive someone who kidnapped and murdered their child. This is not the position an emotionally stable person holds when they feel someone was dismissive of their feelings.

    So no, I don’t “get” the anger and upset feelings being described by some people on the atheism plus forum. In many cases they appear so over the top as to be inconsistent with the reality of what has actually taken place. This is the kind of response you get from drug addicts defending the idea that they can “quit whenever they want” while making those who care about them out to being the enemy. This is not a measured and proportionate response to anything Matt has done.

    Can you explain the reasonableness of the magnitude of this reaction?… because I am frankly at a loss.

  213. stainless says

    On a side note, despite Matt accepting the ban as being legitimate It could be argued this was not the case.

    The rule concerned seems to be this one

    “Single Identity: One person may only use one forum account. Sockpuppets, when detected, will be banned alongside the main.”

    Yes Matt did have a second account and was in breach of this rule, but the banning relates to sock puppets and in no way did matt use his second account as a sock puppet.

    However I will concede you have you rule zero “Do not try to cleverly interpret rules listed here for your own benefit. These rules are general guidelines and are very flexible.” so perhaps this is moot.

  214. stainless says

    JT
    So asking Matt to apologise for damaging the forum was wrong.

    I don’t think anyone did. If you have seen someone do this, please link us.

    From the forum:

    “Matt Dillahunty may be allowed back, at some point, if and only if he apologizes, sincerely, for the damage he has done to our community, and makes good on trying to repair that damage.”

    http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1615

    This was what prompted Matt’s second video on this incident.

  215. says

    “Their feelings aren’t hurt because of that other account that they’d never interacted with, their feelings are hurt because their mistreatment was exposed.”

    That’s my opinion of what’s going on…I apologize for not being clear about that. I’ve ready why they say their upset and I find it ridiculous. (I made the place unsafe, I violated their trust…etc.)

    So, what are they saying?

    1. Here’s why my feelings are hurt: because the covertness of the op, especially when taken in combination with the big reveal, seems manipulative and dishonest to me.

    What is there to have hurt feelings over? You seem to think that there’s a violation of trust here. There is no trust. I don’t know you, I don’t owe you anything, I had been blanket-advocating for people I didn’t know. I had been telling people “go here, they’re great”. They’re not great. They’re probably good people, in a bad situation – and they acted atrociously.

    The continuing conversations has shown many (not all) of the posters to be irrational, unskeptical and unfair. They’re not considering the merits or the facts – they’re just whining about how hurt they are.

    This was an instance of a new user, doing what they were invited and directed to do, being treated like crap. When it turned out the new user was me – some of you started complaining that your feelings had been hurt. And some of those complaints were just pathetic.

    Exactly what is there to have hurt feelings over?

    It’s *almost* make sense, if I had shown up and presented myself as a foe – but I did not. You didn’t see the original post. The only thing YOU saw was a new user, doing exactly what they had been told to do…and you went on the attack.

    2. ” Your “Sincerely, Matt Dillahunty” bit came off bullying and arrogant in a, “Do you know who the I am?! I can fuck your shit up!” kind of way.”

    Here’s what I actually wrote:

    “You should probably know who you’re talking to before making accusations about actually participating in the community.
    It might be nice if you knew the content of the original post before disregarding it.

    Sincerely,
    Matt Dillahunty”

    This was written in response to an accusation that was inaccurate and misunderstood. I’ve already addressed that.

    Even if I hadn’t misunderstood the comment (which was definitely in the spirit of ‘let’s all shame the newbie’ by virtue of the ‘don’t come in here and try to be smart’ bullshit), it doesn’t say what you read it to say.

    It’s not my fault that you misread that with the tone of what you wrote. You’re not fairly considering what I wrote or considering the situation (I was the one being bullied) – you’re just reading into it the tone that you’re bringing in from YOUR baggage. It’s not my fault that you can’t help but ASSUME that I was bullying an arrogant. Ironic, in that I was the one being bullied.

    I’m going to stop there…if we start going through forum posts, it’ll never end.

    This is beyond ridiculous.

    But, by all means, keep on blaming me for hurt feelings. It’s making you look so much more reasonable.

    Your feelings were hurt – in my opinion – by your own false expectations, your insular community and by a conversation so poisonous that you’re unable to tell friend from foe. Oh no! It turns out that this person that I assumed was a foe (based on content I never saw) was actually a friend?! Well, let’s find a way to shame them for not clearly identifying themselves as a friend, first.

  216. says

    Damage to the individuals (e.g. the community), not the forum.

    Now would the peanut gallery please simmer for a bit? I want to hear from Matt and Flewellyn only. Can we please table things for a week?

  217. says

    Okay, you know what, let me lay it straight out:

    Matt acted like a troll. He came in with a brand new account and the first thing he did with it was protest a ban. Moreover, though is the part that seems to be left out:

    Matt had his question answered and kept asking it. He asked once how to appeal, and was answered, told ‘sorry, seems the post is gone, you can re-post it’. He then asked that question again over and over seemingly because he didn’t like the answer he was given, even though it was the answer. And that answer was given quite calmly — the snark that came out was only after Matt (as Curious) was told ‘sorry, it’s gone’.

    That’s not a way to convince people that you’re not a troll. That’s a way to irritate people, and moreover to convince them that you are a troll. Flew even tried to make that point, that Matt’s behaviour in the thread wasn’t endearing anyone to view him in good faith, and that’s part of what Matt threw his little shit fit over:

    And now Flewellyn is implying that my posts here would have some bearing on whether or not they should be overruled on the original topic…

    YES, MATT! YES THEY DID! If you make a possibly trolly post that gets removed, and then complain about that removal in a trolly manner, you’re going to get seen as a troll! If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has a bill and feathers…I mean, seriously, dude, did you shut your brain off when you walked into that thread?

    You acted like a troll. We responded in kind. Apologize, or deal with it.

  218. julian says

    Hey, Setar, can you please dial that back a bit? They’ve already decided to walk away from this until their emotions simmer down a bit. Us berating either is going to counter productive at this point.

  219. stainless says

    @Setar

    You rather exaggerate Matt’s behaviour. He had been directed to that part of the forum by an email telling him that his initial posting had been declined and he should visit this particular forum if he wished to dispute that.

    Having been told that the post had been deleted he asked how he was supposed to appeal the decision if the original content had been deleted.

    He received some answers to other points he had raised but did to get an answer on the appeal question. so he asked one more time, not over and over again as you state.

    I suspect that there was some misunderstanding, I can understand that some thought Matt was being stupid by asking how to appeal the decision to decline publishing his initial post when he had already been told hat the post had been deleted. However Matt could equally have meant, why have you directed me here to appeal your decision if you have already deleted the submission and can’t retrieve it.

  220. Rodney Nelson says

    Here’s what I actually wrote:

    “You should probably know who you’re talking to before making accusations about actually participating in the community.
    It might be nice if you knew the content of the original post before disregarding it.

    Sincerely,
    Matt Dillahunty”

    Damn, that just reeks of “do you know who I am? I am Matt Dillahunty, the number one dude in the atheist/skeptic universe and you will respect my authoritah!” Sorry Cartman Dillahunty, but you come across as extremely arrogant in this statement.

  221. stainless says

    @ Rodney Nelson

    But not quite so arrogant when considered in full context. The preceding post, from a moderator was:

    “You know what serves as a functional one-way ticket to don’t-take-me-seriously-ville? Saying you have “legitimate questions” and are just “trying to help” by showing up and demonstrating what a smart person you are. Instead of, you know, actually participating in the community.”

  222. says

    But asking me to apologize because people’s feelings got hurt simply isn’t reasonable. Why are their feelings hurt? Their feelings aren’t hurt because of that other account that they’d never interacted with, their feelings are hurt because their mistreatment was exposed. That’s not my fault.

    Your feelings were hurt – in my opinion – by your own false expectations, your insular community and by a conversation so poisonous that you’re unable to tell friend from foe. Oh no! It turns out that this person that I assumed was a foe (based on content I never saw) was actually a friend?! Well, let’s find a way to shame them for not clearly identifying themselves as a friend, first.

    Dial it back, Dillahunty. Words like those have a tendency to burn bridges.

    Close the thread if you like. I won’t be back to this one.

    I agree, close this thread down. The conflict can only be solved through two-way communication, which won’t be happening on this page. Instead, sympathizers will be duking it out over their opinions of other people’s behavior, and trolls will be oh-so-happy to egg them on. No good can come of it.

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