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Dec 24 2012

On the parallel universes we apparently cohabitate within the blogosphere

There’s a troll narrative parallel history of the secular movement, I’ve observed. Things that are handled professionally, between professionals, become “harassment and attacks”, and harassment and attacks become “disagreement”. Civil disagreement becomes slurs, slurs become hilarious parody. It all depends on which side of the rift you’re on, and who’s targeting whom.

More blogospheric navel-gazing within. You may want to read this and this and this and unfortunately this for some context.

It’s become a tell to me which universe certain people are living in for instance, whether or not they point to Greg Laden talking to Abbie Smith’s boss as an example of how horrible and targeted his harassment of her was. Because strangely, Abbie herself has said almost exactly nothing about what actually happened. Not to dissuade people of their paranoid delusions, nor to set the record straight, nor to defend herself publicly from what Greg actually did say to her boss (or whatever actually happened, which I bet was not just Greg talking to her boss). All of what’s happened with Abbie, Greg and her boss is completely unknown to the people talking the most about it. They all just have a sad that they can no longer be NatGeo’s slimepit; they had to move elsewhere to discuss how horrible of people we all are.

I also note that apparently Michael Cortese (Mykeru) has serially harassed people in various movements since at least 2004, judging by some of the links that turn up when one Googles the name as one is wont to do the first time they’re harassed by someone unknown. And whenever someone brings up one of them documenting a different harassment episode, he laughs and declares that he’d almost forgotten about that campaign. Same campaign, same “almost forgot” line several times now. It’s interesting, but I’m only interested in a detached sort of way that one person can serially harass a number of people and it’s not okay to “dox” them, but when Dave Mabus serially harassed a large number of people in a vague and unspecified way, he somehow crossed a line. Maybe it’s because he targeted people in both parallel universes simultaneously? So serial harassment is okay when it’s only done by one side to the other, but it’s horrible abuse when it’s done by one side to the other in a more limited fashion; but we can all agree it’s horrible abuse when it targets both universes?

What’s amusing me most about all this is, people aren’t declaring things as universally bad and standing by their principles. Vacula’s declared that the targeted and locust-swarm-like harassment of Stephanie and others as okay because they’re public figures. One of them fights back, and they’re FTBullies. Vacula posting information obtainable from one Google search of Surly Amy is acceptable because it’s easily-obtained matter of public record; Greg Laden posting an address available from one Google search of Mykeru and finding a previous escapade where Mykeru serially harassed someone else and apparently ended up leaking his own information (??), and that’s devastating and leaves his reputation in tatters. Or when the same slimepit posts Pharyngula commenter Brownian’s name, depriving him of his pseudonymity because reasons — that’s fine, right? Or posting Stephanie’s workplace because more reasons. And yet these principles are inviolable and never right. Except apparently when they are.

And what’s more is the idea that one side’s set of principles is “damaging to the movement” and dogmatic and religion-like, while the other’s moral objections to things like “dropping dox” (as ill-defined as that is) is presented as universally and unequivocally evil. Unless it’s done by your side with the identical amount of effort. Shunning is unequivocally bad, except when it’s done to people who shun. None of these proscriptions are explained as to WHY they’re bad, they’re JUST BAD. But WE’RE religious about our principles.

And then there’s when Greg Laden says he wants to kick Justin Griffith’s ass for defending the serial harassers, and that’s a breach of protocol worthy of condemnation and drumming out of the movement and exorcism and blood-letting and possibly chemical castration (and all of this despite the apology(ies?) from Greg to Justin and the begging-for-forgiveness from Justin to Greg and the hour-long Skype conversation they apparently had; and all BEFORE Justin decided to go ahead and post the first letter in the email exchange without any of the rest of the context). But Justin is okay with Mykeru spending a month denigrating both Stephanie and Greg, and challenging Greg to MMA fights, and kicking Greg’s ass (and cunt); et cetera, ad nauseum, for a month. That’s all perfectly okay and just civil disagreement. They’re just rivals.

Can you please grow a set of principles? Just try being consistent for once. For fucking once. Please. I beg of you.

And I say all this having privately told Greg that it was a bad move to say what he said, no matter what his intentions. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, or a violent guy, nor particularly in the wrong in the case of posting Mykeru’s address from a previous “doxing” from a previous fight he had. He made a wrong move, giving more ammo to the people without principles, but is not IN THE wrong any more than discussions of outing Franc Hoggle for threatening to sneak “tokens of affection” onto PZ Myers’ person, or outing of Dave Mabus for visiting conferences starring the atheists he said would be beheaded. (Note that Mabus never even said HE would do the beheading.)

There’s a line that is apparently crossable where the calculus flips from never-acceptable to acceptable-this-once to out someone and remove the shield of pseudonymity behind which some trolls attack some public figures. Posting an address obtained from a previous target’s investigations of a serial harasser is not a politically smart move in an atmosphere where there are two parallel universes going on where one of them thinks anything done to their side is horrible but anything they do to you is acceptable. And this is knowing that so-called “universals” are NEVER such.

Asking the victim of harassment to weather the storm and pull their punches and hold back against their aggressors is not a particularly popular thing to say around these parts. For good reason, in my estimation. So why’s it okay in this case? I’m asking you.

47 comments

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  1. 1
    Martin Wagner

    All of this is just so adolescent. It embarrasses me that grown adults who consider themselves rationalists behave in this way. It’s not about growing a set of principles, it’s just about growing up.

  2. 2
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    Well said.

  3. 3
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    Martin, to be fair, it is about principles. I am spending the day with some lovely adolescents and believe me, they don’t need it explained to them that some of these grimy behaviors are just plain wrong.

  4. 4
    Tom Foss

    Is it controversial to say that I think it’s wrong to make threats?

    I think it’s wrong for someone to say, heat of the moment or not, intended as figurative or not, something as apparently unambiguous as “I will kick your ass.”

    I think it’s wrong to make slightly-but-not-really-veiled threats like “is there anyone who doesn’t want to kick this guy’s ass” or “if we nuked Minnesota we’d kill 1/3 of them” or “ATHEISTS will be Behaded!”

    I think it’s wrong to make implicit threats, like publicly posting someone’s address–whether or not it was listed or available on a Google search or posted in big bright letters on the front page of their personal website–as if to say “I know where you live.”

    I think it’s wrong to make threats, whoever is making them, whoever is the target, whatever rope someone is at the end of, whatever the person has done to provoke them. Revealing someone’s real identity? At best, a breach of netiquette, at worst, something that could have serious adverse consequences but a risk we all take (knowingly or not) when we put ourselves out there online. Harassing people? Deplorable, and something the authorities should take more seriously.

    But I think making threats is wrong, full stop. I don’t care who’s in what universe, I think it’s wrong.

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    Tom Foss: that is principled of you.

  6. 6
    Greg Laden

    Tom, thank you for being a perfect human being, and also, the detailed advice about what to say and not say. Get back to me when you are in charge.

    Just a quick not on Abbie’s boss. I am unaware that Abbie has a boss. I have no idea who that would be. I’ve never talked to anyone in Abbie’s world as far as I know. What people are receiving (often uncritically, and generally willfully uncritically) is a story made up by the slyme pit for their own purposes. Those of us who know the details really do regard those who are repeating it as malicious (their obvious intent) or not too smart. Hard to tell the difference.

    Yes, there’s a story here and the more I see a negative valued reference to it from Abbie’s friends and allies the more likely I am to simply explain it all quite openly. Most people will find the story less interesting than you expected it to be. What I did in regards to Abbie had to be done, was entirely appropriate, and if anyone doesn’t think so I really don’t care, and something that would not benefit Abbie to have discussed openly because that situation is all done an over with.

    As Jason notes, you don’t see Abbie talking about this. I doubt she wants her “friends” to do so either. Apparently some of them didn’t get the memo.

  7. 7
    Tom Foss

    Greg: You have very low standards for perfection.

  8. 8
    khms

    Is it controversial to say that I think it’s wrong to make threats?

    Unless you have a really strange definition of threat, I’d say yes, it is controversial, for good reasons. For one, you’re effectively telling us criminal law is wrong. Or how about Jason telling someone “stop that behavior, or I’ll ban you”?

    Hint: “All XXX is YYY” has a very good chance to be unwise.

  9. 9
    Tom Foss

    Khms: Legal =/= moral.

    But you’re right, I should have said “threats of violence/harm.” The sorts of threats, you know, that are illegal (at least in some cases).

  10. 10
    Nathair

    Tom, thank you for being a perfect human being

    Tom is speaking not as the perfect person but as the better person, something I would hope we all strive for. I guess the snark in your response demonstrates just how difficult that can be.

  11. 11
    Justin Griffith

    I’m amazed. You’ve gotten so much factually wrong here while you stick up for your dear friend Greg “violent threats and home addresses” Laden.

    I’ll be responding to this shortly:

    And then there’s when Greg Laden says he wants to kick Justin Griffith’s ass for defending the serial harassers, and that’s a breach of protocol worthy of condemnation and drumming out of the movement and exorcism and blood-letting and possibly chemical castration (and all of this despite the apology(ies?) from Greg to Justin and the begging-for-forgiveness from Justin to Greg and the hour-long Skype conversation they apparently had; and all BEFORE Justin decided to go ahead and post the first letter in the email exchange without any of the rest of the context). But Justin is okay with Mykeru spending a month denigrating both Stephanie and Greg, and challenging Greg to MMA fights, and kicking Greg’s ass (and cunt); et cetera, ad nauseum, for a month. That’s all perfectly okay and just civil disagreement. They’re just rivals.
    Can you please grow a set of principles? Just try being consistent for once. For fucking once. Please. I beg of you.

    There is very little of that resembling what actually happened. I’m sure you believe what Greg told you, and you’re not doing it on purpose. At least I hope so. I’ll explain in my post, and I’ll provide the actual phone conversation, the actual ‘apologies’, and the like.

  12. 12
    Jason Thibeault

    While you’re at it, point out the sticking-up for my dear friend Greg that I’ve done, Justin.

  13. 13
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I’m not going to say whether or not it is OK to make threats. What I will say is that I agree with Tom that distributing someone’s real name and physical location IS a threat, and it is bullshit to pretend otherwise or to act as though pointing out the fact puts someone in an ivory tower. Maybe you can justify the need to make a threat, maybe you can argue (successfully or not) that making that threat is a better choice than not doing so.

    But Greg? You’re someone who has on at least two occasions threatened people, once with the ass-kicking thing and a second time by posting name and address of someone harassing you. In my book, neither of those things is kosher, even though one is explicit and out of all proportion while the other is “only” implicit and maybe justifiable… at least to you. I know how I would feel if it were done to me, and I’m sure the person doing it would feel just as justified as you do, and that’s why I can’t approve of it.

  14. 14
    Justin Griffith

    I suppose this doesn’t count?

    https://twitter.com/abiodork/status/219637904106987520

  15. 15
    Jason Thibeault

    A toast to “a man who did something stupid but paid too high a price for it”?

    Meanwhile, you’re chummily chatting with the person who’s made equivalent threats to Greg for a month. I suppose you’re not defending Mykeru either?

  16. 16
    chasstewart

    Thanks, Jason, for making the connection between Mabus and Laden. I’d not thought of this before now.

  17. 17
    Justin Griffith

    I’m sorry, was it my month to monitor mykeru’s every movement? I missed a few meetings.

    I’ve got no idea how many hornet nests Greg Laden has poked with his stick. How could you possibly defend a person who A) issued violent threats against a colleague. B) distributes home address and employer contacts.

    I’m going to compile a list of people who could potentially legitimately need the home address of somebody you disagree with on the internet (no matter how strongly, or how badly they acted).

    1) Police or similar authority.

    2) 3,000 twitter followers (seriously, never this.)

    Now I could see mitigating circumstances, such as when my press releases would get picked up by well-meaning amateur journalists (usually bloggers) and circulate my phone number and mailing address…

    But I witnessed Greg Laden respond with “WHATS YOUR HOME ADDRESS? YOU’RE SO TOUGH?!” a few weeks ago on twitter. It was bizarre. And now he got his hands on an address… what does he do with it? “3,000 twitter followers: go get him!”

  18. 18
    Jason Thibeault

    Do you think I disagree that the police should have been given that personal information, or that they’re the only ones you have any business sharing the results of your Google searches with? Where did I indicate such?

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    And your “monitoring” of Mykeru — you replied to one of the instances of threats. A threat on par with the one you received. Do you not see the hypocrisy?

  20. 20
    Jason Thibeault

    Additionally, and this only occurred to me just now, @-replies are only visible if you are following both users. I know, it’s weird, but that’s how Twitter works. So no, he didn’t show his three thousand Twitter followers anything. Not unless they were looking at his feed directly.

    This doesn’t change the severity of what he was trying to do, but it does change the impact. And he hasn’t commented yet on his motivation for posting that information, nor where he got it (though, as I alluded to, it appears to have been part of one of Mykeru’s previous harassment campaigns).

  21. 21
    Justin Griffith

    Additionally, and this only occurred to me just now, @-replies are only visible if you are following both users.

    If you’ve ever been a victim of Laden’s harassment, lots of people give you head’s up. Like his repeated illegal threat a few weeks back.

    Where he got it is unimportant. It’s not useful to him for any reason. Look at me, I’ve been threatened by Greg Laden. Nothing in my brain tells me that I should ever post his home address ANYWHERE.

    Why are you even interested in lessening this?

  22. 22
    Jason Thibeault

    Why are you even interested in lessening this?

    AM I? Perhaps you could answer the question I’ve asked three times now: what gave you this impression?

  23. 23
    matriarchy

    And a very merry Christmas to you all!

  24. 24
    Justin Griffith

    AM I? Perhaps you could answer the question I’ve asked three times now: what gave you this impression?

    All of the lies you told about my incidents with Greg Laden.

    1) Greg apologized (multiple times)?

    2) I defended serial harassment?

    3) I begged GREG for forgiveness? Fuck you very much for that one. I said what he was doing was hurtful an hour after he sent me his threat. I may have regretted a single sloppy sentence, one that he later said I was totally right about and that he had mis-read it. But fuck you for suggesting that I begged Greg for forgiveness. He’s a laughing stock and an embarrassment, a serial harasser, PTSD-triggering piece of shit. But yeah, cheers to him!

    4) Implying that our hour long ‘skype’ conversation (especially with the BULLSHIT he said in it) should be relevant to whether or not I should expose a violent and illegal threat from a man who waged a lengthy backchannel bullying campaign against me? – maybe not a lie, but surely you’re implying that Greg said some super awesome things that explained his ‘single’ mistake… still dishonest.

    5) Saying that I only posted the first letter without any context? LIE. What is the context leading up to ‘the first letter’? A single sentence that was sloppy that Greg later said he mis-read. My post explained it.

    Then Greg, knowing my response to his threat, publicly DARED me to release my response. He didn’t think I’d ‘risk my career’ by admitting that I had overcome heroin addiction and buried lots of friends. He wanted to hold it over me like some trump card, indefinitely. And you KNOW IT. Guess what I did? I posted it anyway. Integrity check.

    6) Claim I’m okay with Mykeru apparently threatening Greg Laden? Threats should always be reported. If Mykeru threatened him, he should report it. And then he should definitely not sabotage the case by attempting to publicly post a home address. Also, that tactic is likely to generate charges against him, if anything.

    That’s a lot of demonstrably false ‘facts’ about me for one paragraph.

  25. 25
    left0ver1under

    In petty squabbles, both people take the attitude, “I’m right and you’re wrong!!!”

    They’re both half right. They’re both wrong.

  26. 26
    bubba707

    This crap is exactly why skepticism will never rise to the level of a movement or accomplish much of any value. It’s nothing more than rival groups at war with each other. All the conferences and conventions mean nothing and make no difference at all. The only thing being accomplished is to drive the quiet, thoughtful people who can acually get things done away.

  27. 27
    Stephanie Zvan

    Justin, if you actually believe that description of what happened on the backchannel, and if you honestly believe that you always thought what you’re saying now, go get that help you were talking about once upon a time. If you don’t, fuck you for lying about it.

  28. 28
    Jason Thibeault

    I have unapproved Priscilla Parker’s description of (if true) illegal activities, because those are best left sorted out by the police and not on a public forum. I have also unapproved birdterrifier (posting under “chasstewart”) because FFS, he was in moderation for a reason and he’s morphed to avoid that. No more being approved birdterrifier. Not even if you’re on point.

  29. 29
    Jason Thibeault

    Whether any of the apologies were sincere or not, there were apologies, exactly in the order I said and by the people I said. That you’re characterizing everything so grossly differently now than you’ve characterized the events at the time is not MY fault, Justin. So since you think being wrong about something (if I am indeed wrong, which you still haven’t shown) is lying, and since you think lying is illegal (or what other conclusion could I draw from this comment?), perhaps you should report me to the police as well.

  30. 30
    chasstewart

    Hey that’s not why I did that. I’m just lazy and didn’t try to figure out how to sign in with birdterrifier after I was unsuccessful the first couple times trying. Chasstewart is what comes up when I login with Google and that’s my real name anyways. I know you guys think I have the worst intentions but that last post was simply untrue.

  31. 31
    Jason Thibeault

    Nonetheless, you’re back in moderation chasstewart. You were in there for a reason.

  32. 32
    chasstewart

    Maybe you can refresh my memory. Is it because I’m “spreading misinformation” just as Zvan contends?

  33. 33
    Justin Griffith

    Jason Thibeault wrote on my blog:

    You also posted the Skype call without permission — regardless of the illegality of Greg’s actions, isn’t that also illegal? Do two wrongs make a right? Shouldn’t you avoid illegal actions while excoriating others’?

    Shouldn’t I avoid illegal actions? Yes. Stop accusing me of illegal actions. (‘failing to avoid performing’ = ‘actually performing’)

    Accusing somebody of performing crimes (even if you dress it up as ‘failing to avoid criminal behavior’) is illegal if untrue. “Defamation per se” – (Especially that last bulleted blurb.)

    A) it wasn’t a skype call. It was a cell phone call.
    B) We BOTH live in single-party consent states.

    Now I doubt you’d be extradited obviously, so you’re safe to fail to avoid ‘defamation per se’ over there in America’s hat.

  34. 34
    Jason Thibeault

    Close, chasstewart. While you do tend to be flexible with the truth, you seem to be disturbingly apologetic about people being assholes on the internet and yet “contributing greatly” to the movement off the internet. As though the internet is some magical subsection of reality where it “doesn’t count”. You’re in moderation so I can vet what you say before I give it voice here. Since this is MY slice of the internet, small though it may be, I get to control what nonsense reaches my audience. You want it heard without that screen? Build your own audience elsewhere.

  35. 35
    Jason Thibeault

    You mean, Justin, that asking you a question about legality (because I am not a lawyer) is equivalent to saying you did something illegal? Quite the legal system you have there. I will never speak again, never point out hypocrisy, for you have silenced me.

    Very good that you looked into the legality of posting the cell phone call before doing so, though. Did you tell Greg that you did it? It would be only fair of you.

  36. 36
    Jason Thibeault

    Additionally, I had to rescue your comment from spam, Justin. For all the spam we’re not catching, Akismet decided yours was.

  37. 37
    Justin Griffith

    “You’re in moderation so I can vet what you say before I give it voice here. Since this is MY slice of the internet, small though it may be, I get to control what nonsense reaches my audience. You want it heard without that screen? Build your own audience elsewhere.”

    Funny how you’re able to bypass my blog’s EVERY COMMENT MUST BE APPROVED rules. I didn’t say anything because you had me on auto-approve. I wouldn’t have let half of your shit fly, and I thought it was probably accidental, but certainly is still bypassing my slice of the web’s rules. Likely an accident, but is intent magic with mod-abuse? I don’t expect you to own up to mistakes, but at least be willing to abide by my rules in the future.

    Very good that you looked into the legality of posting the cell phone call before doing so, though. Did you tell Greg that you did it? It would be only fair of you.

    You know something? I did. A long time ago. It was America’s Birthday (you didn’t get us anything, again! Damn Canadians.) It was like two days after Greg’s threat went public. He saw it.

  38. 38
    Jason Thibeault

    I am an admin on the network, yes. WordPress auto-approves admin comments on networks that require every comment being approved. I was unaware of your rules. I will never post there again.

  39. 39
    Jason Thibeault

    And the rules here are, auto-approve if you’ve had one comment approved.

    “chasstewart” was auto-approved from a previous comment I’d approved, but that was before I realized he was birdterrifier, who was on moderation so I have to approve everything he says.

  40. 40
    Justin Griffith

    Nothing to say about forgetting America’s birthday presents? how I’ve answered this ‘I’m not defending Greg Laden’ question?

    Very good that you looked into the legality of posting the cell phone call before doing so, though. Did you tell Greg that you did it? It would be only fair of you.

    Regarding spam: yeah totally sucks. A lot is easily ducked by IP-blacklisting, but wtf is wrong with Askimet!?!?

    Regarding global admin: I knew you didn’t do it on purpose. See how I didn’t use a pitchfork to type it out? See how I naturally gave you that benefit of the doubt last night? This continued even after you got on your soap box, because I don’t think you are a bad person.

    It’s not your fault. I know what to blame.
    ♬♬With all their beady little eyes and flapping heads so full of lies!♬♬

    Serious note, there might be a way to put you on auto-moderate, if I specifically list you perhaps? Or is that a perma-flounce?

  41. 41
    Jason Thibeault

    You could try adding my name to your moderation list, but I don’t think it’ll work. Call it a flounce if you want, though it’s difficult to flounce from a blog network you’re a blogger on.

    No, I have nothing to say about your pointing out that you apparently told him you’d recorded the call. I meant that you should let him know that it’s posted now.

    I still haven’t listened to it (too many things to do at the moment to plunk myself down and listen to an hour of audio between people who have shown so much animosity toward one another). I’m not sure it’ll change much of my opinion about things — about how nasty particular actions were in this saga, nor about how you are a hypocrite for chatting chummily with people making the same sorts of actions — but I’m open to the possibility.

    Perhaps you should go do something fun for a bit? Something that isn’t a fixation on how I’m a Canadian as though that was the only thing here meriting discussion, as though you were trying to undercut me or get under my skin with that fact? Come back after you’ve enjoyed some festivities.

  42. 42
    Justin Griffith

    Perhaps you should go do something fun for a bit? Something that isn’t a fixation on how I’m a Canadian as though that was the only thing here meriting discussion, as though you were trying to undercut me or get under my skin with that fact? Come back after you’ve enjoyed some festivities.

    Can’t, I’m afraid. I’ve volunteered for a 24 hour ‘staff duty’ shift so that a fellow soldier can be with her family. I do this every year, but decided not to blog about it this year.

    I give the respect that I demand from my fellow soldiers, even when I don’t always get it in return. That sort of thing.

  43. 43
    Justin Griffith

    dammit…

    Perhaps you should go do something fun for a bit? Something that isn’t a fixation on how I’m a Canadian as though that was the only thing here meriting discussion, as though you were trying to undercut me or get under my skin with that fact? Come back after you’ve enjoyed some festivities.

    Can’t, I’m afraid. I’ve volunteered for a 24 hour ‘staff duty’ shift so that a fellow soldier can be with her family. I do this every year, but decided not to blog about it this year.

    I give the respect that I demand from my fellow soldiers, even when I don’t always get it in return. That sort of thing.

  44. 44
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Guys, I really wish you would take this conversation to a private space.

  45. 45
    mofa

    No keep going…interesting.

  46. 46
    eucliwood

    Okay, what exactly is the harassment here? (Yeah… I TL;DRed… partly because I’d be pissed off if it was a demonization (opposite of euphemism in this sense) of what was actually done – harassment can be repeatedly calling your teacher for a grade. But in that case, it’s fine, you need your grade).

    If it involves calling someone out on anything they actually did or said (criticism, when the person is trying to wave it away), sending them annoying “funny” messages (annoying trolling, yes, but I would prefer the term harassment to be used for more serious things), I call exaggeration. What’d he do, tweet and FB message?

  47. 47
    Jason Thibeault

    Ohhh, it’s JUUUUUST DISAGREEMENT. No harassment ever, zomg! Except when people block you on Twitter, that’s totes harassment.

    Really, must we rehash every single instance of harassment every time someone mentions it, as though it’s not prevalent (and extraordinarily well-linked in some of the posts I’ve linked to in this very post)? Skepticism doesn’t work by asking people to prove 1+1=2 for every new equation thereafter. At a certain point, you can take the existence of assholes harassing people as a given and move on to solutions, since all you gotta do is open your mouth about it to unleash a swarm of them.

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