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Michael Shermer on Nazi analogies

Let me tell you, in a climate as polarized as ours, especially in a contentious topic of discussion as our current, it’s refreshing to have an intellectual giant such as Michael Shermer tweet something like this:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/michaelshermer/status/289901671570624512"]

People who equate America with gun control to Nazi Germany do not know anything about history. Read Richard Evans 3-vol history Nazi Germany

Right on, Michael! I’m so glad you said –

To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemöller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for …” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a….”

what

For more context, read Ophelia’s mild criticism from last August of a sexist thing Shermer said once, then Shermer’s first anti-feminist piece in response. Then read gross mischaracterizations of what was said about Shermer and by whom by a peanut gallery evidently slavering for another big name to turn fully anti-feminist, and Ophelia’s defense of what she quoted as being accurate (and consequently, her analysis that Shermer said something sexist, whether knowingly or unknowingly, as equally accurate).

Ophelia’s got a reply to that link right here, where she gets a bit closer this time to Shermer’s word count in retribution.

So Shermer’s now firmly in the “people who criticize me mildly for saying something sexist are DRUMMING ME OUT OF THE MOVEMENT WITH WITCH-HUNTS AND INQUISITIONS AND NAZIISTIC FASCISM” camp. Someone ostensibly representative of rationality, one of our leading lights, has to go full Godwin on feminists for daring to mildly criticize him for engaging in behaviour he probably didn’t even realize he was doing. He’s doubled down on it, and attacked those of us on this side of the Great Rift for daring to rebuke Dawkins and Harris and Shermer himself for saying stupid shit.

How dare we.

How dare we not prostrate ourselves before their wisdom and instead try to hold them to account for things they said — things that they could easily walk back, but in their vanity can’t countenance doing anything but doubling down on.

Welp. So that happened.

Comments

  1. says

    He’s no “leading light” at all, he’s just famous. Maybe he needs to learn the difference, since he’s busy teaching everyone else with his current irrational nonsense. Being treated as important personally has made Shermer(and too many of his fans) forget that it is the ideas that matter, not who says them. And when someone famous for saying smart and correct and rational things says something dumb or wrong or irrational, it is not a “witch hunt” to call them out on it. You don’t get “Good Person Tokens” that you can redeem for a free pass when you’re being an asshole.

  2. jay says

    So I’ve read the links, and watched the video, and seen the tweets and seen the pile-ons and read the blog comments, and Michael Shermer is absolutely correct.

    And your blog here is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Stop being so intellectually dishonest.

  3. says

  4. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    jay,

    You don’t see anything problematic (or hypocritical) of Shermer telling people to avoid Nazi analogies and then going right ahead and using a Nazi analogy?

  5. Aratina Cage says

    I was floored when Dawkins did it. I was floored when Harris did it. I wasn’t so floored when Shermer did it. :P

  6. says

    Already posted at Ophelia’s, but what’s funny to me is that without his lengthy response to her mild mention of him (and thus Ophelia mentioning his response) I would probably be largely ignorant of who he is. Now, whatever contributions he’s made to skepticism are pretty damn well crap-coloured by all of these contortions that just make it worse.

  7. Alverant says

    Germany was had agreed to be put under gun control laws after losing world war I, it was part of the treaty. Nazi Germany is what happened when those gun control laws weren’t enforced.

  8. anon1152 says

    Thank you for bringing all of these links together in one place. It’s very helpful. One I’d add (if it’s not already here) is the original youtube clip that contains Shermer’s “it’s a guy thing” comment.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5pmvv_-Lew

    The segment starts at about 11:40.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=E5pmvv_-Lew#t=700s

    I particularly like Sean Carroll’s response (which comes right after Shermer’s). He seems to have more insight into the problems women face. But for what it’s worth, Shermer doesn’t disagree with him in the segment.

  9. says

    And Shermer is only “skeptic/atheist” famous. He isn’t even a big deal outside of our tiny little pond, where even I get to the the focus of the occasional attack video or blog entry.

  10. says

    +1 what Aratina said.

    A while ago Jason you were lamenting that we lose so many heroes. I’ve been thinking a lot about that. I love much of Dawkins work (it largely inspired me down my science-artsy path), Harris’s writing and some of Shermer’s books and essays.

    So is it me? Am I being too rigid in my thinking that when one of my former atheist heroes says something I disagree with, I’m being inflexible?

    I’m going to keep asking myself that question. But I’m also going to look at things like that tweet and quote above and just facepalm.

    [Seriously, I can't lose anymore heroes. If one day I find out that you Jason, as a fellow Canadian doesn't drink beer often enough, or watch a lot of hockey, or eat enough bacon, I don't know what I'll do.]

  11. jay says

    I’m not sure what the trend is Jason. Is it where you post something I disagree with, I point out that I disagree with you and raise a point or two and you get all bothered someone has the audacity to disagree with you?

    Re: the NAZI analogies….

    It’s one thing to as Ophelia did, compare TAM to NAZI Germany. YOU GUYS ARE NAZIS PERSECUTING US!

    It’s another to as Michael did, say, “I am going to stand up to witch hunts” (Salem witch comparison). As was said in NAZI Germany, first they came…”

    You guys were compared to Salem witch hunters. Michael was discussing what he learned from the Salem witch trials and from other people in his position like Pastor Niemoller.

    In general, I would think all of us in our everyday lives could learn from Pastor Niemoller. Have the events of recent days taught you nothing?

    petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/remove-united-states-district-attorney-carmen-ortiz-office-overreach-case-aaron-swartz/RQNrG1Ck

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/fire-assistant-us-attorney-steve-heymann/RJKSY2nb

    I am not comparing the US Attorneys to NAZIs here, though I know that’s where your logic takes you. I am saying we need to find the courage within ourselves as citizens to stand up for injustices, prosecutorial overreach and witch hunts.

    Please consider signing these petitions,

    Thank you,

    Jay

  12. dantalion says

    Shermer has always been a selective skeptic. He thinks of the skeptical community as something which mainly exists to line his pockets, and I couldn’t be happier to see atheists outgrowing him. The sexism is maybe a little surprising. The double standards and emphasis on presenting a good soundbite rather than a sound argument are pretty much what I expect.

  13. says

    Salem witch hunters.

    Did he say “SALEM witch hunts”? No, as I recall, he just said witch hunts, which spanned many decades and cost Europe about 6 million lives, mostly women’s lives.

    I’ve observed that “witch hunt” is the go-to analogy for guys who find themselves accused of being dastardly villanous misogynists criticized for saying things that reinforce, rather than challenge, sexism.

    Kinda like yelling, “It’s like a Holocaust up in here!” when your readers point out that you are repeating anti-Semitic rhetoric.

    Or, upon being told that you made a racist remark, complaining that you’re being lynched by your critics.

    That shit should not be okay. If you think it’s okay, you need to stop, and go sit and think about where you went wrong.

  14. Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

    jay wrote:

    It’s one thing to as Ophelia did, compare TAM to NAZI Germany. YOU GUYS ARE NAZIS PERSECUTING US!

    Really? Care to cite her exact words?

    I am saying we need to find the courage within ourselves as citizens to stand up for injustices, prosecutorial overreach and witch hunts.

    Funny, when I read your posts ‘courageous’ isn’t exactly the term I’d used to describe the impression you’ve made.

  15. says

    At this point, I’m only surprised that Shermer hasn’t gone with some “slave on the plantation” or “persecuted for who I love” rhetoric, since he’s apparently a big fan of co-opting the suffering of oppressed groups to describe the plights of a right white college-educated straight man facing mild criticism. Next, we’ll hear how criticizing him is just like binding his feet and forcing him into an arranged marriage.

  16. says

    I’ll repeat what I said over at B&W
    I’m probably going to repeat it some more times:
    As somebody whose family members were actually amongst those “they came for”: Fuck you Michael Shermer. Fuck you for equating being criticised in a magazine and on blogs with them being dragged from your home, hauled off into concentration camps, shaved, tatooed, beaten, starved, worked to death and finally sent into a gas chamber.
    Fuck you.
    You know, for you they’re a rhetorical device, for me they’re family.

    jay
    You’re a dishonest liar and the exact same sort of dipshit asshole Shermer is. Go crawl to him an cry how us telling you to stop lying is the exact same thing as the above.

  17. says

    In fact, now that I think about it, Shermer specifically made reference to the Malleus Maleficorum, which makes it more than likely that he was consciously making reference to the witch hunts in Europe, which actually were mass killings of women motivated in large part by misogyny. So. No claim of ignorance for him.

  18. Stacy says

    So I’ve read the links, and watched the video, and seen the tweets and seen the pile-ons and read the blog comments, and Michael Shermer is absolutely correct

    Is that what passes for argument over at the ‘pit? “Nuh-uh, he’s right!”?

  19. A Hermit says

    “Is that what passes for argument over at the ‘pit? “Nuh-uh, he’s right!”?”

    Now be fair, they usually include a healthy does of “Unh uh, SHE’s wrong”….

  20. jay says

    “Is that what passes for argument over at the ‘pit? “Nuh-uh, he’s right!””

    It’s not argument, but it is my conclusion.
    It’s not argument, but it is standing up for someone being wrongly vilified.

    If you read Shermer’s piece there are explicit references of A+ to McCarthyism, to Witch Hunts, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the purges of other social movements.

    Given those explicit references it’s nonsense to claim his reference to Niemoller regarding the importance of standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves is a claim you folks are akin to NAZIs. But worse than that it’s ironic, or maybe sickly amusing that the lesson of social justice warriors is they feel citing Pastor Niemoller’s admonition to stand up sooner rather than later is a Godwinning. It does nicely reframe 99.99% of every single over the top, #FTBullying blog post though.

  21. A Hermit says

    jay @22

    If you read Shermer’s piece there are explicit references of A+ to McCarthyism, to Witch Hunts, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the purges of other social movements.

    Yes, and those comparisons are a load of nonsense. A mild critique of something Shermer said is not anything like those things…

    Shermer is not the Pope of skepticism; his pronouncements are not exempt from criticism and disagreeing with him is not torture, or burning at the stake, or even blacklisting.

  22. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Giliell, seconded.

    If you read Shermer’s piece there are explicit references of A+ to McCarthyism, to Witch Hunts, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the purges of other social movements.

    And that doesn’t strike you as ridiculously testerical and amazingly not skeptical, at all? Because someone said, “what you said is sexist” – that’s all it takes for Mr. Self-Styled Skeptic to be suffering a “an inquisition” etc? A woman – ONE TIME – typed some words that disagreed with him and he’s suffering a “witch hunt”?

    My what excessively delicate, tender, weak little flowers you boys are. Maybe skepticism isn’t for you. Clearly, if being mildly disagreed with once is a “purging” for you, you’re too precious for confrontation. SO apparently, Mr. Self-Styled Skeptic was wrong. Confrontation isn’t more a guy thing. Whining endlessly about being disagreed with once more a guy thing.

  23. jay says

    “And that doesn’t strike you as ridiculously testerical and amazingly not skeptical, at all? Because someone said, “what you said is sexist” – that’s all it takes for Mr. Self-Styled Skeptic to be suffering a “an inquisition” etc? A woman – ONE TIME – typed some words that disagreed with him and he’s suffering a “witch hunt”?”

    But that’s a different issue than claiming he is making NAZI comparisons.

    The NAZI claim is silly by anyone that reads the essay, in large part because it has to ignore the explicit comparisons to McCarthyism in order to turn a widely used reference to Pastor Niemoller into some strange form of godwinning.

    Actually though, all we have to do is look at A+ forum behavior, /r/atheismplus moderating behavior, FTB comment and banning behavior, Ed Brayton’s statement he will do what he can to throw Thunderf00t out of atheism conferences, the massive pile ons of insults and smears that occur at FTB in comment threads including this one that PZ Myers encourages and we can see the Witch Hunts and McCarthyism in progress.

    Hell, a few days ago, due to a comment I left at Daylight Atheism’s blog, Stephanie Zvan insisted that Greta Christina ban me at her blog, and Christina did so eagerly of course.

  24. jenniferphillips says

    For fuck’s sake, jay. Banned from a forum ≠ rounded up, universally silenced and executed. It is an outrageous, hyperbolic comparison. Please stop doing it.

  25. says

    Oh, you so have a point, jay. Well, you would, if being banned from Butterflies and Wheels meant that a person was never heard from again throughout the whole internets because you were black-bagged and carted off to a gas chamber, with your corpse picked over later for gold fillings.

    And yet here you are.

  26. says

    You get banned here based on your behaviour here. Mostly. If I see you elsewhere being a complete shitheel derailer and serial abuser or harasser, I might preemptively curate you from my personal online experience. I assure you, nobody has ever died, or even been drummed out of this or any movement, by my personally blocking them on Twitter or moderating them on my blog.

  27. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    But that’s a different issue than claiming he is making NAZI comparisons.

    You are capable of reading, correct? Do you not see the direct quote of Mr. Self-Styled “Skeptic” in the post up there? Figured out where you’re wrong yet?

  28. says

    Actually though, all we have to do is look at A+ forum behavior, /r/atheismplus moderating behavior, FTB comment and banning behavior

    None of these have any governmental power behind them. None of these venues have the power to lock anyone up, take away their jobs…kill them. All any of these spaces can do is say, “This is mine. You may not treat it as yours.”

    Ed Brayton’s statement he will do what he can to throw Thunderf00t out of atheism conferences

    That isn’t what he said. Expressing an emotion and expressing an intention are different things. Or are you suggesting thought crime exists?

    the massive pile ons of insults and smears that occur at FTB in comment threads including this one that PZ Myers encourages

    PZ has control only over the comment policy at Pharyngula. He doesn’t get to encourage anything here. Also, insults, even en masse will not cost you your job, your freedom, or your life.

    Hell, a few days ago, due to a comment I left at Daylight Atheism’s blog, Stephanie Zvan insisted that Greta Christina ban me at her blog, and Christina did so eagerly of course.

    No, I did not. I informed Greta that someone using the name Oliver Crangle (is that you, Oliver?) who was arguing that Greta needed to be more transparent over buying a pair of shoes had also left a comment at Daylight Atheism repeatedly referring to me as a “fucking bitch” and had been banned there. Incorrectly, I reported that Crangle had been banned for that comment, rather than the comment about sex tapes. And I told Greta that I did not believe Crangle was acting in good faith. She agreed. She banned Crangle.

    If you have to lie about what’s happening in order to make your point, perhaps you should rethink your point.

  29. says

    Oh! Excellent! By your own admission, thanks to talking about what Stephanie said at Greta’s, you’re very likely Oliver Crangle. Hooray! Oliver Crangle who was tossed into moderation here as Jacques Cuze, who morphed back into Oliver Crangle *before* said moderation. And instead of simply staying in moderation and saying things that were worth my publishing, now sockpuppeting as jay. If you weren’t so excellent an example of how we need better enemies, if you weren’t so easily smacked about as jay, I might have banned you before now. But now you’ve handed me an adequate reason as to why to ban you outright — because you’re abusive severally, circumvent moderation rules and sockpuppet to make sure your FREEZE PEACH isn’t curtailed by my not wanting anything to do with your specific nonsense.

    And here you’d been using a totally different IP and a totally unique mailinator account. Of course, jay only appeared after I’d moderated Jacques Cuze. If you hadn’t gone a week or so between postings, I might have figured out you were one in the same.

    I get to toss someone in my moderation list without increasing my “number of people who have been INQUISITIONED count”. Thank you!

  30. says

    Actually though, all we have to do is look at A+ forum behavior, /r/atheismplus moderating behavior, FTB comment and banning behavior, Ed Brayton’s statement he will do what he can to throw Thunderf00t out of atheism conferences, the massive pile ons of insults and smears that occur at FTB in comment threads including this one that PZ Myers encourages and we can see the Witch Hunts and McCarthyism in progress.

    Actually though, you know that the A+ forum mods & admins are not the /r/atheismplus moderators, who are not the Skepchicks, who are not FTB bloggers, who are not all PZ or Ed, right? These are entirely different groups of people, individually reviewing the evidence and determining that you’re an asshole. Just FYI.

  31. says

    By my count, no more than 20. Of course, that’s a really rough count, based on how many people I’ve put in moderation and been able to concatenate into single user entries. Lots of sockpuppetry though. Seriously.

    Very tiny, very vocal group of nasties, and they’re primarily responsible for drumming up the memes of witch-hunts and Taliban and McCarthyism and Nazi fascism and what-have-you. And they’ve infected people all the way up to Shermer.

    Surely their arguments, if they ever had any forthcoming, wouldn’t wilt so easily. Surely they wouldn’t be so fragile that mere disagreement is enough to cry “witch-hunts” and “persecution”. But apparently they are. Apparently I have too much faith in the verity of each person’s self-proclaimed rationality.

  32. Jay says

    It’s actually never been a secret or an alt. And it’s directly related to how some ftb blogs require wordpress logins, and some require no logins.

    While you guys demand everyone log in using the same name at all forums, there is no obligation for anyone to do that. If your demand truly is you want real ids and not ad hoc pseudonyms, there are ways you can do that too.

    But the facts are the same, Zvan and you folks clearly go around banning people for dissent, and insisting those bans are enacted on all ftbs.

    That is in fact the definition of banning and shunning behavior regardless of Zvan or your demands that unless the government is doing it it aint really a ban.

    And frankly Jason, you should be embarrassed. In every link of your about my crimes I have clicked on, I am make argumentation, not yelling, insulting, flaming, libeling, piling-on.

    It is argumentation you dislike and that you seem to have a difficult time refuting, hence why you claim to are so worried about nyms and why you ban me.

  33. says

    Hahaha! Moderation doesn’t mean you’re banned, it means you have to be on point and interesting (or amusing), at my sole discretion. There’s nothing about the way the blogs do registration that forced you to start commenting as Jay (rather than olivercrangle or Jacques Cuze), so that’s a blatant falsehood. And the “crimes” I pointed people to, were your own comments, being dreadfully short on argumentation and long on hyperbole. Just as you’ve been here, in pretending that you’ve been censored and playing the martyr for it.

    I have trouble rebutting your style of argumentation in exactly the same sense as I have difficulty performing judo on specters: there is no substance there against which I can find purchase.

    And since you’ve improved not one whit in that regard, you stay in moderation til the NEXT time you morph.

    Tl;dr: YOU’VE JUST BEEN BURNED AT THE STAKE AND KILLED AND BLACK-BAGGED AND SILENCED THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE INTERNETS!!!1

  34. hypatiasdaughter says

    #9 anon1152
    I don’t doubt that Shermer agreed with everything (or almost everything) Sean Carroll said. Shermer’s a progressive guy; he just has a blind spot, which is not uncommon.
    And did you notice how Carroll almost did a double take and hastily “amended” Shermer’s statement? Carroll knew that Shermer had put his foot in his mouth.
    I just found it odd that Shermer didn’t say what Carroll said. As an editor of Skeptic magazine, writer and popular speaker in the atheist/skeptic community, one would think he would have prepared some nice p.c. sound bite to haul out at a moments notice. Such an odd faux pas for someone of his intelligence and experience.

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