Something I’ve noticed very prominently recently in these wars amongst atheists and secularists, wars waged over our daring to suggest that maybe us feminists might also want a say in how women in the community are generally treated, is that every time one particular section of our community dislikes something, they find it sufficient to build up mythologies around it in an attempt to destroy it, rather than challenging the ideas on their merits. This subset of our rationalist community invents things from whole cloth to demonize the people they want out of the movement.
It has happened with Freethought Blogs, Skepchick, Atheism Plus, and just about every person associated with both the ideas of secularism, skepticism or atheism, and the idea that maybe we need to sort our house out if we ever hope to be welcoming to people other than the stock-in-trade of the community, the semi-affluent cis white male. It has happened with me a number of times. It has happened with Ophelia more times than I can count, and Stephanie, and Rebecca Watson, and PZ Myers. To people who disagree with A+, like Natalie Reed. Even to people who had never heard of any of these fights before.
It has happened and will continue to happen to every person who dares to say “I disagree” to any “leader” in this so-called leaderless movement, on any topic approaching social justice. I mean, with that sort of temerity, surely they’re just asking for a river of shit to flow over them, amirite? Surely they’re dishing “it” out, so they can take it (never mind that we’re amplifying “it” by many orders of magnitude)?
And so it goes that an incident in which I was involved tangentially, and briefly, kicking around some anti-feminist goobers on Facebook until their break with reality became blatant and too overwhelming for me to deal with, was morphed by certain elements’ mythologizing into a concerted effort to shut down a forum and silence free speech.
Ophelia wrote a shortened version of the events in question over here. It doesn’t take much more unpacking than that to get to the heart of this mythologizing, but it does take a bit. Bear with me.
Mai Dao-Horton, a thoroughly lovely person I met briefly at WiS2, took the Freedom From Religion Foundation to task over their repeated publicizing and lauding of Justin Vacula’s efforts to put up atheist billboards despite his dogmatic antifeminism and his various other libel campaigns against people like Surly Amy, and for just being a terrible representative as the face of atheism in general. She posted it in a Facebook group called “Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)”, which turns out to have been a fan-made group from before Facebook had official organization pages.
As I’m Facebook friends with Mai, I saw the post pop up on my Facebook Timeline on one of those super-rare occasions that I was on Facebook for something other than replying to posts by my sister or high school friends. (Seriously, I’m on Facebook one one-hundredth as much as I am on Twitter, and even that I’ve got hardly any time to play around on lately.) The thread at that point wasn’t really much of anything, just a request for how people felt about working with Vacula on billboard campaigns despite his anti-feminist campaigns.
The full thread is in this very, very long .png screenshot, just in case it disappears into the ether. I will excerpt sparsely.
Mai’s original post:
Justin Vacula, a known MRA that associates with A Voice for Men, is working with the FFRF on this project. What do people think about this?
I’m perfectly okay with these kinds of efforts, as long as people understand that in matters of gender equality, Vacula does not speak for me. Under no circumstances do I consider it overreach when women try to actually regain a voice in this otherwise white-and-grey-male movement.
A slimepitter ‘nymmed Skeeve (aka DW Adams in this thread), and another complete-unknown-to-me named Carl who evidently has a chip on his shoulder over people demanding that we actually think of how actions affect people who aren’t even him — gasp, horror! — show up and fight a bit in this thread with some other commenters you may recognize. The ground they want to war over: whether or not Vacula actually posted new, original content for A Voice For Men, and whether or not AVfM is actually being monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and whether or not a goalpost can be shifted mid-game. Wait, that last one might not actually have been up for debate, as these two and one other unknown-to-me did a good deal of goalpost-shifting as a matter of course during this gainsaying.
I also got called a bully because I said that Paul Elam’s AVfM site is blatantly antifeminist — where Elam himself was quoted earlier in the thread as saying about feminists, “We are coming for you, and we are coming for all the liars out there that have been ruining people’s lives with impunity. […] You are SO fucked.”
It seems like a reasonable complaint, and a further reasonable complaint that Vacula, who was helped to go to Women in Secularism by AVfM fundraising efforts among others’, and is now being helped by AVfM’s Dean Esmay to go to Atheist Ireland’s Empowering Women through Secularism conference, is actually associated with them. As in, being supported by antifeminists, and basically handed free vacations, as a representative of antifeminism wherever feminists congregate. To further their causes. Vacula’s vacations are an investment to them.
And yet this apparently makes me a bully using fallacious “guilt by association” tactics. How dare I call Vacula an antifeminist when he doesn’t call himself that, even though his every waking moment is evidently filled with calling himself a brave hero for challenging those uppity feminists invading his private club?
I took umbrage at yet another honest and serious use of “feminazi” in dialog, saying:
Can we all just agree that anyone using the term “feminazi” with any degree of seriousness is antifeminist?
I thought that was an attempt at outreach. Surely anyone saying “feminazi” without irony IS in fact antifeminist, if not an MRA or an outright misogynist (none of the three properties necessitate one another, but all three are, of course, compatible). It sort of worked, given the immediate reply:
You sling anti feminist around like its a bad word. Sign me up for anti any -ist and -ism… As in feminist, Masculinist…(yes minimalists too that stuff is silly) and the entire crop of self serving utopian idealism is nonsense.
I could have replied to this with “atheist, humanist, realist?” But I didn’t. (This same guy later calls himself an atheist, humanist and “most importantly a Steveist”.)
I wanted to drive the point home that “feminazi” is a tell that you’re not here to seriously discuss anything about which your mind wasn’t already made up.
Of whites and blacks in western society, blacks are the less privileged group. Do we call black anti-racism activists “racinazis”? Of Christians and atheists in western society, atheists are the underprivileged, so when Christians complain that we’re taking away their right to include prayer in government, do we allow them to compare atheists to Nazis unchallenged? So why, considering women are the underprivileged gender between men and women in western society (leaving out for the moment other gender presentations and orientations), do we allow feminists to be called Nazis for trying to restore some balance to that power structure?
Communications break down rather rapidly when the people involved in the conversation refuse to actually provide evidence for any of their libellous assertions about me and others, and start talking in something approaching the sorts of victim-narrative bullshit that Christians sometimes build up around themselves about being persecuted by those damned atheists:
I think you should change that to “Since I consider women to be the underprivileged gender” from “considering women are.” You are making a claim that, quite frankly, many don’t think has merit. Accordingly, the term feminazi tends to accurately describe many feminists who have no interest in restoring balance.
-nazi being added to extremist group think behavior does happen in just about any case where there is such behavior. It doesnt roll off the tongue as well but Black militant group is used in its place in the racism example you gave. It has the same connotation. Anytime you find people not fighting for equality but whining about “the conspiracy the man the patriarchy” they are open to ridicule from people who realize that you dont fix inequalities with a sledge hammer to one side of the scales but with balancing the load.
It devolved into fallacy soup from there, and I took my leave.
That was it. That was my last contact with any of these people, excepting Skeeve, who had tweeted at me during the conversation to say that he was donating $25 to Vacula’s fundraising because of me.
Because… of me. Not because he’s been hanging around at the slime pit mythologizing people and events and already chose his side in this fight long before he came upon it, or because he as a self-styled disinterested party has been shown exactly how horrible we FTBullies are and poor Vacula’s being persecuted despite not having an antifeminist bone in his body (never mind that this narrative is patently false). Oh no. Because of ME.
At one point during the conversation, however, Mai said something that somehow slipped by me the first time through:
Well good for the FFRF that they don’t mind this kind of association…or, maybe they do? Anyway, I’ve done more than simply post this on a fake FFRF fan Facebook page – I have written them and let them know that I find it troubling, especially in light of the fact that the FFRF does take a strong stance to support feminism. Like Carl Silverman, I too can vote with my member dollars – I was considering renewing, but maybe I’ll just have to get a membership with an organization that has leadership with the willingness to call Vacula on his anti-feminism. http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/05/22/david-silverman-a-principled-atheist/
It didn’t occur to me that this actually meant that this page wasn’t run by FFRF, on my first read. It certainly makes sense now, because a few days later, on May 31st, this apparently appeared on their group:
My name is Lauryn and I’m the publicist for the FFRF. Eric and other admin have been kind enough to agree to shut down this group by June 30 and start a new group. The reason for this is because our pages have been commonly confused.
We know this is disappointing and we apologize for the inconvenience. However, as an organization we had no choice. Eric’s group although known as “Friends of FFRF,” is actually known as and officially registered as “FFRF”. They cannot change the name based on the size of members. It was was created before an official FFRF page existed. Because FFRF is our official name, we must keep full control of all domains including just that name.
As you’ve mentioned, people forget about the pages they “like” and check them less frequently than groups. However, at our FFRF page you can find official press releases, updated news and photos from inside the FFRF etc. Our page is moderated by staff and volunteers to prevent an overwhelming amount of proselytizing from trolls.
The good news is that Eric is creating a new “Friends of FFRF” group. We urge you to join the new group created by these folks. We would also appreciate if you follow our official page at https://www.facebook.com/4ffrf. Thanks so much for your support!!
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Understandable, no? Especially where FFRF’s main point of contention was the fact that the page was registered as and is unchangeable from its present title, “Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF)” due to Facebook’s rather ridiculous rules about what’s fixed and what’s fluid. The group had changed its post slug to “friends.of.ffrf”, but it had grown too quickly to the size where it wasn’t allowed to change its name once the real deal came along so the only workaround was for Eric to delete the old group and build a new one — with the same name, “Friends of FFRF”, even.
Most people took it okay, with a “yeah, I joined here because I thought this was the official group” or “good, the two were getting confused too often”, though some took it harshly and flounced FOR REALZ. You’d think it would end at that, right?
Apparently the mythologizers over at the Slyme Pit got it into their heads, because of Skeeve loosely interpreting that one fight he got into with me into some kind of overarching campaign, that it was a targeted “false flag” operation.
JustAtheist wrote:Cunning Punt wrote:deLurch wrote:JustAtheist wrote:Cunning Punt wrote:Just to change the subject a little bit:https://www.facebook.com/groups/friends … 045149276/
Friends of the FFRF – it’s FB page for friends of the group but is not officially representative of them.
This Facebook page has been reported to the FFRF by Maiforpeace, because in her mind, it is full of bigots and assholes. Good to see her doing the good work of keeping the ranks ideologically clean. She’s been at them for weeks and now they have to shut down. Slacktivism at its finest.
The Louse filled Canuck had his hand in this also as well as a few other A+ sympathizers.
Any more information on this? The link goes nowhere.
See if this link goes somewhere:
It won’t be around much longer.
JustAtheist, do you have any sources on this? You can PM me. I’d be interested to see what Thimbledick has been up to.
I left the group when they closed it unfortunately so i have no links for ya. It was a post by a guy complaining that people arent being nice right after mai posted about FFRF needing to do something about vacula the known mra linking to his article about the prayer banner.
I believe this post by unregistered user ButterCup show where Mai started to get her panties in a wad:
Basically, I and a few others took her to task about her accusations. Canuck got involved, being disingenous as ever. When she didn’t receive 100% agreement with her character assassination, she started asking the Moderator if this is the type of stuff FFRF wants to be associated with. When she found out the page was just a ‘friends of FFRF’ page, she went to the authentic FFRF page and complained. This in turn resulted in the old page being shut down and a new one with a more agreeable Moderator in charge. Yay for Mai! Freeze Peach!
Over at Mick Nugent’s comment thread about fostering dialogue between harassers and harassees, MosesZD (a guy I’ve seen trolling dozens of places) evidently read Skeeve’s post and made the most obvious logical leap:
MosesZD June 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm
This link: http://tinyurl.com/qfnohg7 was to a friends of the FFRF group – a FB page for friends of the group but is not officially representative of them.
It was shut down by A+. Maiforpeace, The Lousy Cannuk and others who waged a false-flagging campaign.
Now do you see what we’re up against? Now do you see the problem? Or is it going to be more of the golden mean fallacy as A+ strives to destroy skepticism and atheism with their intolerance of others and desire to inflict their ideas of ideological purity on others.
Note that at no point did Mai say she actually reported the fan group to the FFRF — what she said she did was tell the FFRF by other means that she found their association with Vacula troubling. Note that a “false flagging campaign” would be reporting this group to Facebook to have it shut down. Note that my only involvement was fighting with some assholes on a thread I didn’t even know belonged on the group. Near as I can figure, it is either coincidence that FFRF approached Eric and came to an amicable arrangement, or at absolute worst, Mai pointing FFRF to where she posted to this group that got their attention that the group even existed. That IS, after all, the most parsimonious interpretation.
And the timing! Surely it’s a coincidence that yet again, something posted on the Slyme Pit is turned into a conspiracy to defame and libel one of their hated competitors for the heart and soul of the secular movement. Repeatedly. Really repeatedly. No really, all the damn time.
Funny that it’s happened to me personally twice now. Happened lots of times to lots of other folks though. Someone creates a grievance, even if it is out of whole cloth, and it’s taken as canon. Funny that some people still believe that surely the reasonable middle ground can be reached if we just sit down and hash out our differences.
You know what the middle ground between reality and mythology is?
It. Is. Still. Mythology.
You cannot split the difference between fiction and fact. “Based on a true story” is still fiction, even if it includes real people’s names. That’s what we’re fighting with here: people who lie and slur other people in the community, whip up hatred at every tiniest slight (I was banned from a blog! Woe is me, I’ll lie about and slur them until they let me back in!), and who foster a self-feeding environment of back-slapping over every time they stick it to their hated enemies. Thus breeds this sort of dehumanization and contempt that we’re fighting, which grows and festers like a cancer in any social group, but which is doubly damning in a movement that prides itself on being rational and skeptical and truth-seeking.
We just want to be left the fuck alone by these fixated, delusional liars who find any attempt at disagreeing with the positions of our so-called “leaders” to be so odious as to make us targets for years-long hate campaigns. You wanna disagree with us disagreeing with others? Fine. Do that. That’s what this community is supposed to be about, hearing all ideas. Pro tip: disagreement doesn’t look like this. Nor this. Nor anything remotely close to this. Try argumentation, evidence and reason instead, sans all the acrimony and shameless hounding, and maybe you won’t get called a harasser.
And we will not compromise from that totally reasonable position. As I’ve said before, there can be no Khitomer Accord. Only a Treaty of Algernon.