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Jun 29 2013

Pattern recognition

It’s not a secret that I like JT Eberhard. I think he’s a generally savvy guy. He’s good at atheist activism. He is good FOR atheist activism. He is very much pro-equality, and he generally doesn’t take any nonsense that is directed at him.

He’s got a serious feminism problem, though. Not that he’s anti-feminist — on the contrary. Just ask him. The problem is, he is not good at feminist activism. And he is not good FOR feminist activism. And when feminists tell him so, he is apparently turning, one at a time, against them. In this, I see JT going very, very wrong, despite all his claimed good intentions. I am remiss if I do not attempt to help him right this wrong, even if it takes some frank observations and tough words and hurt feelings.

Being pro-equality, JT is certainly on board with the ideas behind feminism, almost all of the struggles, and even the idea of fixing the anti-woman biases in the secular communities — the territory on which these battles between the feminists and the antifeminists keep occurring. He never generally posts about feminism or feminist topics, though, except to point out that certain feminists are mean to him when he gets stuff wrong. The few posts he has posted that broach any topic resembling feminism, he presents viewpoints that run contra to what feminist scholars and even his close feminist friends say about the topic, or that betray a lack of understanding of the arguments in the conversation so far.

I’ve personally given him a lot of chances to understand where he’s going wrong, because, again, I like him, he’s pro-equality, and savvy. I’ve backed off of fights when I knew he was in the wrong, and I’ve let him do damage to people I knew were in the right and whose outrage at his actions were borne of seeing yet another supposed ally betray them — and I did so in the hopes that because he’s generally savvy, he’ll come to understand that he WAS doing damage to them in the ways they expressed. I keep expecting if he chews through what people have said (in a dozen different ways, all coming to the same conclusion), he’ll realize that he’s making some specific mistakes. That he’s misspending his time arguing with border cases that are tangential but affect him personally. That he’s agreeing with feminists about their assertions on what he’s lacking, but that he’s not actually making the changes necessary to correct those lacks.

And that’s why people keep saying he’s not “walking the walk” while he “talks the talk”. He’s not actually spending his limited time in appropriate ways that would discourage further harassment, even where he thinks he is. He has generally sided with hearing out every person’s case and giving them due process, but hyperfixates on challenging only that which confronts or criticizes him directly. Considering one patently obvious fact about the fight we’re having, that’s why his choices aren’t helping.

See, there’s this faction in the atheist community called the slimepit. They do not “generally” do much of anything — they are a diverse crew, with every bit as much internal strife as we have elsewhere in the community, despite their protestations that the strife in the broader community is entirely the fault of feminists — but they DO have a few commonalities. They generally have some past and unhealing trauma related to people on the internet disagreeing with them. They generally disagree with feminism, even where some of them pretend to be feminists by cargo-culting the word and saying that their libertarianism is “equity feminism”. They more generally disagree with efforts by feminists to reduce the chilly climate presented by the atheist/skeptic/secular communities online by taking people to task for misogynist actions, and by taking people to task for targeted harassment and vitriol aimed disproportionately at women-who-talk-about-feminism.

The slimepitters generally disagree with those who say these actions are unacceptable; they evidently want every odious opinion to be enshrined in perpetuity, and they generally get off on giving offense as its own greatest good, as though speech without consequences is what’s actually entailed by the phrase “free speech”. They want to be heard to disagree with these positions against harassment and against entrenched and unconscious misogyny repeatedly, and when they get banned or blocked from commenting because ultimately THEY’RE the ones who are targeting women with harassment and vitriol disproportionately, they cry about censorship.

But this so-called community is made up of a series of non-homogeneous nodes, a superset of forums and blogs and social media where each has its own rules for posting. Some places value having every opinion free to be spoken no matter how damaging to members of our communities, enshrined in perpetuity to do its damage to a person decades after the fact, exactly as the slimepitters want. Some places value enculturating specific commenting cultures by discouraging certain styles of comment that undercut discourse. The former generally call the latter “bullies” and “Nazis”.

JT’s blog as a node in the community exists somewhere in the middle of that continuum. He says he is very feminist, and he agrees with feminism, and he is sick, SICK, of members of these communities staging ongoing harassment campaigns against people like Stephanie, including said slimepit. But for his blog, he apparently wants the only rule for blocking people from continuing posting shit to be the only one I have here: “don’t piss off the blog owner”. That’s well and good, considering there’s other ways to discourage certain assholes from turning another forum into an indictment of their intended target — even the most hardcore banhammer-wielder still lets things through now and again just to discuss them and/or mock. But the thing that really gets JT angry is not people perpetuating antifeminist crusades by posting bullshit about feminism and feminists in general, or even specific feminists whom he claims to agree with and defend and consider himself an ally to — but rather, people extrapolating intent from action. When the problem raised here is JT’s inability to effectively prevent his forum from being overrun by these harassers… well, it’s a self-feeding problem. And it cannot be fixed without JT making some sort of tangible change.

And so people take him to task for letting a specific misogynist dig at Stephanie by Socratic Gadfly slide, with his only response to it being a comment saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but that’s pretty weak” (though later declaring that “weak” in his vernacular means “deplorable”, and not “ineffective”). The slimepitters descend upon the thread to do whatever they can to exacerbate the situation, to increase Stephanie’s pain and to get their message out that these damned uppity feminists can’t be satisfied with anything. They go entirely unchallenged. His response to being told he’s failing at the thing he claims to be doing — being an ally and defending Stephanie — is not to demonstrate that he’s understood where he’s fallen short and take more appopriate corrective actions; it’s instead to cry out against people interpreting that as a) him not being very good at feminism (because he was “confused” by the dig, instead of catching the misogynist part of that argument, despite it being relies very heavily on a trope he just had levelled at himself), and b) as him not really “walking the walk”.

This is, honestly, a very mild criticism of a person who spent a not insignificant part of a blog post saying “I really support Stephanie Zvan against her harassers” and then allowed said harassers continue to harass unchallenged in his space. When told what that first harassing comment by Socratic Gadfly meant, he did not return to say “now that I know what that person meant, that kind of attack is as unacceptable from commentariat as it was when Greg Laden used it on me”. He did not do anything to discourage the perpetual re-hashing of old grievances by the slimepitters about Greg and Stephanie, I’m guessing because he was hyperfixated on how Greg had annoyed him personally. And he presumes that people downvoting the libellous comments made by these slimepitters, who’ve set up a tent city in his backyard, is sufficient — though the libel persists, and does damage to the intended targets in a stochastic manner — over time, through repetition by newcomers newly infected by those memes.

It is a criticism that has been levelled at me, in fact, for giving certain dishonest interlocutors too much rope. This is a very mild criticism of a person who thinks posting a new blog post saying “hey, that’s crappy, you’re jerks” while letting all the libel stand in the original blog post unchallenged is sufficient discouragement of that sort of thing. Especially where the blog rules of “don’t piss off the blog owner” should have been triggered here, if we take him at his word that these actions legitimately piss him off. Especially where all of this is a distraction from his own feminist-ally-fail that incited all of this internecine blog-warfare.

Here’s where the rub lies: the aforementioned slimepitters truly believe what they say, and aren’t “trolls” in the original definition, against whom the correct response is “don’t feed”. The slimepitters attack their original targets repeatedly in as many locales as they can, making things up about them with aplomb in a tactic resembling Scientology’s “Fair Game Doctrine”, poisoning one locale after another against their targets, until those targets break. They evidently just want their grievances against these people (or against people these people have not yet shunned) to be heard again and again and again, and through the repetition of them give them legitimacy. All too often they pick up new nodes as allies against the evil feminazis, either as places they can repeat their false claims and slurs and libels without repercussions, or as places whose blog-owners have themselves had bad experiences with the people in question — for instance, perhaps one of the targets had once disagreed with THEM, horror!, and they might therefore be sympathetic to the slimepit cause. They hail people whom feminists have disagreed with as “witches of the week”, then love-bomb them — a tactic I expect JT will learn soon, because Stephanie criticized him, and then I did, therefore FtBullies. But, as projection often works, they are the real witch-hunters. Their chief weapons are tu quoque, false dichotomies, making up mythologies, and grudges that last for years and years.

And their targets are invariably drawn from a single pool. Their grievances are entirely aimed at specific people who talk about feminism on the internet, for daring to say that certain actions undercut women. The pitters are unable to post on those people’s sites directly, having been blocked for their repeated dishonesty, so they watch the rest of the community’s spaces and swarm a node Zerg-style any time these people’s names are mentioned, and they get to reset the slur machine and have the whole conversation over again from the get-go, hopefully presenting themselves as the more reasonable parties this time around. They do chipping damage to these individuals by doing the creationist tactic of coming into a brand new forum with the same dozen rounds in their argument-guns, and eventually, the targets and the target’s friends, fraying around the edges from having yet another space become a place they have to monitor for slurs against them, might get angry at the host and other guests of that space for not doing anything about it.

This is what’s happening to JT right now — Stephanie is upset that JT claimed to be a treasured ally to her without actually backing that assertion up. The pitter types saw the mention of both the secular community’s “acceptable whipping boy”, Greg Laden, coupled with one of the secular community’s outspoken feminists, Stephanie Zvan, and they descended upon the place creating yet another forum where nobody’s doing anything to control the slander aimed at individuals in our community, Stephanie included. Stephanie took JT to task for this, so he posted a new post saying these people are “jerks”, which they certainly are, and yet the original comments stand unopposed. Some of them are downvoted. Many of them are very highly upvoted. None of them are called “out of bounds”. JT’s commentariat meanwhile dogpiles Stephanie, myself, and anyone who dares say that JT has an obligation to actually attempt to challenge the libel that he invites into his site. JT says his putting up the blog post and rebuking the unnamed people attacking her should be deemed by Stephanie as sufficient, and that he’s therefore bent over backward to accommodate her “and more”, and therefore any further criticism of his inaction (or ineffective and unwelcome action) is “unfair.”

At this point, I have recognized a few patterns, not only in others in this campaign, but in JT’s behaviour as well. With respect to JT’s dealings with feminism, he’s more than willing to attack people he finds to be affronting him personally, and even in the most intemperate terms. But when he gets certain topics egregiously wrong, and others explain it to him, there’s little evidence that he’s willing to respond or internalize the criticism or use it to refine his argument for the next go-around, even when these people handle him with kid gloves — he’s more willing to go after the low-hanging fruit comments aimed at him than he is to engage with the counterarguments made against him (short of saying how much he respects them, and possibly offering a hug).

When something strikes JT as necessary to say, he will say it, even if others attempt to tell him why the things he feels necessary to say are generally ill-advised. He will do the opposite of what someone asks of him, then claim he has bent over backward for them. He will make the entire debacle either an indictment of himself, or an indictment of the person criticizing him, moving the topic of conversation off his weak areas and onto grounds where he has a lot of allies himself. Meanwhile, the original problem is forgotten, and the reasons people think he’s a bad ally are never addressed thereafter. He has several times posted these bombs publicly, then asked for private responses from the aggrieved. And when you do tell him (publicly) that his viewpoints undercut women in a specific way, you apparently have to apologize a lot for saying so, and only do so where it’s expressly on-topic, or else you’re the one who gets banhammered. Because that’s evidently enough to piss him off, where the libel against his friends is evidently not; a double standard that plays directly into his image as a bad ally.

He gets atheism; he is fired up on the topic, he is a capable campaigner for the topic, and he knows the nuances and the ins and outs of the arguments for science and against atheism. But with feminism, though he agrees with it in principle, he runs afoul of tropes that make him seem more like someone grossly misinformed by being subjected to creationist propaganda, than a science-booster who has a lot of experience in the field, if you’ll allow the parallel. He is inexperienced. He is a neophyte in the fights. But because he is very often very right with regard to atheism, he appears to believe his experience translates directly, when it very often does not.

JT, don’t misunderstand this post. I make all these arguments in good faith, and would never level such criticisms unless they were honestly borne from my observations of your actions, and out of a sense of needing a person I like and respect, who claims ally status, to actually be an ally by any definition of the word. The problem is not that you repeatedly claim to be an ally or agree with the ideas behind feminism. No, that’s all fine. The problem is not that you’re not running the comment moderation exactly as people are demanding — that would be a foolish requirement, considering that Stephanie’s only two criteria have been to “deal with” the fact that your forum has become yet another place where slimepitters are posting their usual libel unchecked, and to do it NOT via another blog post. The problem is something different entirely.

It is not enough to say, again and again, how you support people or respect their opinions or disrespect certain tactics. How you react to those tactics — like whether you allow people whose strategies are simply to repeat lies and mythologies about others and generally treat them like Fair Game to continue to do so in spaces you control — determines how people will react to you as an ally. It is clear that you CARE about this problem, but it is very unclear that you UNDERSTAND it, when you’re simply not REACTING as though you understand it. And THAT is the problem.

It is perfectly okay to avoid a topic as “not your bailiwick”. I would far and away prefer you simply avoid the topic of feminism, and stop doing damage to one of the causes in which I have a considerable amount of vested interest, than that you repeatedly blunder and stumble and raise people’s hackles and undercut people’s fights for causes that mean as much to them as movement atheism does to you. I would prefer you avoiding the topics to the situation we have now, forcing me to either chastise a person I consider to be generally on the side of angels except for these glaring flaws, or to let the damage you’re doing to my friends and allies slide in an effort to maintain our friendship.

Don’t force me into these catch-22s. Please.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin

    As much as I would like to blame it on his youth, I don’t think I can.

    Because he’s demonstrated his ability to “get” other topics quickly and easily. He’s no dummy.

    He’s got a blind spot here. He doesn’t understand the concept of “enabling”, and therefore is doing exactly that. He’s enabling the assholes.

    He should be better than that. Sad to say that the evidence suggests that he isn’t.

  2. 2
    smhll

    I myself didn’t comment on this topic when it came up because I was wishing, hoping, praying that the Pax Ron-ana would last like 3 or 4 more days. And there are some comment threads that I just don’t fucking want to read.

    Sigh.

  3. 3
    carlie

    This reads to me as a good analysis of the situation from what I’ve seen, and done with caring and concern for JT, not as an attack of any kind. I hope he reads it and really thinks about what you’ve said.

  4. 4
    Pteryxx

    If JT might be able to hear criticism that isn’t written directly to him (*shrug* I may as well give it another try) this is appropriate:

    Feminism: How not to be a privileged ass (A lazy person’s guide)

    I bring up this tangent to point something out, having your space not be safe does not make you evil. Choosing a set of priorities that leaves the space unsafe is not a sign you’re demonic. The people who made the forum I just described were good people. If you want to be like them you can be, but you should take something else from it: they were honest about it.

    They didn’t make any arguments saying, “No, this really is a safe space,” or that they were addressing to the needs of those who would be triggered. They didn’t push back against those who pointed out it wasn’t a safe space. They didn’t make a fight of it. They simply said in straightforward terms that they had a certain set of priorities by which they governed and that meant it was not going to be an always safe space. It was going to be an, “As safe as the commenters can make it without using any administrative powers save for direct personal attacks,” space which is decidedly not the same thing as a safe space.

    If you decide that a space you have control over is going to be run by a set of rules that doesn’t result in a safe space, do not argue that it does. Do not argue against those who say it isn’t safe. Do not argue at all. Be up front, you have some other guiding principle that’s more important to you than making the space safe. Admit it, own it, and leave it at that.

    When JT’s willing to ban commenters that call him out, but not commenters that lay on slime and slander, he’s demonstrating what his priorities are. Plain and simple.

  5. 5
    leftwingfox

    What carlie said.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    JT privately said we are still friends. However, he also said there was a “shit ton” wrong with this post, without specifying, and that he’s “done with the subject”.

    Meanwhile, Steersman calls me a “class-A dickhead” in moderation. He also thinks Socratic Gadfly’s comment was not misogynist because it isn’t about hatred of women. Seriously, he went the dictionary route.

    *sigh*

  7. 7
    tigtog

    I stopped reading JT regularly after the fallout from his failure-to-grok what he was enabling in that “don’t derail threads” post. Every now and then I click through to his latest ally-fail clusterfuck when it’s mentioned on another blog that I do read. The pattern you elucidate above is very clearly displayed in every single ally-fail clusterfuck, and one of the reasons I recognise it is because it is a process I went through myself several years ago when certain commentors on my blogs pointed out that I was overlooking some important aspects of their lived experiences.

    The reason I was overlooking various clandestine/indirect acts of aggression/oppression was due to my ignorance of how specific marginalising strategies and tactics targeting certain identities were precisely calibrated to fly under the plausible-deniability radar of mainstreamer white-het-cis-middle-class folks like me i.e. I was cocooned within that terrible-horrible-nogood word “privilege” – the privilege of being someone who looks and sounds rather like those most often seen wielding the levers of power, therefore being someone that many/most shitslingers think twice about flinging their shit at (just in case I might know somebody who Knows Somebody). When I first started blogging I deliberately didn’t identify as female, so for those first few years my writing was often coded masculine by readers, and I got to see firsthand the difference between expressing the exact same opinion as a known woman vs as an assumed man, and it was illuminating (although I would never claim that experiencing sexism means I understand all the experiences of those targeted by other axes of marginalisation/oppression, nor that experiencing sexism makes me immune from obliviously perpetuating other marginalisations/oppressions).

    As a result of listening and lurking in forums dominated by folks of different backgrounds from mine, I’ve learned much more about how arrays of dogwhistles and micro-aggressions are deployed to marginalise and silence, how better to recognise these tactics for myself as an ally, and most importantly how to respond when one sneaks by me anyway and I get responses from those who have been hurt by something that I’ve missed.

    I’m not perfect. I still have those defensive impulses when someone points out that I have fucked it up, and I still sometimes get particulars wrong where I should know better just by not paying enough attention to turns of phrase that bigots use as dogwhistling microaggressions. I’m much better at making it not all about me now though, because I have listened.

    JT can make the effort to listen too, if he wants to be a better ally. It is a challenging process, but it’s a very worthwhile one.

  8. 8
    Tom Johnson (not THAT Tom Johnson)

    I think I remember a couple of these train wrecks from JT in the past couple of years, both of which ended the same way — hundreds of comments, half of them from Slymepitters or other abusive types running wild, 30 or 40 percent of them from exasperated victims or friends of victims, and 10 to 20 percent of them JT whining about being insulted, and how no one understood how much of a feminist ally he was.

    I’m old enough to remember the civil rights movement, and I remember something black people used to say then to white people trying to help (I’ve also heard it from LGBT people to straights, and women to men): You’re only an ally if the people you say you’re helping tell you you’re an ally. If they don’t tell you that, then whatever you’re doing isn’t helping — stop doing it, ask what you can do that will help, and do that. JT never seems to make it to those last steps (asking what will help, then doing it) before his feelings get so hurt that he shuts down.

    Jason, you’re right — JT should stay strictly away from feminism unless and until he can bring himself to find out what he can do that will help, and then actually do it. Otherwise, he’s not merely useless; he’s actively useless.

  9. 9
    fwtbc

    When something strikes JT as necessary to say, he will say it, even if others attempt to tell him why the things he feels necessary to say are generally ill-advised. He will do the opposite of what someone asks of him, then claim he has bent over backward for them. He will make the entire debacle either an indictment of himself, or an indictment of the person criticizing him, moving the topic of conversation off his weak areas and onto grounds where he has a lot of allies himself.

    Very much this.

    I lost a lot of respect for JT when he raised money for Matt Dillahunty after Matt’s house got robbed, despite Matt specifically asking people not to. He was criticised for going against someone’s expressed wishes, even if what he was doing was clearly a nice gesture.

    It rubbed me the wrong way, too, but I was willing to shrug and ignore it, and then he put up another post and called all the people who thought he was wrong for doing it “irretrievable asshats” or something like that.

    So, yeah, just another case of “Look at me, I’m doing something good and don’t you dare tell me it’s not as good as I say it is. I’m an ally, damnit.”

    He also seems indignant that people expect more from him with regard to the comments section on his blog because he’s spending time with his girlfriend/family/brother/etc. A responsible person doesn’t make a post that they should know will generate a lot of fiery exchanges in the comments section and then fuck off and leave it unattended,

    So stop pouting that you’re not getting a cookie, JT. A real ally doesn’t go into it expecting them.

  10. 10
    sugarloaf

    It sounds to me like he just plain struggles with handling criticism. I have that problem, too. My instinct when people criticise me is to lash out and not think things through- my mind is changed reading things about others, slowly, a process like erosion. I’m aware that this is a character flaw of mine and that my lashing out causes damage to people and causes. Frankly, this is one of the reasons why I’m not active in the community, I don’t blog, and I seldom comment. I’m not saying JT should shut up (I haven’t read his blog for a long while, but he is quite clearly an effective atheist activist- and even if he weren’t, I don’t generally believe in telling people to shut up), but if I were in his shoes I would step back from the things where people criticise me, read in silence for a good six months (while continuing to blog about things I know I’m good at), lick my wounds, and get a better handle on why my allies and friends keep criticising me.

  11. 11
    Ace of Sevens

    I tried to tell him that if he wanted to make good with Stephanie, he should not concentrate on how she wronged him. If he wants to defend his reputation, he can talk about what he’s doing right and leave out how mean anyone who says different is. I don’t think he got it.

  12. 12
    Al Dente

    JT is one of the “my way or the highway” people. Because he’s somewhat smarter than many other people he thinks he’s smarter and more knowledgeable than everyone. He’s determined what feminism is and what’s required to support feminism. He doesn’t let mere facts and logic influence him. He’s right! You stupid people better stop trying to change his mind or else he’ll pout. And ignore you.

  13. 13
    mildlymagnificent

    “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”*

    I know that’s about the Australian Army, but it’s much the same message as all the anti-bullying campaigns based on “There’s no such thing as a bystander”.

    It really shouldn’t be beyond the thinking skills of someone as cluey as JT to link such concepts to his supervision of what happens in his own blog’s backyard. When someone tells you that one of your neighbours or friends is well-known for bad behaviour towards another of your friends / neighbours / relatives, you make damn sure that you avoid inviting both to the same BBQ if you can and that you keep a watchful eye out when they both happen to be at your house at the same time. That’s what being a good host and a reliable friend is about.

    You don’t sit back and wait until someone dumps a pot of coffee or a jar of jam over someone’s head before you realise you’ve neglected your obligations. When others have been telling you that one person is getting upset and/or that the other is losing their temper, you don’t wait until you need an ambulance to remove the results, you do your best. Sitting on your hands is not your best.

    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QaqpoeVgr8U

  14. 14
    John-Henry Beck

    Re: Jason @ 6 – Does Steersman make any other kind of post?

    Regarding the JT thing, or allies more generally, I do think there’s some conflict on terminology. There seems to me to be a lot of conflating ‘not an ally’ with ‘not an effective ally’.

    Basically, I think things along the lines of ‘You’re not an ally!’ come across as accusations of intent and character and such. Even though often the one saying that means something more about how they’re being ineffective or even harmful to the effort or the people they’re trying to be allies with.

    I know I tend to have a strong defensive reaction to criticism. It takes some effort to try to get past it. It’s a lot harder when the criticism seems inaccurate, such as when it seems to be challenging my internal intent instead of merely having made a mistake on execution.

    It seems to me there’s at least some value in people claiming to be an ally, inflating numbers and all that. As well as being people more likely to be wanting to help out. There’s sure to be plenty to criticize about, like with this post. But I think sometimes it helps to be more careful to criticize actions and ideas than intent; something that comes up on other topics plenty about attacking ideas instead of people. There’s certainly no perfect balance, and it’s harder when angry that someone did something harmful in the first place.

  15. 15
    Robert B.

    There was one of these about gay rights instead of feminism back before JT left FTB. I thought it might have been an isolated incident, but here’s the exact same thing happening again. So it’s not just women who JT is bad at being an ally to. (His “your tactics are driving away allies” argument is a particular unfavorite of mine. Hint to JT: making straight white dudes angry and uncomfortable is the point. The state of affairs where all the straight white dudes are cheerful and content is called “oppression” and our goal is to end it.)

    I don’t even remember what the trigger for that previous flailthread was. We weren’t sufficiently grateful for Obama deciding to support gay marriage, maybe? Does anyone else remember?

  16. 16
    Anthony K

    I don’t even remember what the trigger for that previous flailthread was. We weren’t sufficiently grateful for Obama deciding to support gay marriage, maybe? Does anyone else remember?

    Yes, I remember that as well.

  17. 17
    Tom Johnson (not THAT Tom Johnson)

    Robert B. @15:

    (His “your tactics are driving away allies” argument is a particular unfavorite of mine. Hint to JT: making straight white dudes angry and uncomfortable is the point. The state of affairs where all the straight white dudes are cheerful and content is called “oppression” and our goal is to end it.)

    Robert B. is right. JT wants us to think the best of everyone’s intentions, but particularly the intentions of “normal” folks, with himself as some sort of archetype of normality. To doubt the good intentions of normal people is bad, and you mustn’t do it, however inept or half-hearted their actual deeds might be, or they might stop doing even that much — or keep on doing it, even if asked to stop (I had forgotten about the “irretrievable asshats” line after the Dillahunty business. Why was JT the only person qualified to determine that Dillahunty couldn’t decide for himself whether he wanted help? As I said before: actively useless).

  18. 18
    B-Lar

    It made me really sad when JT swore off feminist topics last time, and it makes me sad to hear that he is done with them again.

    In the original round, I came to the personal conclusion (which I shared) that you should quite simply never claim to be an ally of anyone, ever. Someone can tell you that you are acting in a way that has convinced them that you are their ally, but as soon as you try to take that status for yourself it will turn to dust and trickle through your fingers. This is JT’s Prime Mistake from which the subsequent mistakes are derived.

    I think JT is awesome and I hope that he reconsiders attacking these topics. He is a big gun that should be fired at all the delusions in the world.

    I think your (Jason’s) assessment is fair. It is friendly to expose a friend’s shortcomings to them, and respectful to believe that they can take those criticisms on board. Its a shame that the stochastards have created an environment which has so much tension… It chokes our personal growth.

  19. 19
    Tom Foss

    Seems like it often comes down to the same thing: intent. JT intends to be an ally, calls himself an ally, knows in his heart of hearts that he is an ally, but his actions are at odds with that. And just like every person who says/does bigoted things, saying “I’m not a racist/misogynist/homophobe/etc.! I don’t hate racial minorities/women/gays/etc.!” doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot when you’re telling racist jokes or posting rape-approving image macros or complaining about gay marriage.

    You can call yourself an ally all you want, but it’s not really a label you can adopt so much as one that’s applied. People who adopt it and wave it around often seem to think that it constitutes a pass or a shield. “No, no, it’s cool, I can say [offensive thing], I’m an ally. I don’t really believe that.” It’s a bit like the “I have a black/gay/etc. friend and they’re not offended” thing, except it’s “all of you are my black/gay friends, so it’s okay!”

    There’s such a thing as being a bad friend. A friend who replies to your honest criticisms with abuse and indignance is a bad friend. A friend who does nothing while people use his resources to smear you is a bad friend. A friend who slights you and refuses to acknowledge that they’ve caused harm unless you apologize to them for being mean is a bad friend. A friend whose friendship is conditional on you walking on pins and needles lest you offend their delicate sensibilities is not a good friend. And at some point when you’re dealing with these bad friends, the question has to occur to you: why do I keep calling this person my friend?

    Why would it be different for allies?

  20. 20
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I mentioned over at JT’s, you’re not being a good friend and ally if your actions are working at cross-purposes with the needs of the people you’re claiming to be supporting. It is only support if you do it on the supported person’s terms, otherwise you’re not actually being a friend or ally. If someone needs a favor, and you offer to help and do something completely different from what they want, need, and/or asked for, you haven’t actually done them a favor. It doesn’t matter how good your intent is, how much time and effort you expend, or anything else other than whether or not you did the thing that the favor was supposed to produce.

    The sort of “friend and ally” that JT wants to be seems to be too wrapped up in his own sense of being good and useful and important, and not focused enough on the people he claims he wants to support. Until he learns that feminism isn’t about making feminists feel awesome about JT’s awesome allyhood, and that not treating JT like he’s the most awesome ally ever isn’t a flaw in feminism, he’s going to keep tripping over himself and hurting other people in the process.

  21. 21
    mildlymagnificent

    The sort of “friend and ally” that JT wants to be seems to be too wrapped up in his own sense of being good and useful and important, and not focused enough on the people he claims he wants to support.

    Has overtones of those corporate or public announcements of their ‘values’ or ‘commitments’. What’s the use of a sign at the entry to the shopping centre that skate-boarding is not allowed if toddlers and little old ladies are being knocked over by racing skate-boarders? If the staff merely point to the sign when someone complains about the dangers, then there’s no value in the sign. It’s supposed to be a guide to what you can expect when you’re in there. It’s not a get out of jail free card for the organisation when the expectation isn’t met.

    Same thing goes for being an ally. Being an ally is not about statements, it’s about being there for the people you claim to support when the hard times come. If you’re only a “when I want to talk about my feelings of being an ally” ally, then you’d do better to not talk about it so that people know to look in another direction when they need the support of an ally.

  22. 22
    joachim

    What was that JT called Chris Stedman? Oh yeah, “a dishonest little shit”?

    (the Friendly Atheist, Nov. 7th etc.)

    FU JT

  23. 23
    The Kansas City Anti Atheshit Team

    Gawd Damn! I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning!

  24. 24
    MissinPost

    “The problem is, he is not good at feminist activism. And he is not good FOR feminist activism.”

    The irony is strong with this one. :/

    But of course you pseudo-feminists who use a genuine and necessary movement as a fig leaf for your irrational and unjustified anger, love of shouting, swearing, and bullying *would* say that. Of course you’d shout and swear and ban people for telling you that you’re far far worse and a plague on real, useful feminist activism that is aimed to achieve something rather than validate your rage complexes.

    JT was just as much a tool when he used your arguments to validate his need to be a dick about atheism, but that just makes him a hypocrite – one who didn’t realise that the way he treated “the enemy” when they were being tone trolls, concern trolls and asking questions that already had a stamp of “Answered by us elsewhere”tm was exactly the way he would be treated when he decided being an aggressive arsehole doesn’t actually work all the time. Or “became an anti feminist tone troll”.

    It’s beautiful to watch. Bet he doesn’t learn any lessons about being a dikhead atheist though. :D

  1. 25
    Dearest JT Eberhard » Lousy Canuck

    […] social justice causes how to do things better, by being nicer, by being more generous to people who say things that are coded specifically to hurt them. And you’re further doing a bang-up job listening to all your friends and peers and those […]

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