The Outrage Brigade

DJ Grothe, not content with his reputation and desperately lacking a communications director through which he can vet his random personal thoughts (any takers on that job?), posted to Facebook a terribly transphobic thought. Or, at least, so we Outrage Brigaders interpreted it!

No hyperbole: I just saw the worst-passing transsexual I’ve ever seen in the lounge here. It was so disruptive that I am forced to believe it was an intentional way to protest against rigid gender binaries. Or so I’d like to think.

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Carrie Poppy and the Nay-Sayers

In observing the way the skeptical and secular communities have melted down lately over the merest hint that some of its top members might have occasionally behaved in manners that are not beyond reproach, I’ve come to the realization that certain members of our community think that all this “rage blogging” about “drama” is about trying to steal power from other people; that the communities upper echelons are populated entirely by people who think they’re reliving a secular Game of Thrones. The political machinations, the people who are willing to sell out their principles, the people who have no such principles to begin with who rise to power, and all the toadies… toadies everywhere… who will swarm on anyone who dares scandalize someone’s scandalous behaviour. It’s all very tiresome to watch, especially when some players are willing to excuse every bad behaviour even while they’re admitting that behaviour actually happened as stated.

Carrie Poppy has been extraordinarily well-placed in some of the bigger scandals regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault recently, in having been employed as communications director for JREF and having resigned after six months due to, let’s say, philosophical differences with DJ Grothe, president of the organization. Well, if you can classify her stating her reasons for leaving as mere philosophy, being his “constant duplicity, dishonesty, and manipulation”.

So people rushed then to attack Carrie Poppy, to destroy her as an irrational harpy with a bone to grind and an axe to pick against Grothe. So when she recently decided to suggest that women should generally stay away from TAM because the JREF was unlikely to treat any incidents with any level of seriousness, people naturally resorted to the same trope — that she was trying to destroy TAM and JREF.

Only the strange thing is, the corroboration of her claims came from those very people that you’d least expect. The ones who have been trying to naysay the whole thing all along.

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Inaccessibility Checker plugin installed at FtB

A few times during FtBCon 1, I had complained that people who use screen readers often have a hard time of making sense of some bloggers’ tendency of putting up an image as the sum total of their post, without even the decency of alt text or a caption for people with vision disabilities. Worse yet, when I put up a post detailing our beta-testing a new subscription feature, one of the first comments I got was a request that something be done about that tendency, pointing to a plugin called the Inaccessibility Checker.

The interesting thing about that is, that plugin has actually been installed at Lousy Canuck for about a month, since it was programmed by our resident programmer friend, CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain. I was giving it a shake-down run before pushing it network-wide. This weekend, I have enabled it across all of Freethought Blogs, firing a warning shot across the bows of all those bloggers in our fold who are not accommodating the simple request for alt tags. From now on, when a blogger previews their posts and they’ve inserted images that don’t have alt text or captions, they will be informed by a helpful notice that their image is lacking in that tags.

This of course depends on people actually hitting Preview before they publish their posts. If you see someone who hasn’t done so, feel free to tell them to preview the post before publishing, as a reminder that not everyone is consuming this content as text on a screen. We can make this community better for everyone by all of us checking our privilege once in a damn while.

And that goes double for me — rake me over the coals if I slip up from now on, too, because I should damn well know better. I’m certain there’s a bunch of stuff in my old pre-FtB posts that aren’t properly linked (and many whose image links are actually broken, even, making them doubly useless for everyone).

Elsewhere, another community handles similar events differently.

It’s no surprise the science blogging community, even the “mainstream media” parts of it like Scientific American, intersects heavily with the community of atheists and freethinkers that make up the skeptical and atheist communities. Not all the members of the science blogging community, though, have any inclination toward being part of the atheist/skeptical communities. In fact, a surprising number of people who are out as atheists couldn’t give half a damn about these secular online communities, what with our acrimony, our pockets of outright hatred and our various unevidenced delusions. A large number of them have given up on our communities over the very same fights that FtB features heavily in — fights in which vocal minorities claim that we, the people who try to hold others’ feet to fires for believing in and for saying and for doing objectively harmful and antisocial things to one another, are the ones who are truly evil, with their cries of “witch hunts” and “political correctness” and “fascism” and their cries that they’re defending “free speech”, as though they even knew what the term meant.

The result of this divergence in community makeup is palpable this past week.
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You are free to choose how to use the internet

I’d like remind everyone that you are free to curate your internet experience however you please. When your internet experience starts to suck because people are trying to make your life miserable, you are free to deal with that as you see fit.

You are free to withdraw from a space. You are free to ban and block. You are free to call on friends for help. You are free to dig in and argue with every entitled douchebag who comes along trying to win a war of attrition in order to force you out of that space. You are free to be pseudonymous; you are free to use your real name. You are free to publicly disagree with them, even via a blog post if you so choose; or you can privately disagree with them amongst a small tight-knit circle of friends and allies. You can use any number of block-list services like Akismet, RBL, the A+ Block Bot, or even a whitelist-only setup like making your Twitter account Private. You can engage with everyone who thinks the internet is a debate club, or you can ignore those people, or you can block them.

And be damned anyone who says that this is “fascist”.
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More foot-gunning in the Shermer debacle

John Loftus, ex Freethought Blogger who left because not enough Christians were engaging with his posts so he could convert them, who subsequently founded and then left Skeptic Ink for the same reason, is now blogging at his original Blogspot blog about PZ Myers and Michael Shermer. (A hint, good sir — you may want to actually target your intended audience with your posts.) In his post, wherein the only possible reasons he proffers that PZ Myers might have published the rape allegation — made against Michael Shermer by an unnamed source whom he trusts — involve either naivety or malice, Loftus published the following addendum:

In a personal email to me Shermer categorically denies these accusations. If what he said about his accuser gets out, it will be apparent to most all reasonable people that PZ Myers published a bold-faced lie. He recklessly tried to destroy another person’s reputation without regard for fact-checking.

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The Ada Initiative recognizes the feminist fight in the skeptical and secular communities

Two days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on Twitter (a rarity, to be sure) when The Ada Initiative tweeted the following:

 

Until then, I had no idea The Ada Initiative knew this parallel fight was happening in the skeptical and secular movements, where I’ve only seen them talk about the problems in technology, the open source world and geek culture.
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Dearest JT Eberhard

Hi JT,

You’re doing a bang-up job of telling all these various 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 people more experienced in various causes than you when they tell you that you’re fucking up, monumentally.
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On people believing the extraordinary claims about rape

If I had known the story of my false rape allegation would be held up by so many dudebros as the reason why you can’t take rape allegations seriously, I almost certainly would have thought again about posting the story I told primarily for catharsis’ sake back in 2009, before the shit started hitting the fan in the secular community when people dared suggest maybe we should try not to chase out women so much.

Another comment today has hit my first-post moderation wall, as so many others have since the allegations had been made against Shermer, on that old post. My linking it in the Web of Trust post probably didn’t help matters, but neither did having a shitload of people who hate FtB latching onto it and deciding this meant that we at FtB, monolith that we are, are lying hypocrites and/or rapists and/or something something evil something something blog hits something take over the world.

This comment seems more reasonable than most of them, at first glance. It’s decidedly not, though.

Trigger warnings due to frank discussion of rape and rape-apologetics.
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Mr. Deity and the Victim-Blaming and Dismissiveness of Serious Allegations

Brian K. Dalton (aka Mr Deity) has stepped in it bigtime. As a SUBTLE JAB (pfft) at all these issues in the skeptical community with regard to accusations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and general predation, especially the accusations of such leveled against his friend Michael Shermer, he’s slipped into the end post-credits of his latest video (here, starting at 5:24) some interesting parallels. Like all “subtle jabs” predicated on a lack of understanding of a situation, however, they have all the subtlety of a hand grenade in a bucket of paint, and they fall apart under any degree of scrutiny.

Trigger warning for discussion of rape tactics and victim-blaming.
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