“An open letter to the tone troll”

You know who you are.

George Waye lays it all out for you.

Hi there!

I bet you’re wondering why I’m writing you this letter.  You might even be wondering why people are all so mad at you right now- and why they are calling you mean names.  I know, I know- you were only trying to help, right?  You just wanted to see a little decorum, a little civility- and everyone is just amplifying the very thing you are trying to help them discard.  It must be frustrating.  It must feel as though you are experiencing the cruel effects of tribalism- a sort of “internet xenophobia”, if you will.  You are a mere missionary preaching the gospel of civil discourse and the lynch mob stands with torches and pitchforks waiting for you at the county line.


Here is the thing.  Those people you were trying to help?  They are having a conversation.  That conversation has a topic.  That topic is important to them.  It is important enough that they are wearing their gut reactions on their sleeves.  So when you come waltzing in, and you say “Guys- hey, guys- Y U mad, bro?” they are more than likely going to turn on you.

Why, you ask?  You’re only trying to let cooler heads prevail, right? I totally get what you’re feeling right now.  I understand.

What you need to understand is that the reason they are mad is right in front of you.  It’s right there- in the post you are reading.  Heck, it may even be summed up pretty succinctly in the title of the post.  Yet here you are, telling these people that you don’t understand what could possibly have them up in arms.  This, to them, is the problem.

Imagine you find yourself in a hotel burning to the ground.  You see a number of people frantically yelling to wake the guests up- pounding on doors and shouting.  You have that mental image yet? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…..

We good now?  Alright, so now imagine- for the sake of argument- you see this one man who seems perfectly calm.  He is standing at the Continental breakfast table pouring himself a coffee and unwrapping a stale shrink-wrapped danish.  Instead of showing any concern at all for the crisis going on around him, he grabs the occasional screaming patron and notes to them how the curtains don’t match the sofa in the lobby.  WTF, right?

You are being that guy.  You are walking into a that burning hotel to talk about interior decorating.

Read more.

Youtube giants join FtB!

The assimilation of the world’s greatest Youtube atheists, skeptics and freethinkers has begun!

First Zinnia Jones (ZJemptv)…

Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer and videoblogger focusing on the impact of religious belief, political follies and LGBTQ rights. Since 2008, her videos have been viewed over 7 million times and her articles have been featured in the Huffington Post, The New Civil Rights Movement, and The Fight magazine in LA. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children. She is still insufferably Midwestern. Her pleasures include picking apart everyone’s arguments, rationality, feminism, philosophy, transhumanism and pet rats. You can reach her at zjemptv@gmail.com or on Twitter at @ZJemptv, and her YouTube channel is at www.zinniajones.com.

…then Aron Ra

Aron Ra is one of the “YouTube atheists” and an advocate for rationalism in science classrooms. He grew up in an exclusively creationist environment where he felt like a lonely outcast just for understanding evolution, let alone accepting it. Being raised in a mostly-Mormon family encouraged him to explore other denominations and eventually non-Abrahamic spiritualism before rejecting faith-based beliefs altogether. He was drawn into activism when the Religious Right dominated his state’s Board of Education, and began undermining education in history, health, science, and social studies. His videos often focus on evolution and the evidence indicating an interrelated tree of life. His series summarizing the ‘Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism’ and his subsequent series, ‘Falsifying Phylogeny’ (including the Phylogeny Challenge’) have been mirrored, featured, referenced, and recommended by many professional scientists, secularists, and educators, and has attracted more than 60,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

… and now Cristina Rad (ZOMGitsCriss)!

Romanian Atheist blogger and video maker, Cristina Rad, (cybername ZOMGitsCriss – pronounced “Zoh My God, it’s Criss!”), likes to address the conflicts between secular and religious views, as well as discussions on philosophy, current events and science matters. She is the author of the online published audio-book «The Unreasonable God» and she’s an outspoken supporter of civil rights for gays and lesbians.

And as though these three weren’t enough, the giant himself, Thunderf00t!

The true beauty of a self-inquiring sentient universe is lost on those who elect to walk the intellectually vacuous path of comfortable paranoid fantasies. -That is all.

…whose profile doesn’t talk about himself. Dammit Thunderf00t, your first post at least tells the readers that you’re “just some guy”. What the hell is that quote? Nice quote and all but it tells us nothing about you.

Jeez. Newbies. Gotta teach them a thing or two about blogificating. Sigh.

Well, maybe they’ll absorb it through the Hive Mind. Err, we have one of those, right?

The FtB Conversation about TAM: Transcript pt. 2

Here’s the second part of the transcript for the big FtB Conversation from this past weekend, done once again by the indefatiguable Kate Donovan. She’s the poor soul who did the transcript for the “PenisGate Debate”, who volunteered for this as I guess a sort of palate-cleanser.

If you’re just joining in, read these two posts first:

In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in
The harassment policy campaign timeline

Transcript pt. 1 is available here.

Transcript below the fold.

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Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events

This is a chronological timeline of major events in the campaign to get major secular and skeptical events to enact harassment policies, to protect convention-goers from needless harassment and encourage women who might otherwise avoid what they perceive as a gender-imbalanced chilly climate to join the community. It is presently a work-in-progress, and a living document. It could be edited at any time.

I’m beginning from an excellent blog comment by Pteryxx that tries to organize this timeline more contextually rather than purely chronologically, and pulls out blockquotes. I’m rearranging everything and summarizing the contents of the links. Please let me know if I’ve misinterpreted the contents or missed any notable events. This is meant to be a companion piece to the 101-level post In Media Res, where I opened the comments to general questions about this campaign. Please direct those questions there.
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On drama vs conflict regarding harassment policies

I made a snide remark aimed at certain trollish parties in a comment at Almost Diamonds in a post that probably could stand far less of my snideness. Stephanie describes the repeated and disdainful dismissal of the conflict between folks who want harassment policies and folks who don’t, and the repeated and disdainful reductionistic treatment of that conflict as one between DJ Grothe and Rebecca Watson, two players who, while leaders in our skeptical communities, are really both adjunct to the overarching question of whether or not our communities need better harassment policies. You should read that post in its entirety before coming back here.
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DJ Grothe apologizes to one woman

while leaving several others under the bus, including sidelong stabs at the FtB bloggers in particular. I paste it in its entirety below, though I don’t have a lot of time to pick it apart right this second.

Rebecca: Sorry for not responding to this sooner; I was flying much of the day Friday and got to the hotel late, and Saturday was busy with skeptic events in the D.C. area.

First, let me say how sincerely and deeply regretful I am that I blamed you as the messenger. No woman – no person – should ever be blamed for being a victim or for speaking out about sexism or any social problem. I was wrong to write anything that could even be construed that way, and it was never my intent. I am sorry.

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On the “Talibanesque”-ness of harassment policies

The trollitariat have been out in full force recently about the real progress we’ve made recently in finally putting into place structures that will protect women from unwanted sexual advances at atheist/skeptic conventions. They’re getting some help from prominent skeptics like Russell Blackford, who evidently created the meme of the Talibanesquery of this initiative according to some commenters, resulting in wave after wave of sockpuppeting trolls repeating the meme despite being debunked repeatedly.

The trolls are even getting some help from local FtB bloggers who apparently bought that line of argumentation without looking at the policy itself, when actually looking at the policy in question is all it takes to turn the whole issue on its head.
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News flash: blogs touching off firestorms IS actually helping!

Greg Laden, whom you might know from The Blogosphere, makes a good case that blogging about science, skepticism, et cetera, can actually help resolve long-standing questions a hell of a lot faster than traditional methods:

Someone is always wrong on the Internet. The idea that the most free-wheeling part of the Internet–blogs–would be a place where conflict is resolved seems laughable. The detachment of argument from social cues normally used to moderate our conversations combined with the intentional sloughing off of civil norms means that the only resolution that happens here might be the screen resolution of your computer. It would be easy to say that the Internet is where conflict is born, not resolved.

But that would miss an important point.

Almost all the conflicts I’ve observed in this milieu are problems that were already out there somewhere but in many cases hidden and thus unacknowledged. We can ask, if a conflict resides latent in meatspace, does it make a noise? And the answer is:

Go find out what the answer is.

Or just head over to tell him that he’s wrong.

Richard Carrier is my new favorite Bible scholar.

For a very long time, I had considered Bart Ehrman to be the foremost Bible scholar, especially as pertains the question of an historical Jesus. I thought Ehrman’s position, that it’s impossible to separate the historical man from the mythological parts, and therefore completely unnecessary, to be the most nuanced and all-encompassing position to take. His disdain for mythicists like the guys behind the terrible movie Zeitgeist (the one perpetuating the amythological myth, to coin a phrase, that Mithras was a virgin birth who was killed and resurrected) was well founded, and therefore he was the first guy I would turn to, if ever anyone asked me about the existence of Jesus as a real person.

Not any more. Richard Carrier, fellow FtBer, just tore apart Ehrman’s latest book Did Jesus Exist? for being a sloppily researched and off-the-cuff rebuttal of the “Jesus is nothing but myth” crowd, with such a poor understanding of the original texts, that I’m almost embarassed for Ehrman.

But I cannot recommend books that are so full of errors that they will badly mislead and miseducate the reader, and that commit so many mistakes that I have to substantially and extensively correct them. Did Jesus Exist? ultimately misinforms more than it informs, and that actually makes it worse than bad. Like the worst of mythicist literature, you will come away after reading it with more false information in your head than true, and that makes my job as a historian harder, because now I have to fix everything he screwed up. This is why I don’t recommend anyone ever read bad mythicist literature, because it will only fill your head with nonsense that I will have to work harder to correct. Ehrman’s book ironically does much the same thing. Therefore, it officially sucks.

This makes me want to read Proving History quite a bit. I realize that this is essentially a pissing contest between two Bible scholars, and that as someone only slightly interested in Bible history I don’t have a lot of skin in the game, so I might find the book dry or otherwise difficult to get through. But when I see someone for whom I had held such a high opinion get royally and rightly smacked down for terrible research, I can’t help but rethink my personal pantheon of atheist scholars.

The Big Reveal

Okay, so, it’s the day after April Fool’s, so naturally the jig is up. My custom style from yesterday is not, in fact, a preview of the new theme, but rather a Pony-fication of our current. I am assured that our new theme is coming soon, and when it does, my custom CSS will very likely break. So, for posterity, here’s a screenshot of what the front page (and all subsequent pages in fact!) would have looked like if you weren’t one of the 97 that were brave enough to try it.

Screenshot of the Pony-fied theme - sorry, visually impaired folks, I have no idea how to prank you with ponies as well.

I have it installed myself, and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change it for a while yet.

I had also changed my Gravatar to a pony made with General Zoi’s My Little Pony Creator (I have a news item I’d like to post about her a little later in fact!). I didn’t, however, post it to the blog then the way Dana did, but I did manage to inculcate some pony-on-pony warfare in the comments on my other prank post. Anyway, here’s the pony I built. Probably the most over-encumbered member of its species ever built.

Of course, ponies weren’t the only prank that happened around these parts yesterday — the biggest prank, the one that attracted the most of our bloggers, involved casting aspersions and recriminations about one another in one gigantic circular firing squad. Which was also fun.

So, what’d you think?