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?

Not one of us is a token

On my own blog, an argument came up — while I was so slammed with work as to be all but totally disengaged from the greater blogohedron — that just happened to become extraordinarily timely through a coincidental confluence that bears mentioning. Liam, on an older post, defended the idea that people encouraging diversity were in fact engaging in “reverse racism”, serving as an excellent foil for my argument that diversity is itself a laudable goal.

This happened concurrently with John Loftus’ rather abrupt departure from Freethought Blogs, and his slamming the door on the way out hard enough to rattle the china on the walls — he intended to do damage on the way out by picking several fights with so-called “mean atheists” when his chief concern was that the commentariat, not the bloggers, were mean to him when he launched on our network and that he’d therefore have a harder time reaching out to Christians. He was invited expressly because he had a perspective that was, while not totally unique, certainly underrepresented in our blogging group, with the hope that when people move their blogs to our network it grows the network readership overall. That doesn’t make him the “token ex-Christian” not even the “token ex-Protestant minister”, so when he suggested that Natalie Reed was only brought on for diversity’s sake rather than her personal qualifications, many of us bloggers rightly rankled.
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