CONvergence: Rebecca Watson ruins everything

I noticed something shortly after the very well-received Don’t Feed the Trolls panel at CONvergence’s SkepchickCON, once ZOMGItsCriss posted the video. People who otherwise have never seen the level of anti-Watson hatred that her mere existence incurs, were surprised and angered by the fact that the comments on Criss’ video largely ignored the fact that there were five other panelists present. As such, Watson only comprised a smallish fraction of the discussion — and yet, some folks’ comments ran along the line of “why would I listen to That Skepchick bitch whine hysterically about nothing for an hour? She should get raped so she loosens up, the prude whore.” (This is, of course, a composite of real comments on that video. Edit: For skeptics of this exceptional claim, like “…” in the comments, click this to see a Youtube comment that’s very, VERY similar.)

That sort of shit was exactly our point, and it appears to have catalyzed at least one bystander to radicalize against that sort of trolling.

The last night I spent in Minneapolis, Skepchick Kammy held a barbecue at her place for the participants of the SkepchickCON track. At one point, Kammy’s son pressganged his parents into moving the attendees into their driveway so they could set off the remainder of the fireworks (left over from the celebration a few days prior, when Minnesotans celebrate Three Days After Canada Day in a sweet, but odd, gesture to your neighbors to the north). We pulled our chairs out from their back yard and set them up to watch the firework display, and I found myself setting my chair up near enough to Watson to pronounce loudly:

“Well, I was really looking forward to seeing this firework display, but now that I’m stuck here next to Rebecca Watson, it’s just ruined for me. I mean, who wants to listen to her sit quietly for an hour?”
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Digital archaeology of Elevatorgate – a timeline

Oh, the huge manatee! Suirauqa has taken it upon xirself to chronicle the origin of the DEEEEP RIIIIIIFT that the community has found itself in, between people who think Rebecca Watson magically ruins everything by her mere presence, and people who think she’s just another human being. Xir googling efforts are chronicled here, and the proceedings of the event now known as “elevatorgate” make a sort of prequel to the harassment policies campaign in how major forces in the skeptical and atheist movements decided to align for and against female bodily autonomy.

A friend of mine was curious about the ‘Deep Rift’ that has been cooking in the atheist-skeptic blogosphere for about a year now, culminating in the Twitter storm over the FTBullies hashtag. I offered to make a timeline with bullet points. Little did I know that chronicling those cataclysmic events was going to be such a monumental task, requiring the last drop of my Google-Fu and reading/listening comprehension. Anyhoo, I must admit it was eeriely fun revisiting those events, and consequently, wondering anew how, atheist-skeptic or not, we all are subject to the very human foibles and frailties of ego, prejudice, presumptions, and sadly, blind irrationality. Vraiment, the humanity of it all!

Well worth the read, if you’re unsure why people deluge Watson with hate for otherwise completely unobjectionable statements.

In case you missed the link the first time through, click here.

Coles Notes and alt audio for Don’t Feed the Trolls

Matt Lowry was so kind as to post his notes on the Don’t Feed the Trolls panel, which while it’s not a full transcript, certainly pulls out a lot of the relevant details.

In Canada, you call that a “Coles Notes”, after the Coles bookstore from whence these synopsis books come. I hear in America, the same idea is called CliffsNotes. I like Coles Notes way better, not the least reason being the unpretentious space included between the two words.

I’ve also done an alternate audio recording from the panel, so if you’re interested in the original take by Cristina Rad’s friend which is uploaded to Youtube presently, but don’t have the tech to hit Youtube at the moment, or just want to grab the mp3 for posterity, you can use this podcast doodlybopper like what I done used for the other two panels.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also, here’s the mp3 link (20 megs) if you’d like to download it for later listening. Again, lose the -lr if you want a 128kbps version that doesn’t add much in the way of lost audio.

Don’t forget to visit Cristina’s original at her blog in case the ridiculousness in the Youtube comments didn’t do it for you with regard to rampant trolling and misogyny.

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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Rebecca Watson won’t be at TAM

Working on a secret project, so I don’t have terribly much to say today. So I’ll report on the news and throw in a few quick thoughts.

I can’t say I blame Rebecca for deciding not to participate in The Amazing Meeting this year — not because TAM is particularly unsafe for women, but because TAM is not a safe space for women. (Do you get the distinction? It’s really important that you do.)

She quotes DJ Grothe:

I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment. I found that claim astonishing, since I was only aware of women speaking frankly about their own experiences and their own feelings. I couldn’t imagine that DJ would be literally blaming the victim for speaking out. To be sure, I asked him in that thread to give us examples of what he was talking about. To my surprise, this was his response:

Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

( http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-15/atheist-sexism-women/50416454/1 )

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On this day in space history

On March 22, 2001, an outer main belt asteroid provisionally named 2001FB10 was discovered by David Healy, founder of the Junk Bond Observatory. Its official name is 153289 Rebeccawatson.

That’s right, it was named after the woman probably most famous for making a whole lot of very insecure men very angry about having their sense of entitlement questioned. Rebecca Watson has an asteroid named after her, and you do not. U JELLY?

Additionally, it’s grossly unlikely to end humanity, despite certain howler monkeys’ protestations.

The Problem with Privilege (or: Predatory Behaviour)

Post 9 in an ongoing series. See the Master Post for previous entries in The Problem with Privilege.

From blacklava.net. Buy one today! (If you're privileged.)

In the last post in this series, comments diverged from the topic of overzealous application of skepticism to the idea of whether it’s right and rational for women to assume that all men are potential rapists. I made the following analogy, as regarding a comparison to assuming all Muslims are terrorists:

I also suspect you’re suggesting that there is a visual difference between Arabs and Caucasians, but you substituted “Muslim” for it. Muslims don’t necessarily have to look like brown people in turbans, you realize.

And as for assuming all of them are terrorists, there are just as many non-Muslim terrorists in recent history to suggest that what you mean is that you’re justified in thinking that anyone who is overzealous about some particular dogma is a potential terrorist. Meaning animal rights activists, Christians, men’s rights activists, anti-abortionists, et cetera. The problem with that is, you can’t visually distinguish that someone is an adherent to a dogma unless they do something to self-identify, like wearing some distinctive symbol. And even then, your fear responses shouldn’t automatically trigger or you get incidents like where clerics are arrested for praying in an airport.

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The Problem with Privilege (or: Evidential Skepticism)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, so to catch you all up, here are my prior entries in the series.

From blacklava.net. Buy one today! (If you're privileged.)

The Problem with Privilege (or: you got sexism in my skepticism!)
The Problem with Privilege (or: no, you’re not a racist misogynist ass, calm down)
The Problem with Privilege (or: missing the point, sometimes spectacularly)
The Problem with Privilege (or: after this, can we get back to the actual issues?)
The Problem with Privilege: Manifesto for Change
The Problem with Privilege (or: cheap shots, epithets and baseless accusations for everyone!)
The Problem with Privilege: some correct assertions, with caveats

It appears that many of the bloggers now on FtB, once from various corners of the intertubes, are embroiled once again in the total catastrophic meltdown of reason that is discussing the nexus of sexism and skepticism.

The focus this time? The same as every other time — how Rebecca Watson can’t be trusted at her word, and how one must be skeptical — SKEPTICAL, I SAY — of anything she says because she’s making the obviously extraordinary claim that someone asserted his privilege to flirt over her request to not be treated that way. I mean, who’s going to believe THAT tall tale, right?

Stephanie Zvan challenges the Elevator Guy Apologists to try assuming Watson isn’t lying, and see what you think about EG’s actions thereafter. A number of folks dance around the challenge but ultimately refuse to participate. Some idiots took the opportunity over at Xblog to turn a post promoting Dawkins’ new book Magic of Reality into another thread about how poorly we’ve been treating Dawkins over his dismissive and sneering post regarding Rebecca Watson. And Ophelia Benson posted an evisceration of the meme that a man “cannot know” that a woman is interested until he cold-propositions her as a perfect stranger in an elevator at 4am.

What do these threads have in common in what’s driving their commentariat? Well, aside from having two trolls (Justicar and DavidByron, both making flat unevidenced assertions and ignoring all counterpoints to their chosen points of view) in common, the posts’ comments also run the gamut of questioning every aspect of Rebecca Watson’s story and present every conceivable method of character assassination of Rebecca Watson herself.

But isn’t that how skepticism works?

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