The Case Against Outing Franc Hoggle

There’s a battle raging presently over at Ophelia’s and Stephanie’s over a guy by the ‘nym of Franc Hoggle. I say ‘nym, because a real-life friend of his learned of his online identity, evidently by him outing himself to this friend — leading to his friend discovering his blog, Grey Lining (no link, sorry). Said friend decided to tell Ophelia Franc’s real name so she could use it to defend herself and the rest of us by extension from his ongoing misogynist, anti-feminist, anti-FtB, anti-Ophelia and downright obsessive anti-PZ campaign.

To be clear, Franc Hoggle, despite making a great many oblique and yet threatening comments like “if I were a woman, I’d kick [Ophelia] in the cunt”, has never directly threatened anyone. In his nascent proto-Mabus state, he has compared PZ Myers, popular atheist blogger and small town professor of biology, of being like Idi Amin and Kim Jong-Il, the only admitted difference being that PZ was lacking only the opportunity to commit mass-murder.

The constant drumbeat of anti-feminist sentiment from his site and his commentariat (whom we would probably leave largely alone if they would only stop staging raiding parties!) is evidently intended to inculcate a hostile environment for our bloggers, shaming and othering and invoking fear to speak our minds lest we incur the wrath of some people who happen to think that including feminism in the skeptic and atheist blogosphere is the Wrong Direction For The Movement™. But he has made no direct threats to anyone, and short of the fact that he has visited the Melbourne-based Global Atheist Convention in 2010 under his real name, and PZ was planning on being at the 2012 GAC, he poses no physical threat to anyone in real life.

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Female protagonists in video games as eye candy and as role models

Via reader Aliasalpha, Kotaku Australia has a piece up about a Street Fighter panel at NYU’s Game Centre where Capcom staffer Seth Killian (a.k.a s-kill) was asked, point blank, “why so sexist?” He said he was going to “take it on the chin”, but proceded to blame cultural differences between Japanese and Western cultures, playing his answers for laughs from the crowd.
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I used to watch that petulant man-child

I have a dirty little secret to tell. When I was pretty young — 12 or so, I’d say — I’d wake up really early, at ~6:30am, and watch Rush Limbaugh before getting ready for school. With the volume very low, so I wouldn’t disturb my parents or sister, of course. This was at about the same time that I’d intentionally go to bed early as well, at about 9pm, so I could get up and watch the original Star Trek at 1am. My parents were particularly disturbed by these habits when they discovered them, but moreso by my watching Rush Limbaugh. They were appalled that I would watch such a nasty, cynical, invective-spewing bloviator.
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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 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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The Problem with Privilege: some correct assertions, with caveats

I really want to get on with other things. Seriously, I do. Which is why I want to cede a bit of ground — or at least it might seem that way to the casual observer, given all the things I’m about to agree to. It would pay dividends in furthering the conversation if you do your best not to skim before replying.

There are a number of arguments in this whole privilege debacle surrounding the so-called Elevatorgate (a timeline, for you newbies) that, while not actually rebutting the issues in question, are in themselves valid and correct. Here’s a few of them, and why they don’t address the problem at hand.
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The Problem with Privilege (or: you got sexism in my skepticism!)

This particular blog debacle has already been done to death pretty well everywhere on the ‘tubes. I usually find that’s about the right time for me to weigh in, so here goes. First, I need to set the stage for those of you just joining us, though I’ve already given you links to this particular rabbit hole in the past, in case you’ve bothered to click them.

Rebecca Watson attended a conference in Dublin recently where she gave a talk addressing the sexism problem that appears to be relatively rampant within the skeptic and atheist communities, a problem that, every time it’s brought up, is generally pooh-poohed by the privileged white men of the community. This is an oversimplification of course, but the talk was generally well-received. It provided examples of behaviour she experiences all too often, being objectified and sexualized at pretty much every con she attends. I’m sure her experiences are not at all out of the norm, either.

After a convention is over, there’s often a traditional follow-up called “Bar-Con” where the convention-goers socialize in the hotel bar for an inordinate amount of time. Rebecca attended this particular convention’s Bar-Con, where the con’s attendees congregated and drank and socialized and generally had a good time. At about four in the morning, Rebecca announced that she was out of steam and was going to head to bed. She left the hotel bar and got in the elevator. A man from the group, evidently an attendee, followed her from the bar to the elevator and got in with her. While she was trapped in this elevator with him, he said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”
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Should sexiness sell skepticism?

Sex sells. It’s practically axiomatic now — if you want to sell anything, sex it up. How do you do that? Well, obviously, in the advertisement world, by adding half-naked women, right? You know, since men — and heterosexual men only — are the only consumers worth targeting.

Except, NO, they’re not — heterosexual males make up at absolute best about 45% of the world’s population, which isn’t even a majority. So why the tacit approval, even (and especially) by certain feminists, of the current social norm wherein any “sexiness” brought into a conversation must de facto imply women slutting it up as sex objects? Why is it never about men bringing the sexy to the table? Why the gigantic backlash against the Skepchicks owning their sexuality and being sex-positive, as though they’re the only skeptics that have ever displayed any modicum of sex-positivity? Why the gigantic backlash against Boobquake, despite the surprisingly good data it yielded in disproving the Muslim cleric’s hypothesis that immodesty causes earthquakes?

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Nuance is better than extremism, no matter what topic

DuWayne posted this video over at his place as a follow-up to the raging nutbar we had foul up our respective blogs recently.

As requested by DuWayne privately, here’s my thoughts on the video, unaltered by any of the comments or his post. (As much as I can manage, as I’d read / skimmed most of it already.)

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