John Oliver on online harassment

This is an experience that I’ve been steeped in and have been actively fighting for almost a decade now. I’m exhausted. It’s why I really just want to blog about things I like right now.

Being in possession of a white penis as John Oliver says (and/or being perceived to be same when I was anonymous so many years ago; see comments for nuance with regard to trans folk), I received a tenth the harassment I saw others receive. I only drew people’s ire when I pointed this out, and only attracted haters and slime pitters to swarm me and attack me when I dared defend their targets or interrogated their questionable logic. They are entirely disinterested in me as long as I turn a blind eye to the damage they do. It’s a built-in defense mechanism, I think. And it’s a winning strategy — a decade of seeing the dregs of humanity tear down everything you try to build does, in fact, wear at you.

You wonder why I am tired? This is why. Because there’s a cadre of people who act as a katamari of awful, rolling from one community to another, genuinely believing in their campaign to push interlopers off of the internet, picking targets and slowly eroding their confidence and destroying their lives, pushing them out of the public sphere. It is censorship of a creeping and insidious sort, and a far more insidious censorship than “waah, someone said that thing I said is objectively harmful even though I’m free to say it, they shouldn’t be free to say otherwise because free speech”. Rape threats and death threats and defense of same as “criticism” is shameful, attacking legitimate criticism as “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs” is shameful, and it’s shameful that anyone with a shred of intellect (*coughdawkins*) might be suckered into that narrative just because they themselves are criticized for saying sexist, racist or otherwise societally harmful things.

Sally Strange and Burning Bridges: Why You Should Support a New Blog Network

ETA: The fundraiser is actually over. Here’s their Patreon page instead, so you can be a recurring contributor if you’d like.

I’m sure you all know Sally Strange, who frequents these parts and is a staple of the commentariat even here. She and a number of other bloggers are building a blog network to represent some classes of voice that don’t often get heard, and asked me to throw in what meagre support I have to offer. And they have already — before launching — met with an overt attempt at scuttling their plans.

8chan, where the nastiest parts of chan culture re-settled after even 4chan started turning their noses up at their inhumane doxxing, SWATting and harassment, got wind and are already in the process of attacking the Indiegogo campaign and the bloggers for whom it would benefit.

They deserve our support and a shot at making their voices heard. They deserve the chance to speak, rather than to be silenced by this hate mob who attack them “for the lulz”.

Here’s Sally’s plea.
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Actually, let’s talk about ethics in Watch_Dogs

Let’s all say it: Ayden Pearce is morally repugnant. Errant Signal does an excellent and thorough job itemizing exactly why.

I had been interested in this game, and in the concept of hacking-as-superpower, but when it turned into yet another white-guy-does-whatever-he-wants story, where every moral decision boils down to “shoot the guy or blow up the guy”, where you’re given tidbits of information about the lives and dreams and desires of each person you’re systematically murdering, where you’re essentially obligated to spy on and not intervene in situations where you could actually legitimately make a difference because they’re just cut-scenes inserted for flavour, I couldn’t bring myself to play.

It’s like all the power they give you is misdirected, where you can’t fix the system but you can take advantage of it for your own gain. Where you become judge, jury and executioner for crimes that haven’t yet been committed, and you let other grievous crimes go entirely unpunished because you, omniscient privileged douchebag, cannot be moved to actually do anything. And when you DO do something about an injustice, it’s the wrong thing entirely, against the wishes of everyone around you. Where you’re both the cause and the violent solution to the problems in your life. Where your actions are supposed to be good but your opponents’ actions are bad, despite the fact that you’re doing a thousand times objectively eviller things as a matter of course.

If we’re going to talk about ethics in video games, this is ultimately a Douchebag Hacker Empowerment Fantasy simulator, and it doesn’t remotely touch on any of the things that need to be discussed with regard to the disturbing surveillance culture we’re in. I can get empowerment fantasies in far less problematic worlds than this, without feeling like I’m railroaded into the Evil playthrough of a game like Infamous where the moral choices are approximately “save the box of kittens, or stuff them with grenades and throw them off a building indiscriminately”.

The bad logic of “Good People Can’t Be Sexists”

One of the things that makes me averse to getting into deep conversation lately about morality and about people’s sexist and racist behaviour is that we appear to be hard-wired to think the whole conversation is binary — you did a bad, objectionable thing, therefore you’re Evil. You are criticized for doing a bad, objectionable thing, but are generally good, therefore you’re being hounded by Feminazis and Thought Police. Any nuance in the conversation is smashed out by our resorting to binary thinking again and again.

In mathematical terms, the problem is that good and bad, sexist and not sexist, are absolutes. When we render them into pure two-valued logic, we’re taking shades of gray, and turning them into black and white.

There are people who are profoundly sexist or racist, and that makes them bad people. Just look at the MRAs involved in Gamergate: they’re utterly disgusting human beings, and the thing that makes them so despicably awful is the awfulness of their sexism. Look at a KKKer, and you find a terrible person, and the thing that makes them so terrible is their racism.

But most people aren’t that extreme. We’ve just absorbed a whole lot of racism and sexism from the world we’ve lived our lives in, and that influences us. We’re a little bit racist, and that makes us a little bit bad – we have room for improvement. But we’re still, mostly, good people. The two-valued logic creates an apparent conflict where none really exists.

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Getting off on the charges of getting off without consent

Content note: sexual assault, non-consensual sexual activities.

Been a while, I know. This story reignited the RAGE BLOGGER in me, and this is a good thing, because I’ll need the warmup for what I’ve got rattling around in my head the past few days.

Apparently, in Tokyo, a man responsible for ejaculating on non-consenting, unaware women over a hundred times on Tokyo’s train system has finally been caught.

A middle-aged man, Tetsuya Fukuda, 40 has been arrested for the attacks on crowded trains between Kinshicho and Akihabara stations in the capital Tokyo.

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Tribalism, empathy, atheism, and Chapel Hill

In the rush most Big Name Atheists are making to disavow or diminish the role Craig Hicks’ atheism played in his murdering three Muslim students earlier today, I am not shocked at all that some — most, even — of these Names are the same people who demanded that every Muslim disavow the actions of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre or else be judged complicit. Nuance goes right out the window when viscerally reacting to a traumatic event, and doubly so when your instincts incline you toward protecting The Tribe. Nor am I shocked at the need by some to attempt to perform contrafactual judo in order to attack the intersection of identities that they most easily consider The Enemy Tribe, pinning it on Them, Not Us. Even when the “Them” doing this are more proximate to the problem, insofar as they are the ones advocating against the pluralists and the tolerant liberals and the “Social Justice Warriors” who want people to stop being assholes to one another. All in service of defending The Tribe of Atheism against the heathen Religious who are trying to sully our good name by holding us to account for an antitheist murdering some religious folks.

I’ve said innumerable times that knowing only that someone is an atheist is insufficient information to make the determination as to whether or not they’re a good person. Dictionary atheists — those who staunchly defend the idea that Movement Atheism should be solely about antitheism and must not let our mission creep — reacted quite astonishingly antipathetic to the idea of Atheism Plus. They were evidently quite put out by the idea that one should be more than just atheist, that people who also cared about humanism and feminism and anti-racism anti-ableism and LGBTQ rights might want to find one another, befriend one another, and provide one another with support.

These people have decided that “The Movement” should only be about atheism, and that we should be a granfalloon Big Tent and we should all overlook the nasty behaviour of certain quarters of atheism. Given that said behaviour makes the environment generally toxic to various underclasses and makes the movement inaccessible to all but the whitest, dudeliest, most “un-PC” jackasses whose idea of “edgy” is telling racist or rape jokes as though nobody’s ever said shitty things about women before, this functions as entitlement over an environment.
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(Guest Post) Words of mass destruction: the weaponization of ‘free speech’

A guest post by Robert Fendt. Please address comments appropriately. :)

(Note: this text deals with harassment, sexism, misogyny, racism and transphobia. Readers’ discretion is advised.)

Dear reader: are you male? White? Heterosexual? Cisgender? Healthy? Congratulations: this text is for you. It also means you are among us lucky ones who get to play the game called ‘life’ on the easiest setting there is. Don’t believe it? Read on.

Disclaimer: I’m also a white male cisgender heterosexual person. And for a long time, I would have said about me having it particularly easy in life: don’t be ridiculous. But I do have friends and colleagues who are not male, who are not white, who are not heterosexual, who are not cisgender, some of whom have to deal with disability or illness, and listening to them has changed and reshaped my perspective. It’s time it changed the perspectives of us all.

In the ‘western’ countries, freedom of opinion and speech are fundamental rights, designed to protect minorities from persecution. So how ironic is it that nowadays ‘free speech’ also functions as a smoke screen for the harassment of women and minorities?

Imagine being a woman walking down the street. Now try to guess how common cat calls and whistles are, and how many unsolicited comments about your body and looks you get. Try to guess how common it is that strangers come uncomfortably close or even touch you without your consent. If you guessed “rarely”, then guess again. Being a woman in public means being scrutinised and ogled and commented upon, at the very least. And now do me a favor: honestly try to imagine being in that position. Imagine dealing with stuff like that. For every. Single. Fucking. Day.
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#FtBCon 3: Asexual Spectrum Atheists panel, and Youtube comments brigaded

Here’s the full panel.

The book mentioned is Asexuality: The Invisible Orientation by Julia Sondra Decker, and here are some links the panelists wanted to include.

A link that Tristan wanted to add, relevant to the “asexual but still having sex”: http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/why%20humans%20have%20sex%202007.pdf

This is regarding the House episode mentioned:
http://nextstepcake.tumblr.com/post/78579198812/tw-massive-ace-invalidation-going-on-here-a

The census is available here: https://asexualcensus.wordpress.com/

And hey, big congratulations to Thunderf00t on fully embracing your nature as a churlish, small-minded and provincial sort, the type of person who gives atheists a reputation of being the Douchebag Brigade, much like was mentioned during this panel. Since your coming-out as such a few years back, your quality of life must have gotten really much better — I know what it’s like to have to hide some fundamental aspect of your life, and it must be nice for you to feel free to be an utter asshole in public now. Good for you. And good for all your fellow douchebags in your audience.

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The null hypothesis

I was cued to write this mini-rant by a conversation on Twitter. I don’t really feel that I should have to explain the null hypothesis to people within this community, but in contexts like sexual assault and rape, it seems that all proportional skepticism goes right out the window.

Ami Angelwings (of Escher Girls fame) tweeted about accusations, and how the accusation that “she’s making it all up” is actually itself an accusation, and needs to be vetted out. She went on to say that the null hypothesis in this case is not that “she’s making it up”. Someone I greatly respect in the skeptical community replied to my retweeting that, saying “it is, give evidence”.

Frankly, that’s a load. That isn’t how the null hypothesis works.
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Brief thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

Satire depends heavily on the cultural context in which it was made. Charlie Hebdo is certainly a leftist rag, and certainly satire, and certainly understood as such within France’s cultural context. However, there are some universals about satire that people, time and again, forget.

The first and most important thing to remember is that satire can damage just as much as the original offense, and sometimes more. Charlie Hebdo’s satire was about taking some aspect of the news cycle — some politician or celebrity who held racist and sexist views — and illustrating the logical end result of those views. In a context where a great deal of damage has been done by outright propaganda by outright racists and sexists, where “Evil Banker Jew” and “Monkey-Like Black Person” are well-worn tropes, depicting them as though you’re resurrecting the trope in order to scandalize the person who still holds those views is fraught and potentially more damaging to the person who’s damaged by the original racism.

The second thing to remember about satire is that it is a powerful weapon, to be wielded carefully so as to avoid splash damage. Attacking a class — or being perceived to be attacking a class — that is already under siege by society, is “punching down”. Even if you’re trying to shame the person who’s holding an antisemitic or anti-black or anti-woman view, you could very well legitimize or normalize attacks on that class of person by increasing the number of instances where it’s perceived to be acceptable. Increasing the frequency of a meme does not NECESSARILY legitimize it, but it CAN.
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