Skepticon video: Greta Christina – Avoiding Activist Burnout

I absolutely loved the shorter version of this speech that she did at another con a while back, and was pleased to get to see it live. Unfortunately for me, though, Dave Muscato of American Atheists had put out a call to the intertubes asking whether or not anyone had a flash card reader and the ability to transfer a movie file to him by email. I happened to be on my laptop with a flash card reader and an internet connection, so I swept out to be the big damn hero and ended up missing a significant chunk of this speech. I’m happy this video exists so I can fill in the missing bits.

At the moment, I am actively attempting to control my activist burnout by learning Java programming, learning LibGDX, and generally pursuing my pipe dream of building a rogue-like Castlevania-alike platform game with retraversal and RPG stats*. It seems like a more immediately attainable goal, to me, than expunging sexist sentiment from a community whose members often prioritize getting along in a big-tent fashion rather than actually fixing the systematic empathy failures entrenched in some quarters.

* If you don’t get this, and care, ask me. I’ll explain. At length.

The line between “acting like an asshole” and “being an asshole”

It turns out Elan Gale was making the whole thing up.

To catch you up: Elan Gale posted on his Twitter account that someone was being rude on an airplane, and proceeded to detail with screenshots how he harassed her (of course it was a her, wearing mom jeans) in retribution for “not being nice” on Thanksgiving. He gained 70-ish thousand followers over the affair, and sparked a firestorm of dudebros defending their inalienable right to tell rude moms to eat a dick, everyplace the story was covered. He’s been hailed as a hero, completely took in Buzzfeed and thus went viral as all hell, and those few of us who decried the assholish behaviour (myself and way more especially, Ophelia) are presently enjoying the lovely booby-prize of having skepticaler-than-thou skeptics tell us that we were insufficiently skeptical of the whole affair.
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Rage Blogging and Drama: The Elan Gale Story

It has come to my attention that there are some members of the various internet skeptical and secular communities, not to mention members of the greater internet “blogosphere”, who evidently do not know what “blogging” actually IS. I am obligated, therefore, to explain, because I happen to be a “blogger” on occasion myself. It behooves me that everyone understand exactly what it is I’m doing here.
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Pattern recognition

It’s not a secret that I like JT Eberhard. I think he’s a generally savvy guy. He’s good at atheist activism. He is good FOR atheist activism. He is very much pro-equality, and he generally doesn’t take any nonsense that is directed at him.

He’s got a serious feminism problem, though. Not that he’s anti-feminist — on the contrary. Just ask him. The problem is, he is not good at feminist activism. And he is not good FOR feminist activism. And when feminists tell him so, he is apparently turning, one at a time, against them. In this, I see JT going very, very wrong, despite all his claimed good intentions. I am remiss if I do not attempt to help him right this wrong, even if it takes some frank observations and tough words and hurt feelings.
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“Fuck the high road”: Jessica Valenti on “don’t feed the trolls”

I’ve long advocated that the best way to deal with trolls — though I use this term relatively loosely, I generally mean a slightly broader category of troll than the average internet user who thinks creating sockpuppet accounts to harass and slander individuals is the only thing that actually amounts to trolling (and that it can’t possibly come from people within the movement!) — is to confront them. Take their words and use them against them. Force-feed them with why they’re wrong — even if they won’t accept it, bystanders will.

The only way to change society and push back against the small fringe of vocal misanthropes who manage to amplify their messages artificially, who abuse technology to make their fringe opinions seem far more prolific than they actually are, is to directly challenge their fringe opinions and explain why they’re wrong, hurtful, unworthy of dialog, morally atavistic. And when the messages get too abusive, you stop them from appearing in your well-curated online space in order to limit the amount of damage to passers-by they can do with their “trolling”.

Jessica Valenti apparently agrees.

Don’t feed the trolls: it’s probably the most common refrain in online discussions, especially when dealing with misogynists in feminists conversations. The idea is that the best way to deal with sexists is to starve of them of the attention they’re so clearly desperate for. Besides, we think, why sink to their level?

But the high road is overrated. It requires silence in the face of violent misogyny, and a turn-the-other cheek mentality that society has long demanded of women. A vibrant feminist movement has ensured women don’t take injustices laying down offline—so why would we acquiesce on the Internet?

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A familiar story of pettiness and spite

I haven’t seen a lot of George Waye recently on the blogotubes. Once upon a time, we fought shoulder and shoulder on the topic of rape with nascent MRAs before I even knew the term. I know him to be a principled, insightful and strong person, whose blogging time is limited these days by being a father-of-fiveish . Even the strongest people have skeletons in their closet, though, and George shook one free from his closet and set it to electronic paper to illustrate a point.

My girlfriend and I once broke up around the end of May in my Grade 13 year. The whole thing was rather anti-climactic as far as break-ups between us usually went; there was no yelling or fighting or schisms within our group of friends. It was really just her telling me that things were done, and me not really liking it but trying my best to be mature about the whole thing.

There was an end of school party planned by several of our friends- we were all going to camp out in tents and toast the end of another school year. My ex didn’t want me to go to the party. She made that pretty clear to must of our common friends, perhaps hoping that I would get the hint. At the time I thought it was pretty childish of her to try and prevent me from going to this party, after all these were our mutual friends and I knew and had good relationships with many of them. Why should I have to stay home while she has a good time? In her defence, this party was going to be overwhelmingly occupied by people who were closer to her than to me- and I knew this. In my mind though, these were my friends too, and I was not about to sacrifice my social life for the increased comfort of my ex girlfriend.

Just to make sure my bases were covered, I took special care to let as many people as possible know that I was going to be coming to the party. Most were very supportive of my coming, though some indicated some trepidation at the prospect of having to be put in the middle of things. Those who were closest to me were of course excited that I would be coming and considered my ex’s protestations to be petty and unfair. The friends who were closer to her tended to suggest that maybe my going was not necessarily wrong per se, but that it might significantly impact the enjoyment of everyone there and that I might want to avoid her as much as possible if I did decide to go.

This story drew a rant to the surface, if you’ll indulge me.
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Xbox Live to crack down on sexism

So Halo 4 is being released tomorrow (what, is there something more important going on that I don’t know about?). Thanks to the recent acknowledgement by 343 Industries and Microsoft that half their potential market was being weeded out by the “early adopters” who are defending their territory via terrible sexist remarks, rape threats and abuse, it appears that the folks responsible for the Xbox Live service have had it with that nonsense behaviour and are about to start dropping the banhammer on their users.

Apparently this is a zero tolerance policy too, so if you’re found to be making sexist comments, don’t expect to get away with just a slap on the wrist. Wolfkill and Ross say that developers have a responsibility to break through gender stereotypes and stamp out sexism in the games industry too. It’s sad that it has to come to Xbox Live bans just to get people to act civil toward one another, but that’s unfortunately what you get when everyone is hidden behind a veil of anonymity.

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Matt, I really think you owe them an apology.

Hi Matt. Long time fan, first time writer. Never called into your show, given your rule about preferring theists because they’re more interesting call fodder; and the corollary rule about not acting like a Poe.

I’ve listened to a great number of episodes of The Atheist Experience, and while I don’t have the full scope of the four hundred odd shows you’ve put on, I’ve certainly come to understand your frustration when you receive the same questions over and over again. When you hear the third caller on the same show bring up the ontological argument or TAG or Pascal’s Wager, I feel every ounce of your cringe and I fully agree with every time you hang up on a person who simply will not engage in the points honestly.

It’s gotten to the point where some folks have nicknamed that sort of battle fatigue “Matt Dillahunty Syndrome”, where you need to stop repeat arguments dead in their tracks because they’re a waste of everyone’s resources, and your own are worn thin from past battles. This isn’t a new phrase made unique for this occasion — it is one I’ve seen in the wild for at least a year, and a recognition of the psychological damage that long-term trolling can actually take.
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“Too ugly to be raped”? Whatever! Let’s talk about MY feels!

[T]hree years ago, I participated in a blogswarm set up to raise money for rape victims of the war in Liberia. I tried to do a little more than just raise money, to talk about why rape is and should be an expected consequence of going to war.
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Anyone who has ever in the history of the internet talked about Schroedinger’s Rapist knows what happened next. We didn’t. That post hadn’t been written yet.

The first thing people did, of course, was deny at length and with many attempts at diversion that we should be talking about rape at all. There were demands for statistics, demands for the sources of statistics (which had already been given), demands that we talk about women exactly the same way we talk about men despite no evidence that female soldiers do the same thing.
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Why am I bringing this up now? Because those people who are totally not unhealthily obsessed with FtB in general and me as one of many in particular are also talking about this three-year-old set of blog posts.

And the commenters do their damnedest to erode any faith in humanity I’ve ever had by diverting the topic of discussion to their own feels instead. Get over there and fix that, please.
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Jay Smooth on feeding trolls

This actually makes an excellent companion piece to our Don’t Feed the Trolls panel in the SkepchickCON track at CONvergence.

Ill Doctrine: Why I Will Feed The Trolls If I Damn Well Want To from ANIMALNewYork.com on Vimeo.

At Jay Smooth’s blog, he adds a few salient words:

One of the main reasons “Don’t Feed the Trolls” falls short as a universal pat answer is that it assumes one’s only possible goal in speaking up would be to induce a change of heart in the individuals doing the trolling. Many of the stories people have shared in response to this video illustrated how speaking up can be a net positive for your community as a whole, regardless of whether it inspires some epiphany in the trolls themselves. Gauging the usefulness of speaking out strictly by tracking whether a miraculous troll epiphany occurs is often missing the point IMO.

It’s almost like he knew the ins and outs of our specific fight! So uncanny!

Feeding the trolls almost never happens in isolation — if it’s a single person attacking you singly, you simply ignore that person and move on. But these attacks are often public, and include “pig-fucker” charges (by which I mean, charges designed to force you to rebut, rather than because they’re actually true) that the public gets to see.

Sometimes you need to counter spurious argumentation, to put that argument’s metaphorical head on a metaphorical pike to show others exactly how it fails and why you shouldn’t use those lines of argumentation in the future. It’s almost never about changing the troll’s mind, because their mind was often made up long before they ever deigned fit to visit your post; countering trolls is for the benefit of those who come afterward.