I haven’t been around much lately.
Things have conspired to turn my attentions in quite unexpected ways for the foreseeable, and NonStamping in general is simply not shaping up as quite as much of a week-to-week focus for me in 2013.
I’ve not been as active a blogger as I’d anticipated being between videos, but now I find myself pretty much withdrawing for what looks like a decent hiatus. I’ve tried to get OFF the NSC bandwagon several times over the years, aware that it’s often something of an ever-present distraction, and even a drain on my time, but I have inevitably been drawn back again and again to refute the latest idiocy that comes across my monitor or out of my headphones; but recently, as proud and happy as I am with what I’ve made on Youtube, the whole atheism thing has organically begun to seem like something that I have done my dash on and needn’t be around for now.
A lot of fast-moving big changes re work/career stuff have been happening this year which I enthusiastically want to give time to. Also I’ve just had my first research publication come off the press (a project on second language acquisition) in a small local journal, to very mixed reviews amongst the six or seven people who have (and ever will) actually read it, but now I have several avenues to take that side of things down, having gone to the enormous effort involved in getting such activities off the ground throughout 2012.
Also; a pregnant wife due to deliver our first later in the year. I think I overheard someone once saying something about children taking up some of one’s free time? Or something?
So – I think I’ve got ample reasons to wind back my NonStampCollecting presence for the time being. The channel gets several thousand views a day without me doing anything, so I’m happily still “around” and spreading my take on the whole topic. (One of the things I love about the internet.) But I do think that blogs and Facebook pages left sitting around un-updated look ugly and unprofessional, and I much prefer to tidy up loose ends, so that’s what I’m doing.
I’ve just canned my Facebook page (which you’ve probably never seen or heard of because I never promoted it, because after I’d gone to the effort of setting it up, it turned out that I couldn’t use it like a regular ‘personal’ account anyway, and it was completely useless),…
I’ve hardly touched Twitter this year,…
...and this will be my final post on FreeThoughtBlogs.
I’m just not the prolific blogger I thought I would be as I was setting things up last year, I anticipate that I’m going to be even less prolific this coming year, the the point of… say…. close to zero output, and I just don’t like leaving things around that aren’t as active and alive as they ought to be. I’ve organized with Ed to take my blog offline soon.
This ends part one of this post, now onto part two. Watch for the switch.
I’m aware that many will want to gloat that in “leaving FTB”, I will have proven to all and sundry that all those rumors about FTB are true, and that I got the hell out of there because I couldn’t take the cult-like behaviour any more, and that I’d been wrong all along and the anti-FTBers had been right all along after all… etc.
OK, let’s deal with this right away. And yes, I’m going to take my time and have some fun with this. As I sit here writing this post, the section you’re about to read gets bigger and bigger on every read-through – and I’m letting it. I think it’s a good way to wrap up my FTB experience. I held back on this since starting my blog, because I didn’t want my blog to be about my blog. And now I can finally use some of those screen-shots I took!
Let me say, for the first and last time on this issue, that the only rabidly dogmatic crazies I ever came across upon setting up this blog at this particular site, were the anti-FTBers.
I never had any problems whatsoever with any of the folks who blog here. Never. I was never pressured to toe any particular line, I was never encouraged to take a particular stance on any particular issue, I was never given cause to be concerned about being ‘reviewed’ or edited,…I was only ever invited to write anything I liked about anything I liked. Those were the terms given to me on the way in, and nothing ever, ever changed.
The ‘backlash’ that came at me after I accepted Kylie S’s invitation (on behalf of those at FTB who decide these things) to have a blog set up for me here began slowly, gradually rose over a few days, and then stayed at an unbelievable pitch for literally months. Suddenly I was being accused of every criticism that was being thrown at PZ Myers, Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, or even Rebecca Watson. (I’d heard of two of these people before joining, and had regularly read one of them; albeit not for a few years.) Suddenly, in the eyes of many, I had become a staunch, outspoken advocate NOT ONLY of man-hating radical militant feminism, but also of Atheism+, and I had people DEMANDING that I retract everything I’d ever said promoting both of those, taking me to task for the unforgivable crimes of the moderators at some Atheism+ forum, and composing long, strongly-worded messages detailing to me the philosophical and practical problems of Atheism+.
All of this prompted me, after a few weeks, to find out what Atheism+ was.
I read about it, said ‘meh’, and haven’t looked again.
My impression of Atheism+ is that it was a simple idea, fairly well stated in its ‘manifesto’, on whoever’s blog it went up on, and then, obviously, pretty badly promoted, executed, and managed. It was obviously a flop from whatever angle you look at it, and if everybody had paid as much attention to it as I did, and have, instead of squealing about it for months and months and months and months, and months, it would have gone the way of the dodo.
I simply cannot overstate the BACKLASH that I received over Atheism+ during the several weeks before I took the time to find out what it was. Think about that for a second.
Then there were the countless messages and emails informing me of what the management structure of FTB was like, who was in charge, what happened on the backchannel, who pulled the strings, what bloggers were and weren’t allowed to do, the methods of surveillance used by FTB ‘leaders’ to monitor the online activity of the bloggers (on and off FTB)… these things just went ON and ON and ON.
Meanwhile, I was actually ON the backchannel, witnessing not only NONE of what was being described to me daily by hysterical know-it-alls in messages and comments, but witnessing instead the polar opposite. A very cordial, very democratic, at times very light-hearted discourse – so cordial and congenial, in fact, that I didn’t actually feel all that comfortable participating in it! I’ve always been a lone-wolf on this Atheism thing, and suddenly, confronted by a mutually-supportive ‘network’ of like-minded writers and thinkers, I slowly came to realize that I kind of preferred being on my own and I never really joined many of the conversations on the back-channel. Simply not my cup of tea, despite it being very positive, constructive, and friendly. All the while I’m being told repeatedly, from what felt like every angle, that I had been tricked into joining a cult that was going to attempt to control my thoughts, and abuse my popularity on Youtube to implement their feminism-based agenda. It was like I was living in two different worlds at once.
Some of these anti-FTBers make 911-Truthers look like Ph.D geniuses. Sorry, it’s just the fucking truth.
FreeThoughtBlogs, it turns out, means different things to different people. To me, it meant a site that hosted about 35 bloggers all writing independently on a range of topics based around a common thread of secularism. To its critics, it means PZ Myers and two or three others. They don’t like PZ Myers and those two or three others, and therefore FreeThoughtBlogs is entirely, irreconcilably, bad. I often asked my critics to name, without looking online, as many of the 35 bloggers at FTB that they could. Guess how that went among people who had characterized the entire site as “PZ”, or even better – and this happened ALL the time - as “Rebecca Watson”, who has never even blogged at FTB!!
An utter inability to look objectively at a situation and evaluate it based on what one actually observes through rudimentary investigation – from people who accuse FTB of “hive-mind”.
I asked my critics, a few times, how many of the bloggers at FTB were supportive of Atheism+. I’m still waiting for an answer to those sort of meaningful, practically valuable, thoughtful questions – the kind of questions that I oughtn’t to have had to ask – the kind of questions that might burst bubbles of irrational thinking.
What I’m saying here, is that my involvement at FTB highlighted something that I had simply not anticipated after four active years in internet atheism. That is, an enormously disappointing irrationality, paranoia, and lack of critical thinking within our ranks. The atheist community, for want of a better term, around Youtube, it turns out, is populated by some seriously irrational unthinking people. One would expect that to be present in any group of people, fair enough. But the EXTENT to which it came at me was eye-opening and very disturbing. I can only hope that something happens to change that.
An enormous number of ‘skeptical’ and ‘rational’ people showed that they were willing to swallow whatever line they were fed without evaluating it or investigating it at all. A rumor spreads about the FTB backchannel, and that becomes unquestionable truth. An “enemy” is named, and a witch-hunt begins. PZ Myers got cooties – and suddenly so did EVERYONE within a few clicks of him. “Eeewwwwww!!!! You’ve got cootieeeeeeeees!!!!”
Friends, how sad to say it, but irrationality, dogmatism, and uncritical thinking needs to be dealt with in the online skeptical rational community. There’s way too much of that shit going around.
Disagree with whomever you like, but do it for good reason. Speak out against ideas you disagree with, but do it with reference to actual checkable facts – and cite your sources.
And as simple as it seems: Don’t read people whom you don’t want to read. Nobody would ever have heard of Rebecca Watson if her critics hadn’t LOST THEIR SHIT, and gone and made websites, Twitter accounts, Youtube channels, and blogs in honor of demonizing her! Same goes for this otherwise tiny, insignificant proposal called Atheism+. Some ban-happy forum moderators banned you and a million of your friends? Well – there’s a forum that isn’t going to survive, so shut the fuck up about it and go and have a cup of tea! Be an adult – stand your ground and keep your integrity. Don’t start a fucking website bitching about how harshly you were treated by some faceless ban-happy dickhead on some forum!
And for heaven’s sake – if you don’t like PZ Myers, don’t read him either! Been banned by him? Well whoopdy-friggin-doo! You didn’t like what he had to say anyway, obviously! But don’t then assume, and spread the irrational idea, that 34 others publishing independently on the same website are going to think exactly like him! And don’t say that “FreeThought” is a misnomer and that hive-mind is rampant throughout the site if you haven’t even read more than two or three of the fucking bloggers writing there, and instead just take everyone else’s word for it! Fuck! THINK!
Ahhhh. That felt good.
I will say this in closing: my first ever input into the atheism feminism fracas:
I have never had much of an interest in feminism despite my undergraduate degree in English and Cultural Studies, but as a 21st century somewhat enlightened guy with a mother, a sister, and a wife, (and 50% odds on having a daughter before too long!) I’m all for gender equality, inclusiveness, women’s safety, and equal opportunity, and that’s that. How such issues ever became the point of division amongst atheists is not only confusing, but troubling, and I have no qualms in saying that both sides of the cat-fight ought to have conducted themselves better at every turn. It should never have escalated to the shit-storm it became. That’s why I stayed out of it. It has been undignified and embarrassing from the start, and I wish those taking an active position on it would do a better job of it. Many of them are embarrassing themselves and the rest of us. I hope both sides can see that it’s not only the “other” side who is at fault, and I hope that it gets well and truly sorted out very soon. I advocate a loud and vocal third side – the “Guys, knock this shit off. We’ve got bigger fish to fry” side. I repeat, this issue is an embarrassment to our movement, and the fault is not solely on either side.
UPDATE: I’ve had a bit of a response from this passage above, that I’d like to address. I can see what critics are saying here, so allow me to elaborate and clarify.
What I’m talking about here, as far as fault not only being on one side, has mainly to do with diplomacy and effective communication. Even when one is firmly on the right side of an issue, such as when defending gender equality, fairness, safety and inclusiveness, failing to effectively communicate what you’ve got to say, and instead pissing people off, blocking them, banning them, insulting them, and prolonging the enmity is really destructive to your cause. How did those ideals come to be so controversial? I don’t know why that side of this argument has been so difficult to sell. It ought to have been a no-brainer, and the fracas ought to have been over pretty much immediately after it began. How the side championing those principles came to be so virulently hated is really cause for a collective “WTF?!”. It could have, and should have, been argued a lot better. Atheism and secularism ought not be embarrassed by having this as an “issue” hanging over our heads.
If you can’t sell water to a man walking out of a desert, and can’t sell pretty basic ubiquitous 21st-century ideals to do with gender equality to a crowd that prides itself on being progressive and enlightened, then your approach and methodology is all wrong. Whatever that wrong is- that’s what I’m critical of on the pro-equality (and dare I say) feminist side of the fight. It’s not their stance or their case, it’s simply to do with the presentation of the argument, or counter-argument or whatever it was.
Be the side that can act diplomatically. Take the high road and sell your approach as the more attractive and sensible one, if that’s what you actually think it is. Appeal to the nobler ideals of the ‘enemy’, rather than kicking the shit out of them the first chance you get. It ought to have been done better, and I think it definitely could have been. I think something really must have been fucked up for this issue to fester for so long. It should have been put away quickly, so lots of people somewhere were obviously screwing things up.
And disagree with me too, that’s fine, and it’s simply not my argument and I’m getting the fuck out of here anyway! I never ever would have paid it any attention if it weren’t for the fact that I was constantly being tarred with being on a radical fringe of one side of an argument that i would never have voluntarily entered. I’m saying my final, parting 2c worth and walking away. If you think that indeed all the blame lies on only one side of this, then OK, have fun with that, see you later sometime on youtube or something, whatever, it’s really not my issue. And be pissed at me for leaving it like that too if you want. No correspondence will be entered into, because it’s essentially not my issue and never was. I got dragged into it and embarrassed by it like a lot of people. I may have come out and said things earlier if I didn’t think that doing so would simply tar me even further by aligning me with certain people who were simply not doing a very good job of confronting the issue cool-headedly, diplomatically, or effectively- no matter whether they were on the right side of it.
So: all I’m saying: separate to the anti-FTB insanity, the feminism thing wasn’t handled particularly effectively by those with a more defensible stance. I hope it fixes itself up nicely very soon and that we can all forget it ever happened. That won’t happen until things calm down, idiotic minorities are healthily ignored, and broader points of agreement are recognised.
Anyway, that’s my rant, and a hell of a farewell, I think! And I’m probably not going to hang around to defend any of it or respond to much response.
Thanks to my overlords here, ie Rebecca Watson and Josef Stalin, for making my time at FTB pleasant and telling me what to think, always.
And to everyone else, don’t think that you’ve seen the last of me. I’ll still be checking my Youtube inbox and popping up here and there. Life outside of NonStamping is getting a lot more engaging, and those five or six half-baked scripts that are in my “Works In Progress” folder are going to have to sit there fomenting for just a while longer.
This post, and this NSC blog itself, will self-destruct in a few days or weeks or something.
All the best