Free inquiry. Free expression. Not only are these indispensable in our quest for the truth but they’re necessary conditions 4 human dignity
A lovely sentiment, and completely misleading. This long-running argument has never been about “free speech” — no one’s free speech has been denied, as any glance at the raging and constant torrent of abuse will show. It’s been about the responsible recognition of what kind of speech supports that “human dignity” he wants to cloak himself in; it’s about realizing that free speech as we see it in that unfettered medium called the internet is going to produce mostly noise with only a little signal; it’s about the responsibility of organizations to pluck out and amplify the good and damp down the stupid.
It really is about taking sides.
Not taking sides — pretending to have a false objectivity that values all speech equally — is actually favoring the noise. It’s the pretense that a statement on twitter like “It is honorable, noble and good to change your mind if you are wrong” from Lauren Becker has equal weight with “Get out, Amanda, you not welcome here. Take your dogma elsewhere (you too, Ophelia)” from a troll who doesn’t deserve to be named. It’s the refusal to recognize that some of the people who support the same causes as CFI have been barraged with incessant hatred for about two years now — and that that hatred has been aimed at women and the people who support women’s rights. It’s a willingness to let your organization be affiliated with websites dedicated to misogyny.
A Voice for Men is essentially a mouthpiece for its editor, Paul Elam, who proposes to “expose misandry [hatred of men] on all levels in our culture.” Elam tosses down the gauntlet in his mission statement: “AVfM regards feminists, manginas [a derisive term for weak men], white knights [a similar derisive term, for males who identify as feminists] and other agents of misandry as a social malignancy. We do not consider them well intentioned or honest agents for their purported goals and extend to them no more courtesy or consideration than we would clansmen [sic], skinheads, neo Nazis or other purveyors of hate.” Register-Her.com, an affiliated website that vilifies women by name who have made supposedly false rape allegations (among other crimes against masculinity), is one of Elam’s signature “anti-hate” efforts. “Why are these women not in prison?” the site asks.
Oh, right. That’s just free speech. Where is the human dignity, though?
It’s also about being smart enough to see through the dishonesty of thugs who puff themselves up and call harassment a right, who claim tawdry garden-variety sexual bullying “free speech”. Amanda Marcotte has the clarity of thought to see right through this game.
If it seems baffling to you that people are “into” harassment, I don’t know what to tell you. Why else would people harass? (Don’t say autism, for the love of god. People on the spectrum struggle to interpret social signals. Harassers, on the other hand, are masters at manipulating social rules and actual physical space to creep people out as much as they can get away with. It requires careful study of social signaling, not the opposite.) I got harassed on the sidewalk the other day, because that’s just part of the atmosphere of being female. I didn’t catch exactly what the guy said, because he muttered it, but what he wanted out of the situation couldn’t have been clearer. He had that sly smile, that glint in his eye that harassers get when they manage to capture their target’s attention and make them uncomfortable. It’s the feeling of power they have over you, the little jolt they get from putting a bitch in her place. Why people harass is not a mystery. It makes them feel good to exert power. This motivation is all over the Twitter rampage from the pro-harassment forces. They love drowning out useful tweets about real information with their anti-feminist garbage and ranting. It makes them feel good, like they have power. They can harass you and get under your skin and make you write blog posts about them, and then they feel powerful. It’s all of one cloth, and it’s not about unexamined privilege. It’s about being an asshole. We’re asking them to give up this jolt of feeling powerful they get from making other people sad or angry. No wonder they resent us.
When they photoshop our faces onto porn, when they call us “manginas” and “cunts”, when they flood CFI conference streams with denigrating insults to the speakers, they are not making “free inquiry”, they are not using “free speech” in a “quest for truth” or to advance “human dignity”. It’s embarrassing to see the leader of a major freethought organization making excuses for the toxic, petty viciousness from the anti-feminists that has been plaguing this movement since a woman dared to politely ask for her share of that human dignity.
This is why I’ve lost all confidence in Ron Lindsay. He can talk about human dignity, but he doesn’t have the vision to actually lead CFI towards greater support for that principle.
We need a leadership that is willing to take sides. Otherwise, what’s the point of it all?
See also Secular Woman’s post on privilege.