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Oct 23 2013

Do better. Please just do better.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the community of science bloggers, with the abrupt downfall of Bora Zivkovic, a very well liked (I consider him a friend) and influential leader. If you haven’t been following it, here’s a summary and timeline of recent events. The simple version of the whole story is that one of the major pioneers of science blogging and one of the people most instrumental in forging a community online has been found to have abused his privileges to sexually harass women members.

I’ve been processing how I feel about it all. As I say, Bora is a long-term friend; I remember when he joined us at Scienceblogs, and I also remember meeting him for the first time — he was a genuinely enthusiastic proponent of bringing people together and building a new platform for science communication. So this is a real tragedy that he has managed to undermine his own talents.

At the same time, though, here’s what I feel now: discouragement and despair and cynicism. We’ve been through this before in the skeptic/atheist communities. It was beginning to be my expectation that any grand attempt at building new organizations and improving communication was eventually going to collapse into the sewer of patriarchal sexual politics — that this pattern of sexual inequity was hardwired into the culture as a whole, and anything rising up out of it was going to be infected with the taint and eventually succumb to it. Same ol’, same ol’, I thought — the hard slog is never going to end.

But I was surprised: the science community’s response has been strong and appropriate. There’s no excusing his behavior, and rising up and demanding better is exactly what needed to be done, painful as it was. And they did it. There’s hope? Really? The struggle might actually lead to progress?

There has been a lot of writing on this topic in the last few weeks, but I thought Scicurious captured it particularly well.

Bora is not the man I thought he was. And the science communication community was not the place I thought it was.

The whole week has been full of downs. But toward the end. I started to see #ripples of hope. Not just the hashtag (though that alone is brilliant), but from other bloggers, saying, we can, in the future, be better. We want to be better. We WILL be better. People taking decisive action.

And I have been incredibly impressed with many of my colleagues. Yes, people fought, and jumped to conclusions, and etc. But there have been no death threats or rape threats, and compared to some communities I’ve seen…well I’m impressed. I always thought I wrote with and worked with some amazingly good people. Now, I KNOW it.

I contrast that with the atheist community. We also have some amazingly good people — as I travel around, I run into them all the time, at all levels of organization, and all doing good work — but we also have a substantial number of amazingly awful people…and as it turns out, it doesn’t take many sexist jerks clawing at the structure of your organization to distract and disrupt and impede progress. We have enough atheist asshats to provide shelter and support to exploiters — and too many of us are willing to overlook the content of our leaders’ characters, as long as they are willing to say the right words about the sacred atheist cause.

I’ve been astounded at how many people demand that we plaster over an atheist’s human flaws simply because, well, he’s The Man. We’ve been building up a body of revered saints, rather than recognizing that every one of us is human and needs to be held accountable. Face reality: if Bora had chosen to be a leader of the atheist community, rather than the online science community, right now there would be a huge battle going on, with loud voices shouting that “He only talked to these women; aren’t they strong enough to resist?” And the women who spoke out would be flooded with death threats and rape threats, and would be endlessly lampooned on our little hate nests scattered about the internet. Youtube would be full of videos expressing outrage that a Good Man should have been chastised by the Shrill Harpies of Feminism.

We’ve all seen it. Every atheist woman who dares to challenge the privileged status quo and ask for a little respect gets the treatment: just ask Rebecca Watson, or Jen McCreight, or Ophelia Benson. So I feel mixed: there is the despair at the failure of atheism to motivate real change, and hope that the science online community will set a model for everyone to follow.

But I also fear that atheism’s problems are rooted too deeply. This community is full of people who are already convinced that they are better than everyone else. But to be a good person, you have to always want to be better than yourself right now.

63 comments

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  1. 1
    iiandyiiii

    Wow. I can only hope that more speak up and speak out.

    And I’ll also confess to this- just a few years ago, I (a man in my 30s) thought such behavior was normal and even acceptable. I’m thankful to all the women who have posted their feelings- I really have learned a lot. Please, keep on educating. I’m a better person for it.

  2. 2
    DanDare

    Don’t lose hope for the community. Its not intractable. The times they are a changin.

  3. 3
    Kristjan Wager

    I share your hope, and hope that this can be used to move the community forward

  4. 4
    doublereed

    My dad is faculty at an university and he really tries hard to encourage women and african americans in mathematics. And his colleagues all seem interested in doing the same.

    I guess it’s one of the those things that’s a constant uphill battle. And then you win.

  5. 5
    Raucous Indignation

    Really? Did you think that boulder was gonna roll itself uphill? Now quit your belly aching, put your shoulder into it, and get back to pushing.

  6. 6
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Raucous Indignation #5 – I know you mean well, but I can’t help but to think of Sisyphus.

  7. 7
    Paulino

    I never liked that moto “Good without god” because there’s no ribbon or diploma of goodness. Like most things in life, being good (ethical behavior) is a process, it is something that you must practice every day. It’s not something you can achieve.

  8. 8
    The Mellow Monkey

    This community is full of people who are already convinced that they are better than everyone else. But to be a good person, you have to always want to be better than yourself right now.

    Any group of people is likely to have some of the problems we’ve seen here, because any group of people is likely to express the problems in the larger society, but those two sentences sum up why some communities have it worse.

    If you think being part of any group makes you better than everyone else, you’ve just hit a major stumbling block. Being a good person isn’t some end goal that you reach by joining the right group and then you can stop and accept your accolades. It’s a constant, daily effort.

  9. 9
    Raucous Indignation

    @ Gregory in Seattle: ???

    You realize – or perhaps you don’t – that my comment was a direct reference to the myth of Sisyphus. The crux of which is that the boulder he is pushing uphill has been cursed by Zeus to always roll back downhill before Sisyphus can get it to the hilltop.

    And, as a personal aside, I rarely mean well.

  10. 10
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    This community is full of people who are already convinced that they are better than everyone else.

    Exactly. They’re atheists/skeptics not because they used the tools of skepticism to come to the atheist conclusion, but they’re atheists/skeptics because that makes them feel cooler and superior to those stupid theists. When it comes to actually being skeptical of things they want to believe, they can’t be arsed to try.

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    /waves a fist!

  12. 12
    left0ver1under

    It’s so easy to say something stupid, to speak from ignorance or not realize your actions are hurtful. I speak from experience. Concern about doing such things makes me reticent about doing any more than posting in forums like these. There are times and subjects where I’m tempted to say things but choose not to for fear of putting my foot in it (“it” being my mouth, trouble, deep sheep or many other things).

    Along with Do Better, I might suggest beware and be aware, the slogan of the warden from the TV show “Oz”. Think about what you’re doing and saying, and what others are doing and saying. It’s so easy to overlook things when it doesn’t affect you.

  13. 13
    Bernard Bumner

    Without wanting to give too much credit, the reaction of Bora (as self-serving as many of his statements were) was also helpful; he didn’t attempt to blame his victims, he didn’t attempt to ignore the issue and take shelter behind his accomplishments, and he stepped away from ScienceOnline.

    Now, the question is whether that happened because his is a better (albeit deeply flawed) person than those in the other communities, or because he knew that the community would demand better?

  14. 14
    anuran

    PZ, to what do you attribute the difference between the two communities?

  15. 15
    mnb0

    “convinced that they are better than everyone else”
    Yes, it’s quite a paradox, one typical for genuine skepticism: you only can become better than everyone else by recognizing that you aren’t. As soon as you are convinced that you are better you aren’t anymore. It’s mandatory to continually question yourself, your actions and your motives.

  16. 16
    atheist

    I suspect that the intractable nature of the problems you perceive in the atheist community is a symptom of the intractable nature of the problems of the human race. To the extent that you can find progress in the human race you will probably also find it in atheism. To the extent that the human race fails to progress, you will probably find the same failures in atheism.

  17. 17
    Lars

    Now, the question is whether that happened because his is a better (albeit deeply flawed) person than those in the other communities, or because he knew that the community would demand better?
    I believe the answer to that is yes. Man != island.

  18. 18
    Lars

    blockquote fail, sry :(

    Now, the question is whether that happened because his is a better (albeit deeply flawed) person than those in the other communities, or because he knew that the community would demand better?

    I believe the answer to that is yes. Man != island.

  19. 19
    frog

    OTOH, consider that several communities with heavy atheist overlap in the Venn diagram of geekdom–the scientific community, and the community of SF/F writers–have shown recent gains and significant improvement in dealing with this sort of thing.

    NYCC has responded appropriately to sexist asshats there, and Marvel Comics is at least making an effort (they’re fucking paragons of gender equality compared to DC, and women comics readers are voting with their wallets). Even the gamer community is starting to see some traction for the anti-sexism folks, where pushback from the asshats is being met by redoubled efforts to address the asshattery.

    The atheist community may have havens for the little shits, but as the momentum builds in related communities, it could have a positive effect here, too.

  20. 20
    chigau (違う)

    ≠

  21. 21
    Inaji

    atheist:

    I suspect that the intractable nature of the problems you perceive in the atheist community is a symptom of the intractable nature of the problems of the human race. To the extent that you can find progress in the human race you will probably also find it in atheism. To the extent that the human race fails to progress, you will probably find the same failures in atheism.

    That’s a nice little write off, the problem is that it doesn’t work. Other communities are not responding in the same manner as those in the atheoskeptisphere, and much of the reason for that is what PZ detailed in the OP: you have people who think they are better, above all those average sheep down there. When people figure themselves to be on the top of all heaps, the privilege is beyond blinding, and it’s a very difficult row to hoe, getting them to think long enough for a few realizations to hit.

    Other communities noted for misogynistic and sexist attitudes are starting to come around, at least a little. That’s happening because there are places to hit such communities, such as smack in their profit line, and they are affected by social opprobrium. That’s only a lever in the atheoskeptisphere when it comes to certain organizations who depend on donations or income from cons. Because of that, the atheoskeptisphere continues to provide a haven for those who are more comfortable in the poisonous status quo.

  22. 22
    vaiyt

    Marvel Comics is at least making an effort

    A timid, basically token effort.

  23. 23
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Lots of people were patting themselves on the back for noticing that invisible beings are probably unseen because they don’t exist. Telling them that that might be the easy part is telling them that they’re not as special as they thought they were.

  24. 24
    frog

    vaiyt@22: Definitely. It’s a low bar to clear in the comics industry. But it smells to me a little like an experiment to see if their earnings are affected by women’s spending habits, which is better than sticking their fingers in their ears and saying, “La la la women don’t buy comics!”

  25. 25
    Inaji

    Frog:

    It’s a low bar to clear in the comics industry.

    It is low. It’s a bar, however, and one that wasn’t there at all a short while ago. Sexism in certain things, like comic books, has become a hallowed institution over the decades, and change will not be terribly fast. It’s as well to remember that the reason sexism has been enshrined in such things is that no one spoke out about it before, or not much, it was simply accepted as the way things are. That’s why it’s important not to get discouraged with speaking out. It does bring about change.

  26. 26
    doublereed

    That’s very true, Caine. I’m sure that Anita Sarkeesian’s publicity has already made a lot of game designers rethink what they do with storytelling in their games. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few years, games that feature such tropes are considering trite and boring.

  27. 27
    Travis

    While I have seen some people out there doing the same sexist things as I have observed in atheist/skeptic blog world in regards to these incidents, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the anger and vitriol directed towards anyone that dared stand up was much smaller. Their comment sections did not fill up with rape threats, Facebook groups and websites did not spring up with the sole goal of denouncing them and trying to silence the criticism.

  28. 28
    gillt

    PZ:

    But I was surprised: the science community’s response has been strong and appropriate.

    Maybe because there’s a better representation of women in the science *online blogging/journalism* community, and no goddamn zero diversity, conceitedly titled Four Horsemen quasi cult leaders. When I was in graduate school at Johns Hopkins’ science and medical writing program, I saw equal representation of men and women or even slightly more women in every class/workshop. Diversity beyond that wasn’t very good though.

  29. 29
    anchor

    @anuran #14:

    “…what do you attribute the difference between the two communities?”

    One thing I note is that the scientific community is also a professional community, with the associated norms of professional conduct implicit. There’s some consensus that departures from those norms can damage or erode the credibility of everyone in the community with which they strongly identify as a career matter. Science is also all about empiricism – testing ideas and conceptual models against experimental or observational evidence. Generally, professional scientists generally cultivate a habit of constant review, reevaluation, self-examination and reflection, a practice that extends from the individual researcher to the community.

    The atheist and skeptic ‘communities’ are rabble by comparison. There is little or no common professional interest. The really depressing thing is that religious communities are more cohesive, even though the vast majority of their members don’t have any direct professional interest in belonging to them.

    Its peculiar that the atheist or skeptic communities seem to have had so much difficulty adopting the scientific cultural model over the ‘follow-the-leaders’ kind that religions operate under, despite the fact that both atheism and skepticism pay such great lip-service to adopting a scientific way of thinking.

  30. 30
    Inaji

    anchor:

    despite the fact that both atheism and skepticism pay such great lip-service to adopting a scientific way of thinking.

    I don’t know about that. I don’t think a ‘scientific way of thinking’ is particularly valued in the atheoskeptisphere. Particularly among those who consider themselves skeptics, the thinking tends to be very locked in and rigid. Question Everything! Only These Things! Adopt A Haughty Manner! You Aren’t Stupid Enough To Fall For That! Pat Self On Back!

    The same sort of syndrome seems to haunt atheism, on a couple different levels. There are those who defend dictionary atheism, ferociously, claiming it means nothing to be an atheist, and will apparently spend days of time arguing this most passionately, never grokking the implicit irony. Then you have those who feel they are sniffily superior, a la the skeptics, why they don’t fall for that god nonsense! Everything else is good, why on earth should they expend their mighty intellect towards stupid stuff which doesn’t need fixing? Goodness, anyone can figure out we achieved equality!

    What’s needed is critical thinking, and the ability to think critically about your own attitudes and biases and privilege in life, and so on.

  31. 31
    anuran

    Thanks for the insights, anchor.

    Its peculiar that the atheist or skeptic communities seem to have had so much difficulty adopting the scientific cultural model over the ‘follow-the-leaders’ kind that religions operate under, despite the fact that both atheism and skepticism pay such great lip-service to adopting a scientific way of thinking.

    It’s not peculiar at all. Religion fills a social and emotional need in huge numbers of people. If it didn’t, it would have died out long ago. People who reject religion and the supernatural can still desire the stability, fellowship, shared beliefs, community and so on and find those in atheist or nominally skeptical groups. It doesn’t mean they will turn the microscope on themselves any more than a Believer will do so about her Church and its doctrine. In fact, there may be less institutional examination and criticism for many atheists. There are plenty of churches. It’s easy to find one with a set of beliefs and practices in line with one’s own. Staying with the one local humanist or skeptics’ group may require a lot of selective blindness.

  32. 32
    jodyp

    I was going to comment, and then saw Caine at #30 had already put it in better terms than I could have, lol.

    I’d also add that one reason the scientific community hasn’t fallen into the same traps as the atheist one is that they require a level of professionalism and desire to expand the horizons of knowledge. They have their problems sure, but understand that they ARE problems, and the world will be a better place once they’re addressed.

    I mean, finding solutions to problems is kind of a science “thing”.

    Wheres with atheists, any paint drinker with a webcam can brag about how he’s too awesome to fall for religion.

  33. 33
    AMM

    One thing that I’ve puzzled over is that even people who, like Bora, everyone believed was trying to support women and fight sexism still end up doing things like this. Not just the Richard Dawkins types of whom one would not really expect any better.

    My tentative hypothesis is that it’s that long training (brainwashing) in How To Be A Man. It’s like when you grow up with racism or anti-Semitism — what you’ve grown up with gets incorporated into your subconscious, like strontium-90 in a kid’s bones. It’s not enough to consciously not believe that stuff any more, you have to keep an eye out for it all the time, because, like a racist trope, it’s always there waiting to come out.

    Most men are raised to believe that being sexually interested in whatever women are around is an essential part of being a man: to be around a “pretty” woman and not express some degree of interest — whether by flirting, or looking, or whatever — is to have lost one’s manhood. Not every man who is raised that way ends up acting on it, but I’ve known lots of men who do. The ones who don’t actually intend to prey on women often unthinkingly depend upon women’s ability to say “no” in a socially acceptable way, rather than adjusting their behavior. If they spend most of their time in environments where women do what Society (e.g., Emily Yoffe) expects them to do and just handle the situation and don’t confront the guys, they may not even be aware of what they’re doing.

    So one possibility is that Bora just never really thought about what passes for his “normal” way to interact with women or connected it with his beliefs about equality and non-sexism, and up to now nobody gave him the requisite “dope slap” to get him to think about it.

    What it says to the rest of us men (and maybe women, too) is this: we all do lots and lots of things that we don’t ever think about or examine. We can’t assume that just because we believe all the right things we don’t have a lot of unexamined beliefs and behaviors that we would rightly cringe at if we really looked at them closely and without denial. We can’t just assume that the women we encounter will point them out to us, either, because they may not notice them either, or else, like some of Bora’s victims, they don’t feel they’re in a position to say anything.

  34. 34
    anchor

    “What’s needed is critical thinking, and the ability to think critically about your own attitudes and biases and privilege in life, and so on.”

    I concur: “professional scientists generally cultivate a habit of constant review, reevaluation, self-examination and reflection, a practice that extends from the individual researcher to the community.” I missed using the phrase “critical thinking”, a habit consistent with, if not to a large extent described by, the others I mentioned, including “scientific way of thinking”.

    Moreover, atheist and skeptic communities seem to over-emphasize personality at the expense of content. Objectivity in the scientific habit (another aspect of critical thinking) impresses on its practitioners that there should be no shame attached to the recognition of error.

  35. 35
    anchor

    Oops, my comments in #34 were addressed to Caine, #30.

    @jodyp#32:

    “I’d also add that one reason the scientific community hasn’t fallen into the same traps as the atheist one is that they require a level of professionalism and desire to expand the horizons of knowledge. They have their problems sure, but understand that they ARE problems, and the world will be a better place once they’re addressed. I mean, finding solutions to problems is kind of a science “thing”.”

    Yes, just so.

    @anuran,#31:

    “It’s not peculiar at all. Religion fills a social and emotional need in huge numbers of people. If it didn’t, it would have died out long ago. People who reject religion and the supernatural can still desire the stability, fellowship, shared beliefs, community and so on and find those in atheist or nominally skeptical groups. It doesn’t mean they will turn the microscope on themselves any more than a Believer will do so about her Church and its doctrine. In fact, there may be less institutional examination and criticism for many atheists.”

    Your sidestepping the issue I raised. Of course religion fills social and emotional needs in people. But so do most any other human social constructs. If any of them didn’t, they wouldn’t survive.

    Nobody disputes that people who reject religion and the supernatural may “desire the stability, fellowship, shared beliefs, community and so on and find those in atheist or nominally skeptical groups”. And its true that “It doesn’t mean they will turn the microscope on themselves any more than a Believer will do so about her Church and its doctrine.” But while you are pointing that out as an observation (one I share), I’m pointing out that observation as containing a problem.

    “There are plenty of churches. It’s easy to find one with a set of beliefs and practices in line with one’s own.”

    Do you really think that churches or other religious organizations out there are ready to fit with somebody’s beliefs as if such beliefs are congenital features of people’s minds, that particular beliefs in all their luscious complexity arise independently formed before they are ever exposed to the particular religion they resonate with? That gives religion more credit than it deserves, as if religions have some predictive insight into the human mind. I think religion happens to be very good at putting those beliefs in people’s heads in the first place, and they excel at keeping it there. (Besides, the vast majority of people do not choose their religion in any effort to find one that resonates with their preexisting beliefs: they are born into them as they are born into their culture. Religions don’t corroborate people’s beliefs. They indoctrinate people with beliefs).

    It certainly isn’t surprising they aren’t encouraged to turn the microscope on themselves in any effort to evaluate whether their beliefs resonate with natural reality. That’s not what religion is about. But that can be what atheism or skepticism should be able to handle, and that’s what I’m saying is peculiar, that these communities apparently seem to have so much trouble adopting more of the scientific habit (including critical thinking) as a model, and as a consensus that can be adopted by the community. As I said, it’s peculiar that they find it so hard to turn that microscope on themselves when so much of what atheists and skeptics rely on in their arguments comes from the scientific tradition (and critical thinking).

    Staying with the one local humanist or skeptics’ group may require a lot of selective blindness.”

    That highlights what’s peculiar.

  36. 36
    mikee

    I’ve been involved in atheist, skeptical and science communication communities for the last few years, and there are times when I am just tempted to walk away from the first two.
    I wonder if it is because some of those in the first two communities spend their time telling other people that they are wrong about this or that, which comes across very negatively, whereas the science communication community is all about communicating the awesomeness of science?

  37. 37
    knowknot

    (I know what follows is messy, and even ignorant. But this particular issue just hurts, for a lot of reasons, so bla bla bla there it is.)
    - The responses on this one post could go on forever, and this is one of the VERY rare cases in which I wish it would. So rare that I really can’t think of another.
    - Here’s a simplified reason why: “But to be a good person, you have to always want to be better than yourself right now.” That’s from the original post, and at it’s core it speaks to a great many issues.
    - There are so many ways we, as humans, seem to be hardwired to group orientation of every imaginable variety. And in the process of fighting against the issues caused by that, we seem to need something to stand on, or within, or someone to stand with. The latter being the most visceral, the most real, because in the end it isn’t ideals or concepts we cherish but who we love, or admire or respect. So we need to put a face on things. (I know some of you feel this less than I – and apparently others – do. You act and think more independently. I admire that, in as much as I can understand it. But experience has shown that really, I’m not one of you. Not proud of that.)
    - So I worry about our inability to separate cause from character. Seems to me that a lot of what moves things in the world by forcing a separation here, by propaganda, by word of mouth, by myth, by ignorance, whatever. Some prime mover is whitewashed, manages to maintain a veil of secrecy, or just maybe happens to have an ethical core so strong that common human failings never show.
    - It’s almost physically painful to imagine the number of beautiful ideas that have likely been mangled because the human vessel is imperfect. Whatever perfection might be.
    - And still, there’s always the (other) hard question… if the cause doesn’t perfect the vessel, what’s the point?
    - And it’s obviously both a naive and stupid question. Because what cause can possibly address every imperfection implicit in being human?
    - Those issues are at the core of what once caused me to embrace Christianity. Unescapable imperfection. Unescapable inability to deal with it. Until I realized it didn’t work. Oops.
    - So this whole issue makes me weep. And all that’s left is that same irritating fact: “… to be a good person, you have to always want to be better than yourself right now.”
    - But how in the hell can that be made into a consumable cause?

  38. 38
    hillaryrettig

    PZ – I know it can be discouraging, especially when you’re in the thick of it, as you are. But I think we’re making tons of progress, as atheists, feminists, and feminists-within-atheism.

    One thing that would help is if more good people spoke out. Oppressors thrive on representing themselves as mainstream, which was why Fox News (we just learned) had a major sock puppet initiative going. But the more good people who speak out the more it becomes clear that most people do want equality.

    The LGBT community widely credits people speaking out and coming out as catalysts for gay marriage.

    Speak out not just to support your cause, but others who are speaking out. We should all have each others’ backs.

  39. 39
    hillaryrettig

    AMM 31 – Issues of gender and patriarchy cut so deep. What’s the very first thing a doctor typically says after a baby is born?

  40. 40
    knowknot

    Re 37
    Crap. Sorry. Spam flavored correction follows.
    “… what moves things in the world by forcing a separation here, by propaganda, by word of mouth, by myth …”
    Should have been
    “… what moves things in the world FUNCTION by forcing a separation here, by propaganda, by word of mouth, by myth…”

  41. 41
    captainkhan

    “It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the community of science bloggers, with the abrupt downfall of Bora Zivkovic”

    I do not know who that is.

    a very well liked (I consider him a friend) and influential leader. If you haven’t been following it, here’s a summary and timeline of recent events. The simple version of the whole story is that one of the major pioneers of science blogging and one of the people most instrumental in forging a community online has been found to have abused his privileges to sexually harass women members.”

    Well that’s not good.

    “I’ve been processing how I feel about it all. As I say, Bora is a long-term friend; I remember when he joined us at Scienceblogs, and I also remember meeting him for the first time — he was a genuinely enthusiastic proponent of bringing people together and building a new platform for science communication. So this is a real tragedy that he has managed to undermine his own talents.”

    I suppose. I don’t know the guy.

    “At the same time, though, here’s what I feel now: discouragement and despair and cynicism. We’ve been through this before in the skeptic/atheist communities. It was beginning to be my expectation that any grand attempt at building new organizations and improving communication was eventually going to collapse into the sewer of patriarchal sexual politics — that this pattern of sexual inequity was hardwired into the culture as a whole, and anything rising up out of it was going to be infected with the taint and eventually succumb to it. Same ol’, same ol’, I thought — the hard slog is never going to end.”

    That’s rather depressing.

    “But I was surprised: the science community’s response has been strong and appropriate. There’s no excusing his behavior, and rising up and demanding better is exactly what needed to be done, painful as it was. And they did it. There’s hope? Really? The struggle might actually lead to progress?”

    I guess. Is this like what happened with Thunderf00t?

    “There has been a lot of writing on this topic in the last few weeks, but I thought Scicurious captured it particularly well.”

    I don’t know who that is either.

    “Bora is not the man I thought he was. And the science communication community was not the place I thought it was.
    The whole week has been full of downs. But toward the end. I started to see #ripples of hope. Not just the hashtag (though that alone is brilliant)”

    I don’t use twitter and I think hashtags are weird.

    “, but from other bloggers, saying, we can, in the future, be better. We want to be better. We WILL be better. People taking decisive action.
    And I have been incredibly impressed with many of my colleagues. Yes, people fought, and jumped to conclusions, and etc. But there have been no death threats or rape threats”

    Kind of sad that the absence of something like that is considered progress when those things are so awful you shouldn’t ever have to expect them in the first place.

    ” and compared to some communities I’ve seen…well I’m impressed. I always thought I wrote with and worked with some amazingly good people. Now, I KNOW it.”

    Well good for you then!

    “I contrast that with the atheist community.”

    There is just one atheist “community”?

    “We also have some amazingly good people — as I travel around, I run into them all the time, at all levels of organization, and all doing good work ”

    But you thought this guy was a good person too only to find out he wasn’t.

    “k — but we also have a substantial number of amazingly awful people…and as it turns out, it doesn’t take many sexist jerks clawing at the structure of your organization to distract and disrupt and impede progress. We have enough atheist asshats to provide shelter and support to exploiters — and too many of us are willing to overlook the content of our leaders’ characters, as long as they are willing to say the right words about the sacred atheist cause.”

    Yeah well, people are jerks sometimes. No matter what their beliefs are.

    “I’ve been astounded at how many people demand that we plaster over an atheist’s human flaws simply because, well, he’s The Man.”

    Who’s the man?

    “We’ve been building up a body of revered saints, rather than recognizing that every one of us is human and needs to be held accountable. Face reality: if Bora had chosen to be a leader of the atheist community, rather than the online science community, right now there would be a huge battle going on, with loud voices shouting that”

    I wouldn’t know

    “He only talked to these women; aren’t they strong enough to resist?” And the women who spoke out would be flooded with death threats and rape threats, and would be endlessly lampooned on our little hate nests scattered about the internet. Youtube would be full of videos expressing outrage that a Good Man should have been chastised by the Shrill Harpies of Feminism.”

    Yeah that sucks when that happens.

    “We’ve all seen it. Every atheist woman who dares to challenge the privileged status quo and ask for a little respect gets the treatment: just ask Rebecca Watson, or Jen McCreight, or Ophelia Benson.”

    I have no real opinions either way about those people. They haven’t done anything to offend me.

    “So I feel mixed: there is the despair at the failure of atheism to motivate real change, and hope that the science online community will set a model for everyone to follow.”

    Is this science community different from the one at scienceblogs?

    “But I also fear that atheism’s problems are rooted too deeply. This community is full of people who are already convinced that they are better than everyone else. But to be a good person, you have to always want to be better than yourself right now.”

    That’s real deep, man.

  42. 42
    Inaji

    Monitor Note:

    captainkhan @ 41, please use html to quote people, this makes your posts readable and more comprehensible. Thank you.

    To quote someone, use: <blockquote>Place Text Here</blockquote>:

    Place Text Here

    To bold words, use <b>Text</b>

    To italicize words, use <i>Text</i>

  43. 43
    knowknot

    #41
    So, your realtime heckling career isn’t going so well? Cover charges became onerous? Or did someone finally throw a drink?

  44. 44
    ChasCPeterson

    Not A Monitor Note:
    captainkhan: please, Please, PLEASE just shut the fuck up. You are the most scratch-a-blackboard rub-a-balloon annoying commenter that’s shown up here in, well pretty much ever. You do not have to repost the entire OP with your pointless reactions to every fucking sentence. It’s a waste of your time and, more importantly, everybody else’s. I beg you to stop.

  45. 45
    Inaji

    Chas:

    I beg you to stop.

    I’ll join that chorus. I expect a smack to the head would be required to stop the loop.

  46. 46
    chigau (違う)

    captainkhan
    If Chas calls you “most annoying, ever”, it is probably true.
    Take Chas’s and Caine’s advice.
    Please.

  47. 47
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    CaptainKhan, until you blockquote there is no need to even attempt to read your tealdeer screeds. All you are good for is the hushfile. If you want to communicate, learn how to do so….

  48. 48
    Rey Fox

    Man, I’ve done the “Shut the fuck up, Donny” thing to clueless commenters before, but I think this captainkhan person really is the actual personification of Donny Kerabatsos from “The Big Lebowski”. I mean, wow.

  49. 49
    Rey Fox

    until you blockquote

    This is really the least of his problems.

  50. 50
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    I don’t suppose exorcism …

    No, probably not.

  51. 51
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    This is really the least of his problems.

    I had that feeling. I tried my three sentence rule several times, and couldn’t make head nor tail of what xe was talking about.

  52. 52
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    *waves cross around vaguely, just in case*

  53. 53
    chigau (違う)

    I have Holy Water.
    Well, really, rum.

  54. 54
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Holy rum is certified to be 25.485 times as efficacious against demons as holy water.

  55. 55
    chigau (違う)

    But there is a problem:
    should I toss it on the demons or drink it until the demons give up?

  56. 56
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    The latter, I’d say. And if it doesn’t work, you’ll likely not care any more anyway.

  57. 57
    chigau (違う)

    Not care any more.
    There’s the ticket.

    I can’t find a unicode for upsidedown ✝

  58. 58
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Nor me, and I looked for ages.

    If anyone’s interested: &#10013; = ✝

  59. 59
    chigau (違う)

    or
    & # x 271d
    spaces removed
    for the hexadecimally inclined

  60. 60
    chigau (違う)

    & # x 271d;
    the
    ;
    is important

  61. 61
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I, too, am pleased by the lack of attacks on the women reporting these problems and their supporters.

    The rule is three comments before one responds with simple insults, not three sentences. So far, we haven’t broken it.

    Something that may have fed Bora’s inappropriate behavior is the common cultural assumption that women are present to listen sympathetically to men’s problems, becaue men don’t tell each other their problems. Thus any woman is assumed to be a willing ear to any man’s recital of his personal issues. Of course, what Bora was doing went beyond griping about his problems from unprofessionally personal into Too Much Personal Information and even further into apparent “interviewing” for a replacement sex partner. (For one thing, he didn’t spew it out to every female who crossed his path in a hallway, but a selection of those who were stuck with him in a meeting.) But the cultural assumption probably made it easy to start down that path.

  62. 62
    ChasCPeterson

    I can’t find a unicode for upsidedown ✝

    well of course not, because that’s the SIGN OF SATAN!!!!
    same reason there’s no unicode for the Goat of Mendes.

  63. 63
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Presumably there would be quite a lot of overlap between the online Atheist community and the online science community.

    How come they’re doing so much better than us?

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