Thoughts on Accountability

Around this time last year, I got called for some shit and reacted poorly. Looking back, I realize I didn’t take the time to actually listen to what people were trying to tell me. In fact, even when I wrote my public apology, I was too busy trying to make myself look good. But I took some time off from blogging and read some articles about accountability that really helped me out. I don’t want to do a big dramatic speech about how much I’ve changed; I’d rather have my actions speak for me. I will say this, though. One of the people that called me out later sent me a private message and said I’ve really changed since that incident, so I guess I’m doing alright.

I mention all this because the latest episode of The Inciting Incident got me thinking about accountability. Marissa interviews Gleb Tsipursky about the Pro-Truth Pledge, and how to hold people accountable. According to Tsipursky, the way they hold people accountable is they first privately message someone who says something not true on social media. The more the person backs down, the more public the call-outs get. It sounds like a nice counter-approach to so-called “call out culture,” although I’m not even sure what that term means. I’ve seen call-outs be abused, but I’ve also seen people (like me) use the term to not take responsibility.

Funny thing is I’ve seen toxic call-outs not just among some social justice activists, but also in the Church. In fact, I was once engaged to a woman from a conservative Calvinist family who regularly berated me whenever I said something on Facebook they didn’t like. Whenever I criticized George W. Bush, they would always respond, “Where do you get your information? The mainstream media? Stop it!” It was a very thought-policing environment where I constantly felt like I had no agency, and so one reason why I reacted so poorly to being legitimately called out last year was because I felt they were doing the same thing. I didn’t realize I was wrong until after I talked to a friend privately, and he explained to me what was going on.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble now, so let me wrap things up with a few final thoughts. For starters, I like Tsipursky’s approach of either privately explaining to someone why they’re wrong or leaving a comment on someone’s Facebook post as a first step. This definitely works for me; I’ve had friends comment on problematic posts of mine explaining why they’re problematic, and I was able to change my mind before things got out of hand. Second, if someone tells you you’ve said something problematic, don’t automatically start flogging yourself for penance. It just tells everyone you’re more interested in your facade than changing your mind. Take time to listen to what the other person has to say, and then say, “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll definitely think about it.” Third, when you say, “I’ll think about it,” actually think about it, don’t just say it! If you’re like me, you have problems processing information, so stepping back and thinking about criticism is a good way to process things without being reactionary.

If anyone has any more tips or thoughts, let me know in the comment section.


  1. polishsalami says

    I’ve seen toxic call-outs not just among some social justice activists, but also in the Church

    That’s interesting, because I’ve found that many of the less agreeable people in “Social Justice” atheism are ex-Protestants from the US mid-west.

    From an outsider’s point of view, a lot of call-outs seem to involve one person badgering another into adopting the former’s worldview. For instance, I’m not sure you were in the wrong last year, from the limited information I have; and because that information is limited, I wouldn’t badger you into doubling down, rather than apologize. (It’s also not really my business, as I only know about it because you wrote about it on your blog, and don’t know any of the people involved.)

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