A tedious correction

One small item of housekeeping that will interest pretty much no one among regular readers here – by which I mean, people who read B&W for pleasure or interest or reasons of that kind, as opposed to reading it for ammunition against teh eevil feminazis – but that I want to do anyway because it’s been floating around for awhile and it annoys me. It’s one example of mendacity out of the many perpetrated by the anti-mangina crowd, and I want to correct it for the record. Correct it again for the record.

It appeared in a comment by John Greg on that Ask an Atheist thread.

I have yet to witness an FfTB blog commenter be banned for “encouraging” or proposing that someone be anally raped by a dead porcupine. Neither have I witnessed an FfTB blog commenter be edited, deleted, or banned for making death threats — julian’s made several over the last couple of years beginning on Ophelia’s older B&W blog.

That’s not true. julian said “die in a fire” once that I know of at B&W1. I told him not to do that as soon as I was aware of it, and I drew a line through it in the comment where he said it and added an editorial “don’t do that.” If I had seen it right after he said it I would have deleted it and then told him “don’t do that,” but he said it after I had gone offline for the day and there were a great many comments after it, some of them about it. It would have created confusion if I had deleted it, so I drew a line through it as the next best thing.

It was on Getting and not getting, posted on July 5 last year. In addition to the editorial injection on the comment, I did a separate comment saying don’t do that. It was a blanket rule. There was discussion. Everybody got that it was a blanket rule, and agreed with it, including julian, who apologized. I didn’t ban julian, that’s true, but I did edit his comment, and I emphatically disavowed it and said I don’t want comments of that type. There was some discussion of what these rhetorical “threats” really are (“threatoid” was one suggestion), but whatever they are, I didn’t and don’t want them. I don’t want anything about rape by anal insertion of a dead porcupine here, either, and I’ve never seen any – or if I have seen it, I’ve deleted it. I don’t want suggestions about sideways knives. I don’t want any of that kind of thing, and I mostly don’t get it, and when I do I delete it.

The issue was complicated by the fact that julian also made a parallel threat (or “threatoid”) in a comment on Miranda Hale’s blog the same evening.

“Most people who dared to dissent at Pharyngula, for example, were met with some variety of “STFU YOU SEXIST IGNORANT PRIVILEGED FUCKER!!”.”

About 40 posts after every point they had raised had been answered by everyone present. You can join prometheus in that fire, Ms. Hale. And no, no pretending you’re some paragon of fairminded civility and respect.

Miranda unfortunately included me in her reply.

You seriously think it’s acceptable to come to my blog and tell me that I should die in a fire? (See his comment at B&W for reference: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/getting-and-not-getting/#comment-96588)  That’s vicious and has no place in this discussion. You’re banned. Ophelia might be okay with having those kind of threats on her blog, but I’m sure as hell not, whether they’re against me or anyone else.

The next day, I pointed out (in all caps) that I hadn’t been there, and Miranda apologized and withdrew the claim that I was okay with threats of that kind. Good. That particular misunderstanding got straightened out at the time. Good.

But it didn’t stay straightened out. I saw a very distorted version of the whole thing – which reverted to the account in which I smile approvingly on julian telling people to die in a fire – on one of the ERV threads a few months ago, when I still occasionally took a look at the rants about kicking me in the cunt and how off the charts ugly I am and all the rest of it. John Greg’s abbreviated version of that yesterday is based on the distorted account. This is the accurate account. The thread is there for the reading; I haven’t touched it since last July.

Update: I got a note from Miranda because she saw this post via the trackback to her post last summer. She told me to feel free to share her sentiments. She confirms that she was shocked by julian’s comment, which is entirely reasonable. That’s why I don’t want comments like that! They’re meant to shock, and they do. The hell with that. (It’s not a salutary kind of shock, like the “shock” of being told that the bible is just a book written by humans.) She also said she has no clue who “John Greg” is, and that she’s not all that pleased to learn that he’s pointing to what julian said as supposed evidence of my hypocrisy. That might come as a shock to “John Greg” but that’s life for you.


  1. Captain Mike says

    … and how off the charts ugly I am and all the rest of it.

    I think you’re very pretty. You’re the butterfly, right? Sorry, stupid question. There’s no way a wagon wheel could write a blog post.

  2. Pteryxx says

    Send the porcupine complaints to Pharyngula. PZ is not FTB and his rules don’t apply to everyone else’s blogs.

  3. says

    Nah, I’m ugly, but at least I’m not a person who tells people they’re ugly. Who is worse off?

    Of course PZ’s rules don’t apply to anyone else, but it’s a trope of the whole FTB-hating crowd to treat FTB as One Thing. It’s incredibly stupid.

    I’d been doing B&W for 9 years when I joined FTB. I make my own rules, thanks.

  4. says


    Well you know, we’ve got that echo chamber here at FTB. Obviously everyone has to follow the same rules and all of you post the same exact stuff and we never have issues related to some of the bloggers thinking one thing while others think different things.

  5. 'Tis Himself says

    Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort #7

    You forgot Deep Rifts. Not only is all of FtB an echo chamber, but we argue with each other all the time. Apparently the Hive Mind™ has split personalities.

  6. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    The porcupine stuff is a Pharyngula response to people who are over-the-top misogynist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic.

    And, given the sort of people who manufacture reasons to complain about the porcupine meme at Pharyngula, the hypocrisy is staggering.

  7. says

    Hahahahaha – in the current ‘Recent Posts’ list –

    Which penis do you think is better? by taslima

    No swearing? Fuck that. by JT Eberhard

    Hahahahaha. Good ol’ FTB.

  8. Zengaze says

    Personally tone, and insults are an irrelevancy to me, and as a matter of fact someone telling me to “die in a fire” id find laughable, mainly because i get a giggle at the reality that Internet heroes would piss their pants if placed in a real confrontation.

    There is a clique who roll round ftb screaming crap when their dogma is challenged or even, perish the thought, someone asks for an explanation of some obscure assertion, and ironically they are the biggest tone trolls when it becomes necessary to avoid the actual content of a post.

  9. says

    Of course PZ’s rules don’t apply to anyone else, but it’s a trope of the whole FTB-hating crowd to treat FTB as One Thing. It’s incredibly stupid.

    Well, you know, never let the facts get in the way.

  10. Mattir says

    Even on Pharyngula, the invitation is always to take a decaying porcupine and the accompanying instructions for self-administration thereof, not a threat for someone else to insert the porcupine into a recipient without consent. That would be assault. The only way the porcupine meme could be seen as a rape threat is if “go fuck yourself” is also considered a rape threat, which is plainly untrue.

    The porcupine meme is crude, blunt, and perhaps distasteful, but it’s not a rape threat.

  11. Chris Lawson says


    It may not be an actual physical rape threat, but that doesn’t make it OK. And even if you think it’s OK, this is Ophelia’s blog and she has every right to set the rules of discourse here.

  12. dirigible says

    “The porcupine stuff is a Pharyngula response to people who are over-the-top misogynist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic.”

    Ew. Pratchett fans.

  13. M Groesbeck says

    I can respect a blogger not allowing particular idioms that could be interpreted as literal threats (“die in a fire” as idiomatic for “shut up and go away”) or masochistic necrophilic masturbation (the proverbial dead porcupine, again meaning “shut up and go away”) — idioms and in-jokes are particularly vulnerable to misinterpretation and may be particularly distasteful and/or uncomfortable for and/or just not wanted by the blogger(s) maintaining the space. (It’s not like “DIAF” or “[insert porcupine suggestion here]” or even “shut up and go away” are necessary parts of a reasonable conversation.)

    I have a bit less respect for people who insist that well-established-in-context idioms aren’t that at all, and are instead always meant literally (at least when directed at the objectors in question).

  14. Mattir says

    @Chris Lawson –

    Please explain why “go fuck yourself” is not okay, preferably without resorting to tone trolling. And since I don’t generally suggest the porcupine even on Pharyngula, I don’t do this on Ophelia’s blog – different bloggers, different rules.

    As a side note, I’m really tired of the recurrent “mean Phsryngula commenters” whinge.

  15. says

    Chris Lawson

    It may not be an actual physical rape threat, but that doesn’t make it OK. And even if you think it’s OK, this is Ophelia’s blog and she has every right to set the rules of discourse here.

    Has anybody claied otherwise?
    Mattir has explained why the meme as used on Pharynguly is not a rape threat.
    Do you agree or disagree with that?
    Pharyngula is notorious for not giving a jota about tone but most of the times the Horde is willing and capable of sticking to the rules the different blog owners lay down for their blogs.

  16. Mattir says

    Ophelia, I promise that I will never offer anyone a dead porcupine on your blog. This isn’t Pharyngula, and even though I use the same login here as there, i’m capable of behaving differently in different spaces. I just get so annoyed at the “ZOMG prickly rodent rape!!!!” and “those horrid people from Pharuyngula” nonsense…

    “Go die in a fire” horrifies me, having read enough about what it is like to actually die from burns – people do die in fires, whereas, afaik, no one inserts decaying porcupines in their orifices…

  17. says

    Mattir, ok, but why vent your annoyance about that here?

    Well, because I said “rape,” I suppose. Ok. I misspoke.

    But honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it. Surely you can see, if you follow the links, why I did. Especially after almost a year of having ugly talk aimed at me personally by just one blogger and her fans. I never liked ugly talk of the porcupine-knife-die in a fire variety, and I like it even less now.

    Some goon was joking about me drowning myself in a shallow brook (from Hamlet, geddit, hawhawhaw) on Facebook the other day. He’s a goon who works at JREF and will be at TAM. What fun!

    So, you know…right now I don’t really care if people are tired of reactions to the porcupine “joke”. I find the porcupine distinctly unfunny.

  18. says

    Ophelia, I suspect Mattir is venting here in part because those same people who are targeting you with the lie about death threats are targeting Pharyngula with the lie about rape threats. Think commiseration, not blame. I think.

  19. says

    Ah, I see. Thanks, Stephanie. That’s the downside to not reading what those people write – I lose track of what they say! It’s worth it x a million, but it does make me clueless at times. Sorry, Mattir.

  20. Mattir says

    Stephanie, thanks. Really, I can behave myself most of the time…

    Ophelia, I commented just to clarify about the exact nature of the porcupine meme, and later in response to silly tone trolling and the implication that I can’t refrain from sprinkling porcupine references all over every FtB blog… Call it SIWOTI Compulsion Syndrome.

  21. says

    “Rhetorical threats?” “Threatoids?”

    I understand the internet is a medium that is ripe for hyperbole and over- the- top inflammatory language. Once these threatoids invade your real life you tend to take ALL of them a bit more seriously.

    I receive threats by phone and snail mail. People have driven to my house to sit outside and stare. People have hand-delivered messages demanding I stop my activism. I have had my car windshield broken, had it keyed and had paint thrown on another car and eggs thrown on my house.

    Threats to do violence upon someone are never acceptable especially if it is merely because they have a different opinion than you do.

  22. says

    No, I completely agree, EllenBeth. My whole point in this post was not to minimize threats and threat-like comments (like “die in a fire” and like giggling about me drowning myself in a shallow brook). I won’t have them here, ever.

    But fortunately I almost never have to put that rule into effect. That comment last year was an aberration, and I was all over it (though it unfortunately took about 10 hours, because I was offline and didn’t know about it for that long).

  23. Philip Legge says

    It might be tedious to do, but it is worth clarifying these sorts of things to sort out the reasonable commenters from the unreasonable.

    Another thing I’ve noticed that the ERV crew seem to get a bee in their bonnet over is the rule you’d put up on ur-B&W here: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/about/

    Under the Rules section you stated ERV hogglers and liars like John Greg wouldn’t be welcome, but you also said this wasn’t a genuine rule, and it wouldn’t be in place for long. A year later or so, and the ERV abuse bureau is still at work, so it might be time to amend the “It won’t be here long” bit. We’ve been proven wrong by the persistence of petty hatreds.

  24. Philip Legge says

    I like your correction! It’s pretty sad that this was being used as a ‘gotcha’, all told.

  25. Bumblebee Jim says

    Philip Legge, please back up your accusations of lies with evidence and citations, please.

    Otherwise, you will be considered a troll.

  26. Philip Legge says

    Get real, Bumblebee Jim. I’ve been defamed several times on ERV’s blog. Provide me with your full name and e-mail address, and I’ll be only to happy to back up my claims.

  27. Froward4Life says

    How is (Most people who dared to dissent at Pharyngula, for example, were met with some variety of “STFU YOU SEXIST IGNORANT PRIVILEGED FUCKER!!”)a threat? I was just kind of wondering how that is a threat.

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