What trinioler said

A powerful (and depressing) comment by trinioler on PZ’s excellent response to Ron Lindsay’s post:

Okay, so, people believe that the slyme pitters are just trolls on “the internet”. Well, disabuse yourselves of that notion.

So, we have a local CFI branch. It started out as fairly libertarian, focused on laughing at creationists, etc.

So, some of the original organizers were the branch of libertarian skeptics/atheists we are having so much trouble with now.

Now, given that, what impact does this have now? Well, its had a pretty severe impact, as several of the younger organizers (nearly all women) have left CFI or stopped participating.

The Facebook page for the branch is filled with assholes who mislead, lie, make comments about breasts, lie, use slurs willy-nilly, etc, and no one stops them anymore.

Everyone who had fought them, while getting in trouble for “causing trouble” has left.

Essentially by NOT throwing out the racists, the sexists, the ones who lie and mislead and are not skeptical at all, they’ve lost most of the next generation of skeptical organizers. They’ve lost volunteers and dues-paying members.

In effect, they’ve doomed the local CFI branch, which could have been and was starting to do good things.

THIS is the cost. THIS is the divisiveness. You lose willing and hard-working young volunteers, who want and expect better from the leaders. You turn them apathetic and cynical. They burn out from the fighting, without a lack of support.

So to whoever says this divisiveness is bad? It really is, for your organizations, not ours. It will cost you volunteers and members and energy, because you won’t do what’s necessary.



  1. melody says

    I would like to know which branch this is. It’s definitely not a staffed branch. It could be a volunteer run branch.

  2. melody says

    Clarification: The branch he is talking about belongs to CFI Canada. CFI Canada is not the same organization as CFI. CFI helped them get started, let them use the name, but has no control over them at all. They do not have the same leadership. It’s very confusing and you may think that it was a bad idea for CFI to let another organization use their branding, but there is nothing we can do about that now. I’m sorry that this is happening to this person, but it wouldn’t happen at a CFI branch.

  3. birdterrifier says

    I wished you had made it more clear what branch Trilonier was referencing. Thank you, Melody, for making this clearer.

  4. trinioler says

    Melody, I do think you’re missing the point. Its not the CFI-association, its the damage organizations are doing to themselves and the harm they’re doing to their members by not being proactive. It costs branches and national organizations dedicated hard-working volunteers.

    Look at me. I started and run A+scribe.

    I’m the kind of person who’s been chased off from this kind of behaviour. The real divisiveness are those people who chased me off, not me for going off to do my own damn thing. I was trying to make that clear.

  5. Rodney Nelson says

    It doesn’t matter if the branch trinioler wrote about is CFI-USA or CFI-Canada. It’s part of organized secularism, the movement which Ron Lindsay has declared to be misogynist-free. So obviously Ron wasn’t correct in his declaration.

  6. birdterrifier says

    Yeah I don’t know how you were supposed to clarify that if Tinioler did not supply it but I think that’s part of my problem. This comment was lobbing important accusations at a particular CFI branch but didn’t supply any way for readers to substantiate the claims or at the least know what to do with this information. At first, I thought this must have been some branch that Ron Lindsay was associated with or something at shame on me for making assumptions.

  7. says

    I think the point would have been the same if Trinioler had simply said “a local atheist organisation”. The way I read the post, the point is that these kinds of attitudes are driving people away at the grassroots level.

    This is a lesson any atheist organisation can stand to learn.

  8. ewanmacdonald says

    After Ron Lindsay’s shameful attempt at silencing I’ve decided that I’m finished with CFI, be it its northern or southern branches, and with regret asked that my subscription to Free Inquiry be canceled.

  9. ewanmacdonald says

    I know – hence the reluctance. It doesn’t run out til next year anyway so we’ll see whether or not they stop sending (per my request) in the meantime. But today was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ron Lindsay has made it clear that he wants my money and my support but only if I keep quiet. I’m a white, straight, married, pretty conventional male, and I’m absolutely fuming. I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if even one of the above wasn’t true.

  10. callistacat says

    “This is a lesson any atheist organisation can stand to learn.”

    Ok, let’s just face it. THEY DON’T CARE. They don’t give a flying fuck.

    After reading Dawkins’ (who I really admired and looked up to) make his latest jab at Jennifer McCreight, and Jerry Coyne (who I also admired a great deal) make his passive-aggressive bullshit comments, I’ve had it, I’m done.

    This movement is as hostile to women as any religious one I’ve experienced. At least *they* aren’t hypocrites about it.

    I love your blog Ophelia, I think you are awesome and the people here are awesome. I became an atheist only a few years ago and was so excited about having other people to share this newly found sense freedom with, only to see women being constantly shit on with no end in sight. Then see women put under a microscope and have everything they say twisted and turned on them so that they’re the villian for simply standing up for themselves and other women. It’s no fun to be part of this movement anymore, it’s depressing and sickening.

    So fuck it. Fuck you Jerry Coyne. FUCK YOU Richard Dawkins. If there was a hell I’d tell you to go rot in it.

  11. theobromine says

    In defense of CFI Canada in general, we do have a conference coming up at the end of the year (just before The End Of The World). Guest speakers include FtB-ers Ophelia, PZ, Crommunist, and Natalie Reed. Topics include “Gender Issues”, and “Godless Ethics & Godless Communities”. We have a harassment policy – aka Code of Conduct. (And a Saturday evening Gala with PZ as featured speaker, in the (newly renovated) Canadian Museum of Nature, including private access to the dinosaur gallery.)

    So, I hope to see lots of FtB fans in Ottawa, from November 30th to December 2nd – http://eschaton2012.ca

    Seanna Watson
    Eschaton2012 Conference Chair
    President – CFI-Ottawa

  12. Stacy says

    I agree with others that Ron Lindsay, whom I admire, should have educated himself before he opened his yap about the situation, and if he didn’t have the time to do the former he shouldn’t have done the latter.

    Anybody who hasn’t followed things from the beginning and invested shitloads of time in reading exactly what actually went down at the start of each mini-conflict that has become a part of the bigger conflict, is going to be tempted to make that false equivalence AND to dismiss the haters as “just a few trolls, and anyway the intertubes bring out the worst in people, it doesn’t really reflect Real Life™.”

    Maybe it would help to get together a compendium of the abuse, show it to Ron and whoever else needs to see it (I mean in person, not endless links online.) I’m guessing reams of paper could be used to print out just the worst of the emails and blog comments received by Rebecca, Ophelia, and Stephanie, for starters. Take that stuff, and show it to them, and say, “Look at this. Right now. Fucking look at it.” And then, if they still try to understate the problem, ask them: If all this shit being disseminated were racist in character, what would you say then? Would you still be saying, “Both sides, blah blah,” or would you take a stand and say “This needs to stop. Making this stop, and making it clear that it is unacceptable, is a priority.”

    Because the sad fact is they don’t take sexism as seriously as they take racism.

    I’m willing to make this my next project for CFI. Melody, if you read this: I have Jim Underdown’s ear; I assume you have Ron’s–would you like to work with me on this? I know somebody else–won’t name her, she’s an employee of CFI (I’m not)–who could work with us. And maybe Surly Amy and Rebecca would too.

    One thing I’ve heard from Jim Underdown is that people aren’t talking about this very much face to face (he’s actually begun to do that.)

    Does this idea have merit? (No, I can’t tell if it is. I’m not a confident person. But I can gather information and talk to people face to face.)

  13. Timon for Tea says

    “The Facebook page for the branch is filled with assholes who mislead, lie, make comments about breasts, lie, use slurs willy-nilly, etc, and no one stops them anymore.”

    I have looked at the Facebook page for CFI Canada and can’t find any evidence for this. That doesn’t mean there is no misbehaviour there, but ‘full of’ definitely needs to be modified and taken together with the comment at #16 which points out the organisation has a Code of Conduct to prevent harassment and actively supports feminist women at its conference,it makes me wonder if Triolier is a reliable witness. Perhaps he can link to the Facebook behaviour he complains about and which he claims CFI Canada makes no effort to prevent?

    One way or the other, it would help in this debate if the people making strong claims would provide some evidence. Otherwise it is just smears.

  14. says

    callistacat – I know what you mean. Yesterday pushed me quite a bit farther in that direction. There are a hell of a lot of people seriously determined to push us out entirely (and to misrepresent everything we say in the meantime).

  15. Timon for Tea says

    Well, I have had a chance to look at all four of the CFI Canada branches’ Facebook pages now and I haven’t found a single example of the behaviour that Trinioler claims is commonplace and implicitly condoned there. Of course, I have only skimmed and couldn’t look back further than about a year or so, but it does make me think that, at very least, ‘filled’ is an exaggeration. And if Tinioler is unreliable in this regard, why should we trust her in any other?

    The Facebook pages seemed to be pretty tightly and fairly moderated too. Strange. Perhaps Trinioler could point us to some of the slurs and sexist abuse that nobody, on her account, makes any attempt to stop.

    The pages are here for your ref:

    British Columbia:

  16. says

    There aren’t just four branches of CFI Canada. I know of others without even looking them up.

    I don’t know that trinioler is a she either.

    Timon, you’re not a good monitor of other people’s facts, because you’re not good at realizing what you don’t know yourself. You demonstrated that on Ron’s thread, too. You’re busily playing this fact-checking role but you’re not good at it.

  17. Gen Fury says

    It took me 1 google search to pull up the cficanada’s About page. They list more than 35 branches – I stopped counting at 35.

  18. trinioler says


    You missed at LEAST three branches I know about on Facebook.

    Excellent debunking here! I mean, just, absolutely, completely stellar job.

    This is another reason why A+ is needed: if this is the quality of skeptical thinking that the A+ opposition can muster, then we need your help like an elephant needs ice skates.

  19. johnthedrunkard says

    Didn’t CFI Canada go through a leadership crisis a while back? Wasn’t there an issue with a clique of ‘libertarians’ (i.e. assholes) taking control of the organization and driving out everyone else?

    It is still true that trolls are pathological creeps. Even when they can hide under an organization. For example: NAMBLA is an organization of sicko-perverts, that does not make their brand of sicko-pervism into a ‘movement’ or create a legitimate case against organizations of gay non sicko-pervs.

    Once more: under the umbrella of Atheism there is a dark undercurrent of ‘libertarian’ anarcho-capitalism and Randian craziness. An effective way to define Atheism+ is: Atheism MINUS these pseudo-religions.

  20. notanasshole says

    Didn’t CFI Canada go through a leadership crisis a while back? Wasn’t there an issue with a clique of ‘libertarians’ (i.e. assholes) taking control of the organization and driving out everyone else?

    Yes, there was a leadership crisis. But no, everything else you said is pure horseshit. I don’t know of anyone in the leadership of CFI Canada who would identify as a libertarian. I haven’t heard any particularly libertarian views expressed by any of them – quite the contrary. Justin Trottier ran for election as a Green – hardly a party known as a hotbed of libertarians. And yes, Trottier has regressive views about men’s rights, but he is alone in this. Even Michael Payton, who has repeatedly been tagged as an MRA on this page, totally rejects these views. Most of what I see is the same group of progressive leftish academic types you would expect to see in an atheist/skeptic organization.

    There were some real problems in the leadership of CFI Canada, but things are much better now, though still not perfect. But a much bigger problem was the random hurling of innuendo and rumour by people who didn’t know shit about what was going on, and by guys (and at least one gal) with huge egos who were happy to stir up shit to get revenge for personal slights. (I would not be at all surprised to learn that trinioler falls into the latter category.) It is disappointing to see that still going on, and still driving people away from organized atheism.

    Oh, and nice weaving in of the NAMBLA smear-by-association!

  21. julian says

    Wow, natan. You’re going to accuse others of rumor mongering and slander campaigns while implying the people complaining here are just ex members trying to get revenge for personal slights.

    Yeah, you’re going into my killfile.

  22. julian says

    Hmm… I’m beginning to regret apologizing to Timon for Tea over at Lindsay’s piece. That stunt above could’ve been a mistake but why the fuck wouldn’t he just ask to see it instead of taking such a condescending tone and dismissing everyone?

  23. notanasshole says

    julian: anyone who was paying any attention to the shitstorm that happened over the leadership of CFI Canada last year knows that there were wild accusations flying on all sides. They also know that, of all the many stories going around as to what the fighting was about, libertarianism was sure as hell not one of them. (We Canadians tend to leave the Ayn Rand worship to our southern neighbours.) So, yeah, johnthedrunkard did just pull that one out of his ass. I’d go into details about exactly who was slandering who about what, but since its got nothing to do with the current issue, I won’t. It just explains why I get so angry when I see people continue to make fact-free accusations about CFI Canada – accusations which have provably driven away volunteers. We have enough to worry about with Harper and his fundie friends without fighting each other all the time.

    As for trinioler’s claims, your implicit criticism is right: I didn’t provide any reason to justify my speculations. So here’s a few reasons why I doubt trinioler’s motives:
    1. almost every accusation I’ve seen hurled against CFI Canada over the last year has been false, hyperbolic, or misleading. Throw me a claim, and I’ll tell you which category it belongs in.
    2. trinioler made a claim that would be easily verifiable, but then declined to provide any evidence to support it. We’re not talking he said/she said here, where the benefit of any doubt should be given to the alleged victim. We’re talking publicly available Facebook pages. If there really are misogynist assholes running rampant over a Facebook page, with no organisers to stop them, it would be easy to point to a handful of examples. None are provided, even when asked. (As for trinioler’s laughable claim to be protecting his own identity by not telling more: google ‘trinioler’ and click to the second page of results. There, now you know his secret identity.)
    3. A search of CFI Canada Facebook pages produces no evidence to support his claims. Go on, search through the pages already listed, or these others
    If trinioler is correct, there should be raging bigotry leaping from at least one of those pages. Sorry, but I don’t see it. And that doesn’t surprise me, because the CFI leaders I’ve met would shut that crap down as quickly as they could.

    Finally, before everyone accuses me of being a rape-apologizing, hyperskeptical fuckwad: I’m on your side. I agree with the aims of Atheism+. I don’t deny that there are shitloads of misogynist jerks out there, and that they are a real problem. Just, please, pay attention to where you are spraying your righteous vitriol. Because some of your targets truly don’t deserve it. And because DJ Grothe may have jumped the gun, but now you really are scaring women, minorities, and sensitive white guys out of the movement.

  24. theobromine says

    Chopped Liver here…

    I see that CFI-Ottawa (www.facebook.com/cfiottawa) has not yet been listed among the CFI branches that people have been invited to check out. So I just want to make sure that people know that we should be counted on the good side.

    I do sympathise with trinioler’s wish to be personally anonymous and therefore not identify the group she is referring to. However, as the (volunteer) leader of a local branch (and therefore participant in discussions involving other leaders as well as the National Executive and board), I wish there were some way to safely determine where the offending branch is in order to be able to follow up with corrective action.

    If Trinioler would like to contact me personally, I would certainly be willing to follow up while preserving complete confidentiality. (I’d prefer not to put my personal email address here – Ophelia, if I can beg your indulgence, would you be willing to provide my email address to trinolier should she wish to contact me?)

    Seanna Watson

  25. trinioler says

    I’ve sent an email to Seanna. Cats out of the bag now.

    I gave Seanna details on who, what happened, stuff like that.

  26. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Hopefully we can end this derail at this point.

    notanasshole: you are incorrect about the libertarianism.

    I’m an ex-card-carrying member of CFI Canada (I was fairly active in Vancouver until my move to Japan).

    Trottier was a card-carrying member of the MRA movement. While he generally focused on the rights of fathers, he wandered further afield. And I’d love to point you to some evidence of that, but the website that he used to write and podcast from is no longer operational: http://www.equalitycanada.com

    Since he joined the Green party, he’s done a pretty good job of hiding his past. You should, however, have a chat with the folks who have been in CFI Canada for the last few years before you start singing his praises.

    Of course, CFI Canada is not Justin Trottier, but he is the main reason a number of people walked away from it.

    trinioler: Thanks for speaking up. Here’s hoping you don’t experience too much blowback…

  27. Brian Lynchehaun says

    Hopefully we can end this derail at this point.

    He says, not checking the dates of the prior comments.


    Sorry. 🙁

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