Teach the conflict

Some interesting comments on Rebecca’s post yesterday on the SCA and Vacula.

Dale Husband:

 Voice for Men? How about a Voice for White People, a Voice for Christians, and a Voice for the Wealthy? Oh yes, we must always ensure that those who are already privileged in society get to yell louder then their opponents, to maintain the status quo in society, even if they are abusive and dishonest.

To which nymchimpsky replies:

What about the straight people?  WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THEM?

*weeps for the straight people*

Of course there are equivalents of Voices for white people, rich people, Christians, and straight people…But they don’t call themselves A Voice for. (The one for rich people pretty much calls itself the US government, frankly.)

Bjarte Foshaug makes a good point (as he so often does) –

…when the haters, and hyperskeptics and false-equivalence-spouting bothsiders go on about keeping politics/ideology out of atheism/skepticism, we should not let them get away with framing the most conservative and outright reactionary views imaginable as the “unpolitical”, “non ideological” position.

Nor should we buy into the “let bygones be bygones” view when nothing has changed.




  1. frogmistress says

    I’m all for giving someone a second chance. But, I have seen absolutely nothing that would suggest that Vacula thinks he did anything wrong. So, why would we think his behavior would be different in the future?

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    Not only has Vacula not admitted doing anything wrong, it’s up to the victim to grant the second chance. When Surly Amy offers Vacula a second chance, then it’ll be worth something.

  3. says

    Hmmyes, very apt.

    @ 3 – or when I do, for another example. He misrepresented me ina podcast and when I objected, he didn’t correct the misrepresentation, but rather “invited” me to come on his podcast to make my case. No that’s not how that works. If you misrepresent me, I don’t have to come to your house and hang out with you before you set the record straight. The onus is on you to set the record straight. I don’t want to go on his podcast and talk to him; I dislike him. I want him to set the record straight.

  4. bjartefoshaug says

    Thanks for the quote, Ophelia 🙂

    I’ve made this point several times before. The shitstorm that’s currently tearing apart the atheist/skeptical movements is far too often framed as a conflict between those who want to get involved in social justice issues and those who don’t, when, in fact, the anti-FTB/Skepchick/A+ crowd are very much involved, only on the opposite side (a.k.a. the wrong side). There is nothing “unpolitical”, or “neutral”, or “non-ideological” about that.

    To repeat myself even more, if someone prefers to focus strictly on empirical claims and leave the fight for social justice to others, I don’t think many FTB/Skepchick/A+ sympathizers have a problem with that (If so, I haven’t seen it). However, if they don’t want the battle for social justice to be fought at all and actively oppose anyone who wants to wage it, that most definitely is an ideological position, and an extremely reactionary one at that.

  5. Francisco Bacopa says

    Seriously there is no “shitstorm that’s currently tearing apart the atheist/skeptical movements”. There are those like me who naively assumed that the stated A+ goals were always part of the movement and never knew otherwise until the stupidity of Elevatorgate. Others were not so innocent and understand the need to fullfil the A+ goals. and there are a vocal handful of poo-flinging monkeys who will be left behind, but I hardly think them capable of making a shitstorm.

  6. briane says

    @6, the whole backlash against A+/social justice is conservative. They have their cushy clique, and they’re not going to share it, or treat those nasty females as equal. After all, if they can’t hit on chicks at any point in time, no matter what the lady in question might want, they might miss out on an opportunity to…well, get rejected for being a dick I guess.

  7. xmaseveeve says

    I agree with Ophelia that Bjarte made an excellent point. Since I was very young, I’ve noticed that whenever someone says something to the ‘left’ of a person with whom he or she is arguing (and I grew up in a family of communists, Communists, even, who spoke up all the time) they were suddenly accused of being ‘political’. Those further to the right don’t think that they are being ‘political’. They may see themselves as liberals, but defending the status quo is often seen as neutral. Apathy is all.

    Everything is political. It’s seen as bad form to rock the boat, or to want to allow anyone else on board. Stressful day, so too much red wine. Goodnight.

  8. bjartefoshaug says

    Seriously there is no “shitstorm that’s currently tearing apart the atheist/skeptical movements”.

    I couldn’t agree less. Here’s just a small sample of comments from Stephanie’s petition against giving Vacula a leadership position in SCA:

    “As a secular woman in PA this has absolutely destroyed my trust in the SCA. I’m sorry to say I feel extremely uncomfortable and unwelcome at the PA chapter. I looked forward to participating but no longer.”

    “I live only about an hour from Justin Vacula’s home town, Scranton, and his participation and leadership in local atheist/skeptic activities is a major barrier to my participation. I simply don’t trust anyone who posts on “A Voice for Men,” which has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a site devoted to promoting misogyny on the web, to treat me with respect. I’ve seen how he has treated other women who are part of the A/S community, such as Amy Lee Roth, and frankly I don’t want to risk having to deal with such a character.”

    “Justin Vacula and others like him are the reason I am using a pseudonym to sign this. It is not safe for a woman to have an opinion about secularism unless it involves toadying up to the MRA contingent. I am no longer active at my local meet-up or drinks in the pub because I was tired of hearing about how pissed they were that a woman decided to set boundaries for herself. After a very negative event, no male in the group would support me, even the ones who agreed it was wrong. It seems as if PA is looking to give women the same experience. I can not understand that.”

    “As someone brand new, I would be very hesitant to go to any gatherings where Vacula might be, and very hesitant to join in any discussions. His presence and his actions have made me feel unwelcome and are certainly driving people away.”

    “As a woman, I do not feel I am welcome in the Atheist movement, and the appointment of Justin Vacula to an official position for Secular Coalition of America makes me feel even less welcome. I think that it sends a strong message that the Secular Coalition of America would prefer if women would not participate.”

    And this appointment is only the latest word in a long and hideous novel. So how many non-assholes can the atheist/skeptical movement afford to lose before it constitutes “tearing the movement apart”, and how large a proportion of the people remaining in the movement can be assholes before it’s no longer worth saving anyway?

    there are a vocal handful of poo-flinging monkeys who will be left behind, but I hardly think them capable of making a shitstorm.

    They already have (Ask Rebecca Watson or Jen McCreight if they think is “shitstorm” is too strong a word for what they’ve been through). As it stands the “poo-flinging monkeys” and their defenders include the most influential atheist alive (*cough*dearmuslima*cough*) and the leader of at least one major skeptical organization (“distasteful locker room banter”, “a few women recounting sexual exploits”) as well as a large number of lesser luminaries like Kirby, Blackford, Stangroom, Coyne etc. And, as we have just seen, being a poo-flinging monkey is still no obstacle to being offered a leadership position in one of America’s largest secular organizations.

  9. ewanmacdonald says

    Excellent post at @12. Another point is this: let’s say, for the sake of argument, that those who are interested in social justice issues and the avoidance of misogyny were able to form a coherent, single group, and express its will to operate separately from those who disagree. (I’m neither saying that this will happen nor that it should happen, so keep that in mind.) What would the outcome be?

    The outcome would be that those who disagree would double down on their efforts. It has been made explicit by supposed allies, by leaders in the movement, that they are entitled to our support, and that choosing to focus on matters that do not interest them is to deprive them of their birthright. We would not be left alone. The slimebags would continue slimebagging, safe in the knowledge that the ersatz respectable frowny-faces in leadership positions will either bothsides the hell out of them or tut quietly and say “boys will be boys.”

    This viewpoint is summarised best (as it were) by Ronald A. Lindsay. Google “Divisiveness Within The Secular Movement” to find the source for the quote below (I’m not posting a link in case it causes my comment not to load). Emphasis mine:

    So to return to Atheism Plus, here’s a concern: because the A+ advocates want to work on social justice issues, but have not yet specified how they plan to go about this, including which issues they will emphasize, there’s a worry that they will divert resources from the secular movement and weaken it. Moreover, this diluting of the strength of the secular movement will come right at a time when we have begun to make some progress, but we’re still far short of achieving our goals. When both major political parties still feel free to give us the back of their hand and treat the nonreligious as second-class citizens (as evidenced by the recent conventions), it may be premature to declare victory and move on to other projects. And, of course, that’s just the United States. When one looks at the influence of religion in other countries, especially the Islamic world, it’s even clearer that we have much work to do.

    I’m not asserting that Atheism Plus is divisive with respect to the secular movement; I don’t see how anyone can at this stage as it’s still very much a work in progress. It’s possible this initiative will actually have the effect of energizing the secular movement by getting people involved who otherwise would remain inactive. But because its objectives, priorities, and plan of action have not been clearly formulated, it’s not irrational for someone committed to the secular movement to be apprehensive about its effect. In any event, I don’t think one should be indifferent to its potentially divisive impact.

    Notice the agility with which he launches back to “our goals” (because naturally all of our goals coincide precisely with those of Ron Lindsay!), how goals that aren’t “our” are defined mere paragraphs earlier as those “external to the movement”.

    No, there really is absolutely zero room for accommodation here, I’m afraid, because we’re not just dealing with people for whom social justice isn’t an issue, we’re dealing with people for whom even discussion of it is an active impediment.

    For this reason I’m pessimistic about the future of the movement, because we will be harangued and harrassed into fulfilling the “goals” set for us by others. Anyone who steps out of line will be subject to the most obscene harrassment, because that’s what they deserve for being so uppity as to divide the movement.

  10. ewanmacdonald says

    Blockquote fail. After the bold “divisive impact” we’re back to me talking. Sorry.

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