Brilliant – the #AAcon13 hashtag is being invaded by harassers. A lot. Good thinking! Way to demonstrate to a whole bunch of new people just what we’ve been talking about! Way to get a big chunk of “the broader community” to think of you and your project to demonize us as a bunch of assholes with an asshole project.



  1. says

    I’ll change the @hashspamkiller to retweet stuff from that hash while the conference is on and switch back to #wiscfi after… Not a lot on wiscfi at the moment as it will kick off over the conference.

    They’ll still spam it but it will make it easier to avoid reading their drivel…

  2. hjhornbeck says

    Vacula in particular seems to be camping there:

    Mark DeMonbreun: “The only way to be a bad atheist is to believe in god.” – @Matt_Dillahunty #aacon13

    Justin Vacula: @markdemonbreun @Matt_Dillahunty Tell that to the #atheismplus advocates, esp. PZ Myers who talks about “asshole atheists.” #aacon13

    I love how he keeps insisting on using the #aacon13 hashtag, even when he’s distracted by a tangent that has nothing to do with the conference. Some choice quotes:

    Justin Vacula: @SallyStrange @Matt_Dillahunty First up, skepticism of feminism which is attempting to usurp the atheist/skeptic communities. #aacon13

    Justin Vacula: @SallyStrange What sort of evidence can be marshaled to falsify patriarchy theory? #skeptic #aacon13 #feminism

    Justin Vacula: @SallyStrange Comparing median incomes of men and women with no controls and calling pay gap- so #skepticial http://www.feministcampus.org/fmla/printable-materials/Pay_Equity/Pay_Equity_Fact_Sheet.pdf … #aacon13

    And that’s just from the last hour, because I’m feeling lazy.

  3. Aratina Cage says

    Vacula wants Atheism+ advocates to apologize for what? (I’m too lazy and upset to go to his blog and find out.)

    And Oolon has set up the second Atheism+ Twitter bot, @hashspamkiller, to retweet everything sent to #AACon13 except for tweets from people already in the block list (Vacula, for instance, would not be retweeted). If you open up @hashspamkiller’s list of tweets, you can see tweets about #AACon13 just like you would by searching for #aacon13 on Twitter. If you follow @hashspamkiller on Twitter, you’ll see the retweets from the bot appear in your own Twitter feed mixed in with tweets from everyone else you are following. Hope that helps!

  4. UnknownEric is GrumpyCat in human form says

    Vacula wants Atheism+ advocates to apologize for what?

    Probably for not paying proper deference to him. He is important, you know, he says so himself! 😉

  5. hjhornbeck says

    [apologies for the derail, but a number of people thought the link went to Vacula’s blog, and curiousity got the better of me]

    Even weirder, that link doesn’t go to Vacula’s blog, but to John Loftus’ instead. His article’s main points are:

    – Those taking the A+ label are ignorant; Humanism already covers the same ground.
    – The label of A+ is divisive.
    – Everyone agrees with the goals of A+, and besides fewer women attending conferences isn’t proof of discrimination.
    – McCarthy-esqe witchhunts.
    – A+ people are immature bullies.
    – The label of A+ is divisive.
    – PZ Myers is a mean hypocrite, and A+ is a hate-filled cult.

    I find it less than convincing. And why, exactly, does Vacula think it has anything to do with AA’s conference? That tweet wasn’t made as part of a conversation.

  6. says

    And why, exactly, does Vacula think it has anything to do with AA’s conference?

    They think their message is so desperately important that everyone must hear it.

  7. Susan says

    Sorry for being a bit off topic, but since Vacula was supposed to be involved …

    What happened to the Michael Nugent “dialogue” that was supposed to start this past week?

  8. athyco says

    But don’t expect Justin Vacula to be a part of Michael Nugent’s dialogue. Once he got MN to say he’d appear on a #BraveHero radio show, he’s been, AFAICT, virtually silent on the topic of a “peace process.”

    But he may be doing a dry twitter run for his attendance at WiS2. ~50 with the hashtag in 24 hours! Today he’s stuck primarily with tweets that aren’t part of a conversation. Last night he tried to be “part” of the conversation and proved that his opinion of anti-harassment con policies being infantalizing of women and providing a false sense of security did not take into account a woman’s agency to say “yes.”

    I don’t know if it made him realize that a con policy doesn’t back up their idea of “teh flirtz will be forever banned,” but would back up a woman if she chose to say “yes” to one/some and “no” to one/some.

  9. athyco says

    Actually, make that last predicate read “would back up anyone who chose to say “yes” to one/some and “no” to one/some.”

  10. says

    I’ve just had my own Twitter brush with Vacula who actually said this…

    @TabbyLavalamp Can you link to examples of “show me ur tits” and explain who this is sexual harassment?

    If that’s not obtuse…

  11. says

    Dang, he’s still busy tweeting away about the women and atheism panel. Anyone would think he’d been on it. I’m sure he wasn’t, because I was, and I didn’t see him.

  12. Stacy says

    His donors should ask Vacula how much he paid for his WiS2 registration. And why he didn’t bother to register in time to get the student rate.

    Because, you know, he coulda bought a nice pair of Fluevogs with the difference. Just sayin’.

  13. Your Name's not Bruce? says

    It’s strange that these people think the whole A+ thing makes them look bad when they’re making themselves look bad without any help from A+. They really are afraid of losing something they never really had in the first place: “ownership” of the atheist “brand.” They’re legends (“brave heroes”- that’s even worse than “brights” as a monicker) in their own minds. If they weren’t so vicious and toxic it might be a little sad. As it is, it’s just time to leave them behind. They dug their hole, they can lie in it: and they do. Here’s to deeper rifts and good riddance to irrelevant “heroes.”

  14. says

    I suppose a valid definition of harassment can include “expenditure of excessive energy and effort on disagreement in a repeated and stereotyped manner”.

    I see a robot monkey.

  15. hjhornbeck says

    Christina argued some time ago that she was hopeful about the controversy over sexism:

    We are hashing out these issues now, in the early days of the powerhouse stage of our movement. And as frustrating and upsetting and discouraging as that hashing-out is — as frustrating and upsetting and discouraging as it is that such obvious, 101-level questions should still be generating so much rage and pushback and heat — it means we won’t have to hash them out in ten years, or twenty, or fifty. Or at least, we won’t have to hash them out as much, and the hashing out won’t be as ugly.

    I have a different hope right now. The Slyme Pit and their friends are polarizing the skeptic and atheist communities. Before they came around, sexism was a rare topic around the water cooler; now, they’re forcing everyone to confront the issue. The entire community is being divided along pro- and anti-social-justice lines. And the people arguing for the anti-social-justice side are the ones camping on Twitter hashtags, or posting crude photoshops, or forcing their grudges on other people.

    Who would you side with, knowing nothing else?

    So thanks to the Slyme Pit, the atheist and skeptic community is being driven towards pro-social-justice. As they ramp up their antics, more and more people not only condemn them, but start dealing seriously with sexism, and perhaps move onwards to racism, classism, and other -isms. We are becoming a better, more inclusive community, at a faster rate than if the Slyme Pit had never existed.

    It would be nice if we could have done that without the harassment, admittedly, but it’s something to bear in mind when they’re getting you down.

  16. Kazim says

    > And why, exactly, does Vacula think it has anything to do with AA’s conference?

    I can answer that… Richard Carrier gave a lengthy speech titled “Atheism plus what?” He started with a reminder of the Reddit girl with the Sagan book who got inundated with rape jokes. Ran through a history of recent harassment against numerous women including Ophelia, then talked about A+. And of course today there was the Women in Atheism panel. All in all, the speaking roster has been just loaded with us evil #FTBullies, including Ophelia, Greta, Matt Dillahunty, JT Eberhard, and Amy Davis Roth from Skepchick.

    Vacula is definitely not with us in Austin, I think he is paying to stream the convention though. Or he just read the schedule and decided it was important to flood the attendees with Helpful Information against the great speeches they’re already listening to.

  17. says

    @hjhornbeck #2: I love that first bit from Vacula. Matt D.’s statement is clear in its point: the only universal/defining characteristic of atheists is that they lack belief in gods, so the only way to be a “bad atheist,” the only way to do atheism wrong, is to foul up that one characteristic, by believing in a god. Matt’s been saying this stuff for years.

    Meanwhile, Vacula apparently can’t fucking read, and for all his scouring of FtBully histories for things to try to smear them with, he never came across a more complete version of that sentiment from Matt. There’s nothing about the “asshole atheists” passage that says those people are somehow bad at being atheists. There’s nothing in Matt’s statements even to imply that atheists are necessarily nice or good people. They’re just people who lack a blief; they can still be bad people or assholes.

    As Vacula aptly demonstrates. Heck, they don’t even need to be particularly bright.

  18. hjhornbeck says

    Adam Lee ‏@DaylightAtheism (31m ago):
    Off to the airport. Sorry I have to leave early, but thanks for all the fun! #aacon13

    Adam Wee ‏@DAYLIGHTATHElSM (14m ago):
    Got to go to the airport now! Try not to rape anyone, as per the con policy. #AACon13

    [shakes head]

    Kazim @20: Ah, that explains where there was so much camping, both here and on #wiscfi: women were speaking. That doesn’t explain the lack of spam on TAM, though, which has a near 50/50 male/female ratio. Hmm… people who disagreed with them were speaking, and needed to be silenced or countered?

  19. hjhornbeck says

    It’s like driving past a car wreck. I can’t look away!

    BreadGod: Anyone at #aacon13 recorded Richard Carrier’s #Atheismplus talk? I want me some comedy. #FreethoughtBlogs

    Justin Vacula: @BreadGod1 It’s against #aacon13 policy to have electronic devices on during talks…but who knows, with all those pics out there…

    BreadGod: @justinvacula I just find it funny that the #FreethoughtBlogs people don’t bother to follow their own policies. #aacon13 #Atheismplus

    Justin Vacula: @BreadGod1 It’s all posturing, apparently…or a horribly written conference policy no one cares about. How can the women be safe? #aacon13

    BreadGod: @justinvacula Yeah, I thought #FreethoughtBlogs cared about da womenz! Don’t they care about da womenz? #aacon13 #Atheismplus

    For reference, AA’s conference code of conduct states:

    Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, take conversations and noisy children outside the session room, and move to the center of your row to make room for other attendees.

    Which… oh, nevermind. Spelling out why Vacula’s wrong here would just insult your intelligence.

  20. hjhornbeck says

    Hyper-skepticism [‘haɪpə-ˈskɛp təˌsɪz əm] (noun):

    American Atheists: Attn #AAcon13: Wrt electronics policy: Video rec is not permitted. Still photos = yes. Live tweeting = ENCOURAGED. NO CELL PHONES RINGING.

    Justin Vacula: @AmericanAtheist The policy says “Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices” #aacon13

  21. carlie says

    And AA just tweeted a clarification that their policy means no video taken and no phones ringing, but that tweeting and still pictures are fine. They might as well have added “so stop being such a douche, Vacula”.

  22. jenBPhillips says

    alas, I think it’s probably win-win for JV. He gets a tweet out (BY NAME!!!) from AA, and some time down the road (weeks? days? months?) he’ll get (or give himself ) credit for calling them out on their “horribly written conference policy” and getting them to clarify on Twitter.

  23. says

    Ohhhhhhhhhhh no it isn’t. I’m here and I know. Since his goal is to be a “leader” in “the broader movement”…..no, this is no kind of win.

  24. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    He doesn’t seem to care who he’s considered a leader by; he just wants someone to tell him they listen to him. So, a small group of bitter, whiny malcontents with serious misogyny issues will still count as far as he’s concerned.

  25. says

    Look up @JTEberhards exchange with him, makes for a fun set of tweets. The pick for me was JT’s tweet about “relevance” and more to the point Vaculas response which was to respond over and over to that point. Vaculous even making the “point” that JT had written 5-“hit pieces” on him as reference to his “relevance”. In the pit being attacked or ridiculed by the #FTBullies, or in JT’s case ex-FTB, is considered “relevance”.

    So yeah Wowbagger is absolutely right, the audience he is aiming at is the pit. In this instance I doubt even they are clapping too hard at that performance – certainly did not make their “side” look good!

    Interestingly, for me anyway, this “relevance” thing has come up with Hoggle. He often projects that I and others are striving for “relevance” by cosying up to (Not quite the term he uses) our “FfTB” masters. He also see’s himself as a leader of some anti-movement. Really quite weird…

  26. hjhornbeck says

    oolon @31: I’m not too surprised. The ‘Pit is increasingly sounding like a hive of conspiracy theorists. Vacula conflated AA with FtB, as noted above, and someone else dismissed a tasteless image as being a “plant” from FtB/SkepChick. Watson’s recent claims of Wikipedia vandalism? Also a plant by followers of SkepChick. The person who tried to smear Thibeault? Can’t be one of us, oh no, must be a Christian trying to smear the ‘Pit.

    They need that sort of mindset to keep themselves motivated. How else could they manage to keep pushing after two years, but to perpetually freak out over a big giant boogey-thing poisoning all of skepticism?

    Incidentally, oolon, take a big bow:

    American Atheists: @hashspamkiller We are so grateful for your feed-Thank u, thank u, thank u for your RTs and effort to keep our con harassment-free #AAcon13

    Your work on that Twitter bot has made a big difference to the community, helping everyone block out the haters and recover their sanity. Thanks!

  27. says

    And he’s complaining about a “fuck the pope” sign (??!) and asked “what if someone held up a sign saying ‘Fuck Ophelia Benson?'”

    Why me, you may wonder? Because he’s an asshole, I guess.

  28. hjhornbeck says

    Oh. My…. WTF?!

    The conference policy states, “Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices…”

    This is very interesting considering that pictures taken — by cell phones and electronic devices — are scattered throughout the aacon13 hashtag on Twitter which is monitored by an American Atheists account which frequents the hashtag. Flash photography, no doubt, can also be seen in the conference hall.

    Vacula hasn’t stepped out of the house in five years, apparently, and is unaware that “please turn off your cell phones” generally means “don’t let your phone ring during someone’s speech, but we don’t care if it’s otherwise left on.” That is weapons-grade stupidity, and it’s aimed at American Atheists.

    He’s not an asshole, he’s a master of bridge demolition.

  29. FelixBC says

    Thing is that AA clarified directly to Vacula on Twitter what the policy means, and he keeps right on going. He truly is the Kenneth Starr of atheist investigators: he’s going to find *something* and then go to town on it in the most disgusting, uncharitable, rift-producing way.

    American Atheists ‏@AmericanAtheist 9h
    Attn #AAcon13: Wrt electronics policy: Video rec is not permitted. Still photos = yes. Live tweeting = ENCOURAGED. NO CELL PHONES RINGING.

    American Atheists ‏@AmericanAtheist 9h
    The intent of the electronics policy at #AAcon13 is to keep phones calls from interrupting. No video b/c we are selling our own DVDs. Thx!

  30. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I think Vacula’s jumped the shark in his desperation to find something about the AACon to criticise. I can’t see any reasonable person getting behind him on this, and I suspect it’ll make a few of the fence-sitters realise just what a pathetic scrabbler for attention he is.

  31. FelixBC says

    The trollers were trying to get something started with the “you can ask me for coffee” tshirt, but no traction. (Affirmative consent? sounds good to me.)

    Can’t wait to see what he does at wiscfi. Bring on the blockbot, Oolon! Now rebranded as a very useful troll-free hashtag repeater.

  32. hjhornbeck says

    I had a look at Vacula’s Twitter stream, and he’s brought up AA’s code of conduct in 10 tweets over the last 30 minutes. I think he intends to die on that hill. #BravoHero

    Sadly, he won’t be the only one:

    Russell Blackford: If the “turn of all electronic devices” part of the policy was never intended literally, what else was never intended literally?

    Russell Blackford: And if much of the document was never intended literally, doesn’t this just prove my point? /2

    Russell Blackford: I.e., the document was drafted poorly, over-broadly, hurriedly, and with a false sense of urgency. /3

    Need I mention said document is nine months old, the product of community input, and has been used at several other conferences without complaint?

  33. says

    Is this silliness just some sort of libertarian anti-policy policy?

    Have there been any complaints about the policies from people who were actually at this convention?

  34. Stacy says

    @Emilyisalwayswrite, can’t afford them myself. Some pitizens got very upset a few months back when Greta Christina used a part of some donated money to buy a good pair of shoes (Fluevogs.) Nobody who’d actually donated minded a bit, but the slimers did their inept best to contrive a manufactroversy over it.

  35. hjhornbeck says

    I suspect this may become important later:

    Justin Vacula: @emilyhasbooks I’m not on the stream or at the conference. I will watch it, though, when it is available. #aacon13

  36. says

    God, it’s hilarious – when surely the whole point was to marginalize us, not to antagonize a whole huge new segment of “the broader atheist community” (as they like to call it).

    I look forward to the coming months in which they start telling American Atheists that they too are hated by “the broader community” along with FTB and Skepchicks and CFI…Oh and Patheos!

    As for WiS…yeah. I wonder if Vacula forgot that Dave and Amanda are going to be there.

  37. Kazim says

    Justin Vacula was targeting me personally, so I’m told. At the time he posted this “no cameras” stuff, I had already posted one picture-heavy post over on AXP, and I have put up a second one since then. He specifically called out my post as breaking the rules. Matt Dillahunty swung by the registration table to see if he could get a clarification from them, and my understanding is that that’s when they posted the “tweets/photos” are okay update.

    Thank you guys for collecting all the stupidest Vacula content and also copying the convention policy updates. I intend to write a long post about this tempest in a teapot in a little while, and I’ll be able to borrow heavily from what’s been said here.

  38. hjhornbeck says

    You have my sword. Though now I’m kicking myself for not researching other conference’s policies, and showing just how many with “turn off cell phones” boilerplate also had photos online. Later, I suppose…

  39. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Ah, bullshit hyperskepticism. If “thou shalt commit false equivalence” is the first commandment of the ‘pit then that’s not far behind.

    Of course – as I’ve said before – if these people applied the same principles to the world as they choose to when it’s something they want to complain about, they’d never cross the street. How could they without first establishing that everyone on the road is a qualified, competent driver not currently under the influence of drugs, alcohol or sleep deprivation, and operating a fully functional vehicle?

  40. athyco says

    Since Justin Vacula started his #BraveHero radio ‘casts, he’s had a rounded-man superhero logo on his twitter page and on the blogtalk radio page. (The costume includes–contrary to Edna “E” Mode’s strict edict–a cape.) On Twitter, the gray circular head is completely featureless. On Blogtalk, there is a feature: a moustache–19th century Irish bartender-ish.

    Can you imagine anyone caring to make an issue of this logo policy discrepancy? Tweeting “Vacula “says” anyone–male or female–can be a #BraveHero but doesn’t mention spectrum! Site logo has an identifiably masculine feature!” (Yeah, that’s under 140 characters.)

    And…this might take a little research, but I remember reading somewhere on the aacon13 hashtag that American Atheists had picked up–as part of the package–the tab for wifi in the session sites. If that doesn’t signal their prior intent for live tweeting, what would?

  41. jenBPhillips says

    I appreciate the reproduced JV @ #AAcon13 tweets here, but viewing them on his Twitter stream, accompanied by the photo of Vacula holding forth at a podium, really heightens the fail-laden “I AM A LEADER IN THE MOVEMENT–I AM!” vibe of it all.

  42. jenBPhillips says

    And please note, per hjhornbeck in comment 41, the “@” in my #48 doesn’t indicate that he was actually, you know, AT the conference.

  43. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    jenBPhillips wrote:

    I appreciate the reproduced JV @ #AAcon13 tweets here, but viewing them on his Twitter stream, accompanied by the photo of Vacula holding forth at a podium, really heightens the fail-laden “I AM A LEADER IN THE MOVEMENT–I AM!” vibe of it all.

    I suspect he bought his own podium to practice with at home.

  44. says

    I don’t even know how to describe what they’re doing or what their goal is. I do appreciate that there’s no line of argument so obviously wrong and idiotic that someone like Blackford won’t follow Vacula on it.

    The meaning of the rule is clear to anyone who has been to any public event this side of a movie theater in the last five years. But if you’ve been living under a rock, you might be able to discern the rule’s intent by looking at its purpose. From the AACon13 Code of Conduct:

    Please respect the sessions and the speakers. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, take conversations and noisy children outside the session room, and move to the center of your row to make room for other attendees.

    Emphasis mine. If 2/3 of the paragraph is about keeping the unnecessary noise to a minimum during speeches, and if the stated purpose of this part of the code of conduct is to show respect to the sessions and the speakers, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the goal is to keep the sounds and volume on your electronic devices turned to silent.

    It’s true that the rule could have been worded more specifically, “turn off” being largely a relic of a pre-smartphone, pre-texting age (or important when a lack of light is necessary, as in a movie theater). “Silence your electronic devices” has less room for ambiguity. If only they hadn’t carved this code of conduct into granite and permanently affixed it to the conference center, if only they’d had the foresight to build the possibility of change into these rules, so that ambiguities could be clarified and the code could be updated and changed as necessary, we wouldn’t be in–

    Sorry, what?


    “The Code of Conduct is a living document. We will adapt it as we learn from what works and what needs improvement. But the overall goal is to create fun, enjoyable, and safe conventions and conferences for everyone,” Silverman added.

    Well, nevermind then. I guess AA should thank Vacula for pointing out that, yes, there’s a place where the rules could be clearer, and hopefully that’ll change for next year. I look forward to Vacula’s next tweet campaign, where he tells ConAir that their hair dryer’s warning label says not to use it in the bathtub or shower, but is mum on the subject of jacuzzis and hot tubs, and that’s just asking for trouble!

    If you squint right, there’s an ambiguity in the code of conduct, in a portion that’s generally pretty irrelevant with regard to safety and harassment guidelines. It was easily clarified by asking. What was Vacula’s point in harping about it? “Look, these people aren’t following one rule, therefore all rules are meaningless”? “There’s some ambiguity in one part of this, therefore the whole thing’s worthless”? Someone may be spending too much time talking to creationists if they think that they can shove one wedge in one harassment policy in a place that doesn’t have anything to do with harassment and bring the entire anti-harassment campaign crumbling down. It’s ludicrous.

  45. nakarti says

    Pretty simple: Good atheist != good person. Bad atheist != bad person. They’re mutually independent, and A+ just wants good atheists to also be good people. By saying that’s divisive (technically it is: the atheist bad people don’t want to join, nor do the theist good people,) they’re trying to bash us with not wanting to be members. That’s like me hating on golfers because I don’t think golf is fun. (People do that too, I guess…)

  46. says

    Too bad Vacula and Blackford forgot how it all happened when American Atheists adopted a policy in the first place:

    Dave was one of the first people to commit to getting a policy in place. He volunteered the information that AA would be adopting a policy within hours of the suggestion being made and without being specifically contacted on the topic. As he explained on the call, AA had already been looking at policies because there was a report of a problem at the end of the last conference. There wasn’t a process in place then to deal with it, and Dave didn’t want to be caught unprepared again. I offer big kudos to him and to AA for being proactive about this.

    So, no, not rushed into place under pressure.

    It is meant to be a living document, with updates made as AA has conferences. It will be adjusted as necessary after the regional conference here in Minnesota in August. It will be adjusted as necessary after the regional conference in October (which location I missed and can’t immediately find). It will be adjusted as necessary after the national conference in March.

    Plenty of room to be updated if necessary because someone gets confused over the wording. We didn’t at the August conference, which a few of us live-tweeted, but if it happens, it happens. Policy’s got it covered.

  47. says

    I’m sure AA has already warmly thanked Vacula.

    Well whoever runs the Twitter handle was obviously happy at any attempt to clear the hash tag ->

    American Atheists ‏@AmericanAtheist 31 Mar
    .@hashspamkiller We are so grateful for your feed-Thank u, thank u, thank u for your RTs and effort to keep our con harassment-free #AAcon13

    So yeah I’d say they were not that happy at his hashtag spamming.


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