No “dialogue” to be had

Rebecca has a post about the fetish for “dialogue” which starts with some great tweets by Jeff Sharlet pointing out how stupid the fetish is.

What I keep saying. There is no “dialogue” to be had with people who just enjoy harassing people. They’re not confused or uninformed, they’re just people of that type, who have found a safe way to engage in harassy behavior without paying any social costs. That’s all. Normally adults have to give up that kind of thing, or displace it into more covert and disguised forms like office politics. They are very lucky to be alive now when it’s possible to go on acting like a pubescent shit for the rest of your life. Trying to have (let alone force) a “dialogue” with them is futile at best and yet more harassment at worst.

The last Sharlet tweet Rebecca quotes is very apt.

Well-intentioned liberals always ask how we can “educate” haters. Elite haters don’t need “education”; they need to be challenged.


Rebecca comments:

Can I get an a-fucking-men?

Sharlet’s points are relevant to the continued harassment of women in the skeptic and atheist communities and the attempts by some to build bridges with harassers. One prime example is Michael Nugent, whose heart was surely in the right place when he began engaging with MRA harassers and then escalated to organizing a formal dialogue between Stephanie Zvan and a few mostly pseudonymous people who have no apparent objection to representing the “side” that harasses women. This dialogue was at the outset insulting to many of the women who are being harassed and almost immediately became arduous and confusing as well: “This is a response by Stephanie Zvan to the response by Skep Sheik to the first response by Stephanie Zvan to the Strand 1 Opening Statement by Jack Smith.”

If it had been someone like Stephanie herself organizing this “dialogue,” it would be bad enough, but the fact that it was organized by Nugent, a person who is completely unaffected by the actions of the harassers, and that he did it over the repeated objections of many of the women being harassed, is, as Sharlet says, the very definition of paternalistic.

I’m one of the women who repeatedly objected, and whom Nugent ignored. I thought at least the insults on Nugent’s blog had stopped now that the arduous and confusing “dialogue” had begun – but silly me, they hadn’t stopped at all. I just looked at Nugent’s blog for the first time in weeks and the insults were still rolling in as late as May 6. I wouldn’t even call that paternalistic, actually, because it’s so obviously not in any way a good thing for the women being harassed. I don’t see any reason to think Nugent thinks it is a good thing for us; he thinks it’s a good thing for Atheist Ireland and the atheist movement, which are being torn asunder by the deep rifts. He’s trying to bridge the rifts and he’s doing it at our expense and without (ironically) engaging in “dialogue” with us.


  1. A Hermit says

    I was actually supportive of Nugent’s efforts to begin with; I think his heart was in the right place. If nothing else I thought it might pry a few fence sitters into acknowledging there’s a problem. and expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the whole Slymepit idea. Take away the use of slurs and insults and what have they got left?

    In the end it hasn’t amounted to much of anything, although I think Stephanie did a good job of dealing with their nonsense. Which eventually just got her called a “fat twat” by one of team Slymepit’s representatives. Kind of sums up it all up…

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    After reading Sharlet’s books, and some of his articles in Harper’s and elsewhere, I’ve come to think of him as the most empathetic and caring of all the journalists covering the Religious Right.

    When the man who can make even a callow hardass like myself sympathize with people like Kurt Wise and Ted Haggard’s obedient son says that a given group of people are beyond any chance of communication, no hope at all remains for said group.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    A Hermit @ # 2: Which eventually just got her called a “fat twat” by one of team Slymepit’s representatives.

    Gee, all these years, the Gnu Atheists have been misspelling “Fatwa Envy”….

  4. Ulysses says

    I had noticed that Nugent’s “dialogue” had fallen by the wayside. Not that I was surprised.

  5. says

    This dialogue fetish is weird, isn’t it, and creepy. “You called me an ugly cunt, now why did you call me that?” You might need truth and reconciliation hearings in South Africa to avert civil war and get the country moving on again after the end of apartheid, but why should that kind of thinking be applied in this case? What is the ultimate greater good gained supposed to be?

    Sometimes sworn enemies will have to co-operate because they do need to be in alliance. Cory Aquino, for instance, in the Philippines, picked up with some of her murdered husband’s enemies as she needed their help against Marcos. That happens a lot in politics. But to what end should Ophelia and the rest shake friendly hands with mad obsessives who seem to have no rational goal of their own in their mad obsession?

    Soldiers who were enemies can acknowledge that they were each fighting for their country and become friends. But you can’t become friends with someone whose only relationship to you was tormenting you.

  6. 'dirigible says

    “Well-intentioned liberals”

    Ew. Liberals. I’d hate to be one of those guys.

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