You may be aware that Dave Silverman went on “Brave Hero” radio yesterday to give some advice about how to be a good activist instead of a dedicated shit-flinger. It was an interesting listen.

The pushback went into indignant overdrive before the show even started, and is no doubt still roaring and raging now.

PZ even ventured into the chatroom there; he reports on it at Pharyngula.

I was in the chatroom for the show, and it was like being in a mob of baboons. They were barking mad and raving — rather than arguing for Vacula, their approach was solely one of throwing around false equivalencies, in particular, demanding that Silverman denounce me as severely as he was the slymers (this was before I’d even logged in. Silverman was not there to talk about me, it was a debate between Silverman and Vacula, but Vacula and his cronies did an awful lot of yelling about me.) It ended up with a bunch of them just typing in all caps that I SUPPORT TENTACLE RAPE, and that I HATE ATHEISTS IN THE MILITARY, so I left.

It was ridiculous. Here, I’ll make it easy for everyone: let’s stipulate that I’m an evil, lecherous old man, creepy and horrible, far worse than anyone on the slymepit; Pharyngula is a hotbed of wickedness, all the commenters here are demonic (sorry); and that everything I’ve ever done has been irredeemably destructive to atheism, skepticism, science, and the American way. OK? Call me the Atheist Satan.

Now, what the heck does that have to do with the Silverman/Vacula discussion? How does it excuse fake twitter accounts, rape threats, bad photoshops, a multi-year campaign of denigration against Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Amanda Marcotte, Jennifer McCreight, and basically anyone who argues that the atheist movement ought to support greater equality? How does it justify Vacula acting as a representative for A Voice For Men at conferences advocating for greater support for women in secularism, a cause he opposes?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Perhaps someone does.

There was quite a lot of discussion of the photoshop of our atheist solidarity picture – a picture for Maryam to send to the persecuted atheists in Bangladesh – which Reap Paden turned into a picture of us declaring our love for Vacula. Lots of jeering and sneering about “slacktivism” and how hard it was to read our signs. Reap Paden should go tell Maryam what a “slacktivist” she is.

Stephanie has another excerpt that demonstrates their willingness to crap on any project at all as long as it’s one of ours.

ReapSowRadio: I have a sound bite where it sounds like she says “I have a nice cock”

ElizaSutton: LOL he says infighting & egos affects small groups (not large groups????)

ReapSowRadio: is he on sephanie zvan’s high school project she calls a radio show?

ElizaSutton: “we love Amanda here” (said about Amanda Kneif, by Zvan) – how often would a male staffer be referred to that way?  (I’m not saying it’s BAD, I’m saying it’s a casual manner in which people more often refer women than men, esp in jobs)

ElizaSutton: Jewelry ad.  Restaurant ad prominently featuring gluten-containing foods.

ReapSowRadio: Im going to Write a review of Atheists Talk…They asked me to!  On the website. I’ve listened to lots of their shows.

zenbabe: Grats Reap :)

ReapSowRadio: It s no big deal  really  anyone can do it :$

ElizaSutton: Reap – you serious?  “they” asked you to?  Woot!

ReapSowRadio: well the website aksed me to …that counts right?

ElizaSutton: LOL we’ll take it

Stephanie comments:

LOL. Yeah.

We’ll take a radio show that does long-form interviews of activists, scientists, artists, and scholars, a show that supports a community of atheists and humanists, a show that a team of volunteers sinks a lot of time into, and we’ll have it reviewed by a guy who’s tickled that he has an audio clip that sort of makes it sound like I said something I didn’t say. Yeah, let’s encourage bad reviews for the lulz!

All because I work on the show.

If you wondered at all why Dave Silverman took such a strong stand against what’s going on with that crowd, there’s all the answer you need. Listen to a show with me talking to Dave Silverman about American Atheists and the general state of the atheist movement and feel moved to prevent other people from listening to the show. Because I work on the show. Because that’s how you make the movement better.



Allies? Not so much.


  1. says

    Noticed this morning that the Brave Heroes — the fearless-behind-anonymity, indefatigable creators of spoof Twitter accounts with the express purpose of harassing sane folks like Ophelia and Rebecca — are out in force, doing what they do best, harass, hurl abusive invectives, and display all the characteristic behaviors of nasty playground bullies.

  2. maudell says

    I was ticked off that Silverman accepted to go on his show, but I think he did a great job. I was afraid he would get all accommodationist, validating a false “2 sides of the argument” dichotomy. Even people like Daniel Fincke, who is ultimately against harassment, ended up taking a “let’s have a debate to determine whether women are as valuable as men” attitude that deeply bothers me.
    I know some think Silverman should have been harsher, but it seems to me that he does have limits as the leader of an organization. I’m not sure if my assessment is valid at all; it might be different if I were the target of harassment like Ophelia is. But as it is now, I’m very happy the leader of American Atheist took an unequivocal stand against harassment, without compromise. I was expecting him to take the ‘let harassers and harassed hold hands and debate creationists’ avenue. Oh, and Karla Porter’s statement “as a PR professional” that Silverman was not being leader-like was pretty funny.
    Still, it’s pretty depressing for me to feel like I should *thank* the leader of an organization for declaring publicly that my gender doesn’t warrant harassment. Has that become a real courageous and controversial thing to say? Bleah.

    Reap Paden should go tell Maryam what a “slacktivist” she is.

    Funniest thing I’ve read today.

  3. says

    I think so too.

    Another hilarious item is that team JV are outraged that he was so sweary. Omg he said “shit” a lot!!

    As if it were actual radio or even network tv, where that’s ill-advised, instead of some random guy’s “radio” show. Also as if saying “shit” were the same kind of thing as calling people “cunt” – or in fact worse than that.

  4. smhll says

    Even people like Daniel Fincke, who is ultimately against harassment, ended up taking a “let’s have a debate to determine whether women are as valuable as men” attitude that deeply bothers me.

    (I haven’t heard the Silverman discussion yet, so let me veer back to the one with Fincke.)

    I understand the attitude that free speech and free inquiry should be sweepingly absolute and cover everything. However, when individuals do not just defend the right to talk about everything, but seem to have a strong personal desire to dwell a lot on the possibility that everyone who isn’t them just might be inferior then it is difficult for me to avoid drawing inferences about their character based on the special debate topics that seem to fascinate them.


  5. says

    On Vacula’s blog they are denouncing Dan Fincke as “loud and aggressive” as well as Silverman, hence poor Justin was drowned out by the horrible bullies. Boy are they straining for explanations for the boy wonders failure to perform when they call Dan that. I’d hate to see him come up against someone really aggressive…

  6. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    One of Silverman’s most effective attributes is that he speaks with power and candor. He doesn’t speak in typical CEO style, where outrage is transmuted into “disappointment” and indignation becomes “concern.” He says “shit” when it’s needed, and fuck too.

    This is so radically different from what you get from the leaders of most organizations it stands out. More of that please. Vacula’s whimpering about it is clutching at straws. These are people who can’t handle content and cling to form as an arbiter of what’s Good and UnGood.

    Also, I shuddered to think of it, but I actually listened to the podcast. You really should just to hear a)How pathetic ill equipped and vacant Justin is b) How a real professional deals with lies and dissembling. Hint-It does not involve “I know you see it that way, but consider” or “That’s unfortunate.”

  7. says

    Josh, it’s true. That’s why – as I keep saying to the point of tedium – he’s so effective when he goes up against O’Reilly.

    I’m sure a lot of the slime team think that’s what they’re doing by calling us cunts all the time. They’re wrong about that.

  8. Sili says

    I presume it’s some sorta attempt to show as being inconsistent when we’re not examining our gluten privilege.

  9. says

    Yay for Dave. Again.

    Actually I was quite hopeful after the “Vacula must denounce” exchange, since especially Dave can cope with Bill O’Reilly. After this, I’m wondering whether it makes sense to join American Atheists even though I’m a Brit living in Spain.

  10. leni says

    In the link to Silverman’s tweet that Jacques Rousseau posted above, Justin once again reveals why he is not leadership material.:

    I don’t support that image. Don’t see as ‘problem’ in mvt from this.

    Translation: “I don’t give a fuck about bullying in my movement, I’m going to turn a blind eye to it, but you should consider me leadership material anyway.”

    Even if those things were done by trolling theists (or whatever the conspiracy theory is) it is a problem for the movement, particularly if they are using your space to do it and making you look bad in the process.

    And if you don’t care that your erstwhile allies are getting treated this way, then you are not good leadership material. If you don’t care that your peers are behaving this way, then you are not good leadership material. At this point I think it’s safe to say that Vacula has made the most convincing and effective arguments for why he is not good leadership material. There isn’t much left to say except “Thank you, Justin, for helping us dodge the bullet that is you.”

  11. says

    Sheila – it probably does.

    Dave tweeted after The Day of the Tweets that he’d gotten home from a movie with the family to find a TON of new memberships and donations in his Inbox. Yeah. We are not few in number.

  12. says

    The restaurant they’re inventing complaints about (so typical of them–they don’t know a thing about it, so they imagine things to argue over) is Q. Cumbers, a buffet restaurant in Bloomington that has been a long time supporter of Minnesota Atheists. It’s a good place, a large and diverse buffet that provides a lot of healthy food. We go there regularly when we’re in the Twin Cities — you can easily go entirely gluten-free if you want. I like it because I can get a whole big plate of nothing but fruit and salad.

    It’s not far from CONvergence, by the way, so if any of you are going to that con and want to get away from it a bit, it’s not far, and I recommend it highly.

  13. Sili says

    You don’t understand, PeeZed. It doesn’t matter what’s on the menu. Their ad made it perfectly clear that they cater only to normals, gluten intolerants should just stay away like the hideous freaks of nature that they are.


  14. says

    I remain perplexed by the gluten reference. It’s just so amusingly random.

    I thought Silverman did a great job. I think it was good that he approached it as an effort to help Vacula climb out of the hole he’s dug for himself. I had the sense that he does genuinely want everyone to be strong and effective activists, and is really concerned to help Vacula change course. I’m not sure how successful it’ll be.* “The shit” is now part of his identity and standing with that crowd, and those familiar with his actions – especially his targets – would take a long time, in the best of circumstances, to forget. But however things look to him now, he should realize that Silverman’s right: in addition to hurting other people and the movement, he’s hurting himself. I hope he does eventually take Silverman up on his offer to help.

    *It was successful in sending a clear message about the values and competence of the AA leadership.

  15. evilDoug says

    …a mob of baboons


    We are not few in number.

    Come, Mister tally man, tally up de baa-boon. Something I have long wondered is just how many there are “over there.”

    Reap Paden should go tell Maryam what a “slacktivist” she is.

    Every time I think of what that slime paden did, I get a little more angry. Is he just a complete and total asshole, or is he actually pathologically incapable of understanding that something as simple as a group of people taking a little time to send a “you are not forgotten” to someone in a desperate situation might big a big morale boost? I guess when you expend your energies in destructive, being constructive would seem out of place.

  16. kellym says

    Ophelia @18

    Dave tweeted after The Day of the Tweets that he’d gotten home from a movie with the family to find a TON of new memberships and donations in his Inbox. Yeah. We are not few in number.

    I wrote in my letter to CFI that if Silverman keeps up with his sincerity and effectiveness against the hate directed at women, that I would buy an American Atheists lifetime membership. I also wrote that I’m taking a wait-and-see stance until I’m convinced. Lindsay is one of the ones who made me cynical. His essay for Amy’s Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women was awesome – but now I don’t think he meant what he wrote. So I’m waiting.

  17. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    It’s not far from CONvergence, by the way, so if any of you are going to that con and want to get away from it a bit, it’s not far, and I recommend it highly.

    Also in Bloomington is one of the best Chinese food places I’ve ever eaten at. It’s called Grand Szechuan. Super good. Hen hao chi.

  18. latsot says

    Reap Paden should go tell Maryam what a “slacktivist” she is.

    Yeah, I’d pay to watch that.

  19. double-m says

    Okay, question from an unenlightened person whose time on the internet is limited by annoying real-life affairs. I stopped visiting most secular websites some time ago, and I’ve only recently resumed reading them. Since then, this is the umpteenth time I’ ve read about someone called “Vacula”. Who the hell is this guy and what makes him such a central topic for the secular community?

    A quick google search on the name turns up what seems to be a fairly standard secularist blog, social media, and a bunch of pages all of whom either passionately condemn or passionately support the man, but none of which explain what this is actually all about. I get it that he’s a white male, and that a lot of white males and females have strong opinions about him (strangely, I haven’t been able to find anything about him from people of color, but perhaps I haven’t been looking hard enough).

    Can someone please explain why this man appears to be more important than supporting FEMEN, building an infrastructure to, say, shelter Atheists, who come out, from their vindictive fundamentalist families, discussing community work based on Humanist principles and so on? Maybe a link to a webpage that summarizes what this is about? Perhaps something to dispel the notion that the secular internet community is still a place where white, culturally Christian, middle-class people feud with each other, and therefore the wrong place for a non-white, non-male, non-mainstream-background Atheist like me?

    Apologies for the angry undertone of my comment, and apologies to Ophelia for asking the question on her blog, but it’s frustrating to see that apparently nothing has changed (I’d like nothing more than to be corrected on this). If I have to read all this stuff about Mr. Vacula, whoever he may be, I’d at least like to know why I’m reading it.

  20. says

    I was also dizzied by this line:

    ReapSowRadio: is he on sephanie zvan’s high school project she calls a radio show?

    He… he… is having a go at Stephanie Zvan’s show on professionalism grounds?

    Aside from the fact that only one of these two shows is actually broadcast on radio, and the name is not a clue, do we really need to compare and contrast? That’s before you even get to the point of listening to the audio. (In his case, don’t. It didn’t even reach the low standards I expected and turned off before they’d finished their opening remarks.)

    I’d also be curious about listener stats. Perhaps he may have a comparable listener base — the world has no shortage of jerks, after all — but I doubt it.

    It just amazes me that of all the people and all of the topics he could choose to snipe at, he chose that.

  21. says

    SC #21:

    I remain perplexed by the gluten reference. It’s just so amusingly random.

    Not really. From Stephanie’s little pre-show chat excerpt:

    ElizaSutton: FWIW, ads on MN Atheist radio all sound white, retail ads appeal to standard middle & upper class (fireplace inserts, restaurants, etc) and I THINK I just heard one that said “if you want to appeal to intelligent [atheists]…advertise w/ us”

    Out of context, it seems random. In context, this is part of what I call The “GOAL!” School Of Debate: discussions aren’t about coming to sound and valid conclusions, but rather about scoring “goals” by making your opponent somehow look inconsistent, hypocritical, or otherwise “weak”. To them, ad hominem is fair game — in fact, it’s really the basis of their debate style to use these little irrelevancies as implicit ad-hom attacks on “social justice cred” or “skeptic cred” or something like it.

    It applies to denialists in general. There’s a related thing where denialists will respond to your citation against their claim with something, anything possibly supporting their claim as though that somehow ‘cancels’ your debunking even if it doesn’t address it at all, but that’s more of a bottom-barrel-conspiracist tactic (I get it a lot dealing with anti-GMO folk) and probably too obviously shitty for the Sophisticated Slymepit.

  22. says

    Oh, yeah. “GOAL!” is like that, because when the tactic is in use the user will make a huge show of the “point” they just made, pointing at it and screaming about it like an athlete who has just scored a questionable (ie it might or might not count) goal. If you try to move past it they will dig in their heels and refuse to continue the relevant debate until you follow them down the rabbit hole to inevitably find nothing.

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