One of these things is not like the other


[blackbirdpie url=”″]

  1. It wasn’t year long. It was season long – summer 2009. It was about four months, June through September, while the promotion of Unscientific America was in high gear.
  2. It wasn’t incessant. It responded to articles Mooney, or Mooney and his co-author Sheryl Kirshenbaum, wrote attacking “new atheists.”
  3. It lacked a number of features of the harassment campaign that Stangroom is minimizing by tweeting this.

Still. I get that it probably felt like bullying and harassment to them, so in that sense perhaps it was. On the other hand Mooney was a Name at the time, in the wake of the success of his best-seller The Republican War on Science. He was able to get articles published in a lot of very visible mainstream outlets. He made new accusations about “new atheists” each time. I still don’t think it was particularly unfair for bloggers to respond to the accusations. I get that Mooney sees it differently though.

So I should be able to see the same thing about the people who harass me every day, right?

No. Because the two are not comparable. Thanks anyway.


  1. A Hermit says

    Yeah, I remember all the fun we had photoshopping Mooney’s head on to animals and joking about his genitals and mocking his physical appearance and personal hygiene and impersonating him in public forums …

    Oh wait…that never happened; I must be getting it confused with those college parties in my youth…

  2. says

    There was my calling them the Colgate Twins. That was meant as a joke about their self-presentation as a couple of sweet grinning kids…but in the light of the later stuff I did come to see it as mean, and thus bad. But I said that. I said that a long time ago – like, two years ago. Other than that, I don’t think what I did was comparable. JS thinks it was comparable because of the relentless quality. But that was because Mooney’s articles were also relentless – and part of an existing nasty and illiberal backlash against new atheists.

    Mind you, I’m a lot less inclined to defend new atheists these days, because of the overlap between new atheism and new sexism. But in 2009 that was not obvious.

  3. says

    I think I remember that I said that he was wrong and being sort of dumb and self-serving at the expense of others. A lot of people had a similar opinion of the stuff he wrote. No one followed him around slinging horrible insults at him, no one made up lies about his personal life or made threats against him.

    It is weird and yet totally unsurprising that privileged upper-class academic types have an incredibly low tolerance for criticism of themselves and their peers, while being able to support almost anything done to people who dare challenge their unearned sense of entitlement.

  4. embertine says

    While I do agree there is a tiny bit of a point there, in that I was pretty disgusted with some of the reactions to Kirshenbaum and Mooney at the time, the two are in no way comparable and to conflate them is disingenuous at best.

    Interestingly, the blogger who made me roll my eyes most frequently during Mooneygate* is the patron goddess of the slymepit. Plus ça change… etc….

    *No, I will never stop appending things with “-gate”. It amuses me.

  5. says

    Right, and remember when Sheryl Kirshenbaum wrote about sexism she’d encountered, and we got all hyperskeptical and insisted she was making it all up, and then called her a “cunt”?

    Yeah, that never happened either.

    I also recall that Chris Mooney wrote a book in which two chapters specifically vilified me. You’ll find that most of the “year long campaign of vilification” (which wasn’t a year) was an ongoing argument about the value of framing, not whether Mooney was an evil mangina.

  6. says

    embertine – Oh that’s a point. I’d forgotten that, although I remembered it when all this started (again, it was two years ago). She made me flinch sometimes, but I’m guilty of publicly laughing at at least one of her jokes, so that’s another bad mark.

  7. Z says

    Well, there was Abbie Smith and her “Mooneytits”, which also resurfaced when Kirshenbaum complained about sexual harassment some time later… Given that and Smith’s reaction to “Pepsigate”, no-one should have been surprised at the role she played in the later events.

  8. says

    I’m struggling to think of a well thought out blog post that dissects something Ophelia has said in one of her pieces. I’ve been reading Free Inquiry and again nothing written there is disagreed with that I know of, apart from the Shermer stuff, but there even its more nitpicking tone rather than content. Pretty much all the “criticism” from the other “side” is aimed at her handling of them talking about her, photoshopping, tweeting insults and childishness aimed at her… Otherwise known as harassment.

    Its not like she gets into a back and forth like Avicenna has with Rebecca Bradley and JudgyBitch on his blog. Unless I’m missing something Damions “Everything!” post is pretty much the only one recently that tackled something substantive she said in a post and came close to that. I won’t comment on how good the criticism was but I bet Ophelia would be happy to deal with civil or even uncivil criticism of her work rather than herself.

    So it seems that either they don’t have very much against Ophelias writing or its something else that is objectionable… Another option is I suppose they do have a problem with her writing but its much easier to fling insults than actually tackle any substance of what she says. Why does she not deserve the same treatment that Chris Mooney got and her actual thoughts and ideas laid down in articles and blog posts are attacked rather than getting personal attacks?

  9. Z says

    Damn, did it really take me 10 minutes to research and post that comment? 🙁 There were only three when I started it.

  10. says

    And what PZ said, too.

    The vilification of PZ in a highly-publicized book could of course also be seen as “bullying or harassment,” couldn’t it – especially since what they wrote about him was highly loaded and selective. Shock-horror about a violent attack on a communion wafer, with a very incomplete account of the reasons for it.

  11. embertine says

    Precisely, OB and Z. I didn’t like the making childish nicknames out of people names, and questioning Kirshenbaum’s experiences, and.. OH WAIT WHERE HAVE WE SEEN THAT RECENTLY.

    Yeah, so not a new pattern of behaviour so much.

  12. Sili says

    I’m certainly guilty of the mocking nicknames thing.

    In all likelihood I used “Mooneytits” at the time. I think I settled for “Mooneybaum” at some point.

  13. says

    Another important difference, is that the backlash against Mooney was largely reactive. Mooney would write an article attacking someone, that person would hit back, and then it would end. There was no “long campaign”. Weeks (perhaps months) could pass with absolutely nothing happening.

    I notice that out favorite compulsive liar also weighed in:

    Tim Skellett ‏@Gurdur:

    @PhilosophyExp Good point. Although I remember me pointing that out at the time. Which is one reason the FTBers hate my guts. @pogsurf

    He didn’t mention his enthusiastic support for Wally Smith’s libel campaign.

  14. embertine says

    I think I settled for “Mooneybaum” at some point.

    Portmanteaus are only offensive to the English language. Plus this one sounds like a character from a Swedish children’s book. And now I’m singing the song. Dammit.

  15. Pierce R. Butler says

    Improbable Joe… @ # 3: … no one made up lies about his personal life …

    A rumor apparently went around that Mooney was romantically involved with Kirshenbaum (rather than just her writing partner), but I got the impression that was just the usual gossip that follows any heterosexual pair, and not intended maliciously (though I see no reason to doubt both their protestations that it caused pain in their individual personal relationships).

    Has Stangroom had anything to say about how M & K banned the string of letters “o-p-h-e-l-i-a” from all comments on their blog?

  16. says

    Mooney & Kirshenbaum used the platform of their book release to lie[1] about PZ Myers & crackergate by elision (leaving out the campaign to get Webster Cook expelled[2] and intentionally missing/obscuring the point of the action–hilarious in light of their complaint that PZ didn’t get the point of their Pluto chapter[3]). It wasn’t about promoting science, it was about attacking the notion that symbols and objects are more important than human lives. It was definitely disrespectful. That was the point. You know what’s more disrespectful? Threatening to kill someone for not eating a magic cracker.

    That said, Mooney and Kirshenbaum wouldn’t deserve harassment, though I really don’t think “critiques of your book” constitute that. On the other hand, there was a lot of name-calling, and I can imagine that their comment threads probably got pretty ugly. Someone should definitely censure & call out whoever came up with the sexist “Mooneytits” and “Cockenbaum” nicknames, for sure. Is that person an FTBlogger, I wonder?


    So, just to be clear, the Pitters are defending the people who told atheists not “shut up and listen” but ‘shut up forever and stop upsetting the religious and you’re the ones who are setting scientific literacy back.’

    1: Link
    2: Link
    3: Link

  17. says

    The two are entirely different.

    As several people have noted, most of the discussion of Mooney was reactive in nature. The only ones close to a campaign of harassment in that context were a) YNH* and its relentless attacks on gnus, including misogynistic comments concerning Ophelia, and b) Stangroom, who loved to jump in with Rosenau, Mooney, Stedman’s guest bloggers, or whoever if it could advance his dishonest and vicious campaign against Ophelia and other gnu atheists.

    *And it’s worth noting that Mooney happily hosted that whole lying sock brigade and even made a post out of a fabricated story from an anonymous source, calling it “Exhibit A” in the case against gnus (which still makes me giggle – he’d been making this argument for months at that point, including in a book, and was still clueless enough to refer to it as “Exhibit A“…and then it turned out to be fraudulent). Those comments were highly appreciated by the other obsessive regular commenters at his blog, like Ramsey and McCarthy.

  18. lpetrich says

    “Mooneytits” from a *woman*? Did Abbie Smith also slam Chris Mooney as a male bimbo? I’m surprised that certain men in the atheist / skeptic movement don’t get called male bimbos and the like, even though one might imagine that from their appearance.

  19. Stacy says

    Leaving aside the glaring and obvious distinctions between the nastiness directed at Chris and Sheril four years ago and this ongoing campaign of (much nastier) harassment, what is Stangroom’s point, exactly?

    Is it, “tu quoque”? ‘Cause they tell me that’s an informal fallacy, Mr. Philosophy Expert.

    Or is it “vilification is fine, now shut up”?

    If he’s simply accusing us of hypocrisy, well: tu quoque to you tu, buddy. If you disapproved of the vilification of Mooney and Kirshenbaum, why haven’t you spoken out on the relentless and much viler vilification going on now?

  20. deepak shetty says

    Im having the same problem attempting to parse Stangroom’s remark. Stangroom evidently did feel (from what I remember) that Mooney was treated badly so why is he on the other side now?

  21. Martha says

    Mind you, I’m a lot less inclined to defend new atheists these days, because of the overlap between new atheism and new sexism. But in 2009 that was not obvious.

    I wasn’t around for the new atheist wars, so while I have a reasonable grasp of the main points of contention, it’s really hard to imagine how the battle lines were drawn. I guess Richard Dawkins was always the face of New Atheism for me, and the same smugness and insensitivity that was oh-so-visible in the Dear Muslima letter always annoyed me when I read his writings about religion. It’s taken me some time to get past my annoyance to realize that there are areas– apart from a lack of belief in a deity– in which I agree with him. I suspect I have a hair-line trigger for male academic self-satisfaction, which is probably not exactly a good thing…

    Anyway, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who can admit that they’ve made a mistake could possibly be involved in a campaign of harassment like that pitters have put on. That involves self-reflection, insight, and humility, and I’ve seen no evidence of these qualities in their rantings writings.

  22. Martha says

    that probably should have said “in addition to a lack of belief in a deity” rather than “apart from”

  23. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    That’s one of the shit side effects of this crap: The Gnu Atheist wars *were* legitimate. Dawkins and co. were RIGHT about the overweening privilege religion enjoys. They were RIGHT that it was time to stop accommodating and namby-pambying around. The Mooneys, Stedmans, Kirshenbaums, and others were most definitely NOT friends of secularism or atheism if that meant atheists speaking as candidly as they would about any other bullshit.

    They actively vilified people who legitimately didn’t deserve it (including Dawkins), they mischaracterized positions, they hosted space for people to tell lies and birth sock puppets, and they affected a grievous woundedness when they were called out on being duplicitious bullshitters who’d throw their friends under the bus for a spot on the front page of HuffPo.

    That’s real. That happened. There was nothing “civil” about it. Those folks who want the feminists to pipe down? That was the Mooney faction over gnu atheists. No, the Big Names didn’t cunt or twat at anyone that I can recall. They just lied and sold people up the river with Savvy Political Smarts and Smiles.

    Please don’t forget that. Do NOT let the bad actions of Dawkins and Company today retroactively salvage the contemptible behavior of the accommodationists.

  24. says

    Deepak – the only explanation I can come up with is that he thinks the current harassment campaign is deserved because Mooney. Which would be odd (if that is the explanation) not only because it’s odd to think Xbadthing deserves Xbadthing times a million, but also because another of his Twitter themes is about how terrible retribution is, and how putative liberals are always doing it.

  25. says

    Tom Foss:

    So, just to be clear, the Pitters are defending the people who told atheists not “shut up and listen” but ‘shut up forever and stop upsetting the religious and you’re the ones who are setting scientific literacy back.’

    It’s not that simple. Many of the Slymers are (or were) anti-accommodationists. For example, in your first link, there’s a comment laying into Mooney and Kirshenbaum, from slymepitter Michael Kingsford Gray.

  26. says

    Hyperdeath, yes, but even the anti-accommodationist ‘Pitters have adopted the standard accommodationist talking points re: PZ & Ophelia. Pharyngula is a hive-mind, the commenters are rabid and abusive, PZ has too much clout, it was better when he just posted about science, etc. And much the same re: Ophelia.

    It’s become clear in recent years that some of the anti-accommodationists were trying to make points and say things about religious privilege and atheist visibility and the value of using harsh language and blunt statements to make a point, and the importance of a variety of voices and tactics to accomplish similar goals. And some of the anti-accommodationists, it seems, were just defending their right to fling insults and abusive language without repercussions.


    “Mooneytits” from a *woman*?

    I remembered there being a big to-do on ERV back in the day about Abbie telling someone “Tits or GTFO,” and mistakenly remembered it being about Sheril Kirshenbaum. It was instead directed toward a female creationist who’d made claims in a blog comment section, and this was Abbie’s charming way of saying “put up or shut up.” Afterward, according to my quick google adventure earlier today, “-tits” became a suffix attached to certain names (Mooney’s, Casey Luskin’s) to indicate people who had made claims and had not supported them. Or something.

    “Cockenbaum,” I don’t get.

  27. says

    I can’t quite figure out Stangroom’s purpose here, given that several of his new friends were among the targets and most vocal critics of Mooney back then, and were at that time targets, along with Ophelia, of Stangroom’s. Everything he does seems to grow out of a seething resentment of Ophelia,* but has he thought this through? Is he hoping to rally all of the other gnus against her (and PZ)? If so, it doesn’t seem very sharp to try to do so by reminding them that he recently went after them with the same dishonest vehemence he’s now going after feminists.

    *For some utterly mysterious reason. Not that there is any justification for hating Ophelia, but he’s never even tried to offer an implausible pretext. The campaign against her is just there, like he was born with this deep hostility.

  28. says

    Everything he does seems to grow out of a seething resentment of Ophelia

    And a seething resentment of PZ Myers. In 2011, Stangroom went on a posting binge about how ghastly the new atheists were. PZ hit back the hardest, and Stangroom has never forgiven him for it.

  29. says

    Stacy – oh, I know you did, and I laughed noisily at “well: tu quoque to you tu, buddy.” I don’t know why I addressed Deepak and not also you. Possibly because your question was second person and his was third? Or only because I was rushing. I dunno.

  30. says

    SC – Stangroom’s hatred or seething resentment of me stems from the Summer of Mooney. He has at least been consistent about that. He always thought I was a bully, and he thought I was such a terrible bully to Mooney that he had to cut all ties to B&W etc (except for the domain, which he retains to this day, thus making all the old links to B&W useless – they go to his website instead). As you say, for awhile that manifested as loathing of “new” atheism and now it manifests as loathing of FTB, Women in Secularism, feminists who don’t have PhDs in sociology, feminists who are ugly, etc.

  31. says

    I did a whois search on Guess when Stangroom last re-registered the domain? Today. It’s not just a case of “I don’t care”. It’s continued spite.

    The notion of you working together is bizarre. How did you actually meet one another?

  32. says

    I’m wondering whether I should buy the book you and Stangroom did together. Do you get a cut of that? Or was it “work for hire”, as it were?

  33. says

    hd – oh, I know. (Though I didn’t know he re-registered today!) The refusal to hand over the domain is very deliberate. It’s all the more spiteful since he had been saying all along he planned to hand it over to me because B&W was “morally” mine since I provided all the content. (Then again he also said all along he was putting it off because it was so difficult to do. Josh Larios, who took over the webmastering, told me that was bullshit, it’s not difficult at all. Ho hum.)

    Kevin – well if you want the book, you should, by all means. I do get a cut, yes. Not for hire at all: definitely co-authoring. We both get royalties.

  34. deepak shetty says

    Ophelia prefers me – mwah ha ha ha. I thought your comment pretty much covered all bases though.

  35. deepak shetty says

    @Tom Foss
    “Cockenbaum,” I don’t get.
    I believe I had once asked that wasnt Mooneytits sexist (since I had thought it meant Mooney + Sheril) – ERV had replied that Mooneytits was only meant for mooney and since they had to balance it out they had come up with Cockenbaum for Sheril – hence not sexist -Ophelia disagreed with the not sexist claim as far as I remember – My memory is pretty poor and a quick google didnt get me results so take that with a pinch of salt.

  36. says

    He always thought I was a bully

    wait, always”? didn’t you write a couple books together?

    Sorry if this just comes over as nitpicking over words, but I’m actually curious whether “always” is actually true, or whether that started after the books at some point, and why

  37. says

    loathing of FTB, Women in Secularism, feminists who don’t have PhDs in sociology, feminists who are ugly, etc.I know this is basically a “things associated with Ophelia” list, but I doubt he’d like feminists with PhD’s in sociology much either, seeing as he seems to despise and misunderstand many contemporary sociological ideas

  38. says

    Stangroom, ugh. Best example of a spiteful little pseudo-name ever – one of his recent tweets was boosting a freakin D. Reinhardt article about “why we should support Ron Lindsay.” He sure is ticking all the boxes of “old white guy bingo” – a couple more and I’m sure They will let him join their secret club.

    As for Mooney, well – as already said, if he didn’t (seemingly) go out of his way to misrepresent people or their positions or to omit crucial facts (not to mention the embarrassment of him citing the “You’re Not Helping” sockpuppet as evidence for atheist nastiness or intolerance or whatever) I doubt he would’ve attracted the criticism and, unfortunately, unwarranted insults that he (and Kirshenbaum) did. BTW & IIRC, it wasn’t a FtB member who even coined “Mooneytits” was it? If not invented by her, it was at least adopted and popularised by that paragon of virtue, the Pit-Mother, ERV.

    But as Stangroom conveniently omits, the “campaign” against Mooney was both a specific reaction to his work and came to an end when he stopped publishing things about “New Atheists” that were wrong, misleading or just plain boneheaded (see “You’re Not Helping). Just as the “campaign” against Stangroom is actually a reaction to his constant minimising of others’ harassment experiences and apologising for/enabling sexists and misogynists. And generally acting like a C-list wannabe.

    Stangroom: noone’s tweeting daily insults about/at Mooney, noone’s dedicated a forum to demonising him and his colleagues, noone’s named a twitter account “Polly-O” intended to constantly attack him for something he did years ago, noone’s made endless parody accounts, noone’s done anything remotely like the actual, observable, verifiable campaign of harassment, abuse, doc-dropping and threats that’s been levelled at Rebecca Watson, Ophelia, PZ and anyone on or off FtB who dares subscribe to such heresies as “women are equal in theory but not quite yet in practice”. Perhaps when Mooney stops publishing or hosting radio shows entirely due to a veritable flood of rape-mail you can claim equivalency. To do so now, while noone’s talking about Mooney and while the hate campaign continues against people who’ve actually done nothing wrong, is boneheaded and appears to be purposefully ignorant.

  39. jacksonp says

    Before another wrong fact gets propagated, this is the correct information about the domain and it’s registration times:

    Created On:12-Sep-2009 18:02:41 UTC
    Last Updated On:13-Sep-2012 01:28:43 UTC
    Expiration Date:12-Sep-2013 18:02:41 UTC

  40. Anthony K says

    I did a WHOIS search and got:

    Expires: 2016-06-09

  41. says

    Jacksonp, those dates are for the domain. That’s the domain that Ophelia uses currently, ever since Stangroom ran off with the original domain.

  42. says

    Jadehawk @ 40 – maybe not quite always but far back in B&W’s history. I didn’t know that until the rupture over the putative bullying of Mooney, though. He thought I was a bully to commenters etc.

  43. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    In this latest piece of rank, bush-league dishonesty, Stangroom reminds us that the first commandment of the Slymepit is “Thou shalt commit false equivalence”.

  44. says

    Don’t worry too much about attributing any kind of rational motives to what Stangroom is saying. By now, it is all personal. Same with Blackford.

  45. Sili says


    I’m wondering whether I should buy the book you and Stangroom did together. Do you get a cut of that? Or was it “work for hire”, as it were?

    Buy it used and donate directly to Ophelia.

  46. Sili says

    Just when I think they can’t possibly get stupider, they manage to snatch defeat from the claws of victory.

  47. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    So I should be able to see the same thing about the people who harass me every day, right?
    No. Because the two are not comparable. Thanks anyway.

    Well, that much is kinda true. What you’ve had to endure is so much worse theer’s not really much comparison anymore than there is between apples and oranges which are both fruit but pretty different!

    Although, y’know, I do think you should be able to say the same thing about your harassers except in even stronger language!

    Ophelia Benson – RESPECT – and best wishes. You deserve a lot better treatment than you get and these asswipes need to cut their crap and learn to just leave you alone.

  48. A. Noyd says

    Ophelia (#49)

    He thought I was a bully to commenters etc.

    I… what… how?! Or is it that thing where you’re forthright and a woman, therefore what you say is extra super mega intimidating and mean? Because I get that a good deal, myself.

  49. says

    I remain eternally unsurprised that there are creatures of Mooney’s cut in this world, and I expect it isn’t so much pessimism to predict there always will be. Religions have been and remain potent political and social instruments, so that they, too, create an incentive for the kinds of game he tried to play should surprise no one, I’d think.

    Stangroom I give some props to, tho’… Insofar as his gambit here actually does make me retch a bit, all the same. Can’t be jaded enough about this entirely to escape the reaction, apparently. Or maybe it’s the possibly too rosy view that he should damned well know better, recent evidence notwithstanding.

    Ah, yes, dear, poor Mooney. All he wanted was for anyone making actually meaningful and direct critiques of religious cosmologies and religious power to shut the hell up, get the ‘dialog’ back to a tapioca slurry of effective meaninglessness and ineffectuality generally established as norms at genteel dinner parties. So the methods used in this effort were typically transparently dishonest and might have made the editorial staff of such a bastion of respectable journalism as The Weekly World News blush. What’s the harm? All he was doing was justly shivving a few philistines who failed to show proper respect to those dreadfully important rules. That established religions are really pretty happy with those rules, really pretty happy with invisible unbelievers, or at best unbelievers who only talk to each other in abstruse language through specialized publishers, need not give anyone pause, I’m sure.

    At any rate, poor dear Mooney. He played that tired old song in a messy little pamphlet of a book, was sloppy enough to blow the operation six ways from Sunday, and actually got called on it. Worse, answered, even mocked by the objects of his finger wagging incompetence. Poor bullied little guy.

    Stangroom wishes to draw equivalences. Allow me to assist him. The reality, and I think he knows it perfectly damned well, is Mooney knew the audience he was playing to, and so do the pitters, and both know the appetites they will find therein for the most craven dishonesty is near bottomless, provided the right targets are struck…

    And it seems to me the fact that many of these were, in fact, the same targets between the two episodes might bother the conscience of anyone who still actually had one. Whether it will ever bother Stangroom, however, I’m equally sure I’m far too genteel and reserved to speculate upon.

  50. says

    Heh. And well, y’know… The impression I’m getting is this is how you get invited to the right dinner parties.

    (And I almost passed on ‘retch’. But then, ‘expel vomitus’ did seem a little over the top.)


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