A visit to the adult table

PZ listened to all of that conversation between Stefan Molyneux and Peter Boghossian. I managed only about twenty minutes, because it’s so gross and also so tedious, and I plan to go back to it, but PZ did it in one gulp. He took some notes – not a transcript, because he was doing other work at the time, which is the only way listening to the whole thing could be tolerable – not a transcript but just some notes.

Curiously, Boghossian is having a conversation with Molyneux, who is notorious for his misogynist remarks. Not just the mild, unthinking sexism that so many Atheist Thinky Leaders engage in, but outright contempt for women. This is the guy who claims that women are the root of all evil, because Women have to be held accountable for choosing assholes. They have sex with assholes and have little baby assholes, none of which is the father’s fault, but entirely due to women’s evil choices.

You might be wondering who these “they” are — they refer to “them” constantly through the video. But there’s only one place where anyone is mentioned by name.

5:00 (PB) PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, and Greta Christina.

Interesting. We’re the enemy, and they get to make clumsy elisions, accusing “them” of making bomb threats, death threats, and shouting down people with bullhorns. But the only people they name don’t do any of that. Drawing lazy equivalences is just something philosophers do, I guess.

Well they have to, they’re fighting for justice. No wait, I thought we were the social justice warriors. So they’re fighting for…doing nothing? Is that it?

Seriously though, one reason I could take only 20 minutes or so was how empty the conversation was. It really was just a lot of very familiar banalities tossed back and forth, with a lot of repetition. It wasn’t impressive.

Also, where did this idea that being totally free of any ideological framework is a virtue come from? It’s not. It’s a lie. It’s part of the rhetorical strategy of declaring that I have an accurate representation of the world, you have an ideology.

17:10 (PB) they can’t even present the evidence in a rational way

18:30 (PB) these cultures of being offended

19:00 (SM) Thought-crime!

20:10 (PB) This fringe have hijacked a narrative…these cultures of offense; they conflate disagreement with harassment.

Christ, this is annoying. Of course we present rational arguments, with evidence. When we say that Sam Harris said something sexist, we quote the words he said in context. We make these arguments over and over, and these wackos with an authoritarian ideology simply shut down at the thought that we’d disagree with an Atheist Thinky Leader.

We might be offended — Molyneux in particular is an expert at saying grossly offensive things — but what’s at the heart of what we say is principled disagreement.

Yes but…offended…Stephen Fry…so fucking what…beep beep boop


  1. Anthony K says

    It’s the table I sat at for four years in my undergrad in the early 90s. The same tired libertarian tropes poli sci undergrads pull as ‘gotchas’.

    I expect more from a philosophy professor.

  2. Athywren; Kitty Wrangler says

    I’m getting so tired of the adult table.
    Yesterday, on bookface, I tried to explain privilege to yet another person who thinks it’s government cookies in the mail for being white, and therefore nonsense. I explained how I, as a result of not having to deal with various issues related to needing a wheelchair, have a degree of privilege over people with mobility issues. A little while later, he responded with his counter-example: Ah! But doesn’t a person in a wheelchair have the advantage in getting down a smooth, steep incline? Also, if Steven Hawking and I were to tackling theoretical physics problems, who has the privilege there? Huh? Checkmate, feminists!

    The face. The palm. The legend.

  3. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Going meta for a moment, what I see as the common factor in the Boghosian/Dawkins anti-women campaign is the use of agenda denial tactics. They don’t want to debate feminist issues. Instead they object on the basis of timing or priorities or how the issue was raised.

    These are all classic agenda denial tactics, if you can’t win the argument, don’t let anyone hear it.

    Dawkin’s original Muslima against Rebecca Watson was an attempt to suppress discussion of the harassment problem inside the atheist community by asserting higher priorities. As such it was a pretty incompetent attempt since the problem wasn’t what Watson actually said or even what did or didn’t happen in the lift, it was the firestorm of misogynist attacks that followed.

    In their rant, Boghosian and Molyneux seem to be mostly using the well worn complaint that the problem isn’t what is being said, it is ‘how’ it is being said. Watson, Benson and Christina are just too nasty. They should be more civil. Like Dawkins…

    Civil discourse does matter of course, that is after all the heart of the problem with elevatorgate and gamergate. Harassment and hate speech matter. But Boghosian and Molyneux don’t even recognize those as a problem. Instead its the unspecified acts of incivility on the part of their opponents that are the problem, not the death threats and bomb scares being called in by their own side.

    One of the things I have found in life is that whenever people have called me out for how I raise an issue it has always been because I dared raise it and took a view that they disagreed with but could not find an argument against.

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