Elementary good manners by way of an introductory salutation

One from more than three years ago, March 20 2012: I get email:

I got one today from someone who has commented here a few times as nmcc or NMcC, and who commented yesterday to tell me how wrong I am about the word “cunt” and to say “Sarah Palin is a cunt.” I deleted that comment and put him – his email address showed he’s a Nigel – in moderation. The message I got this morning expressed surprise at the deletion of the comment. (It started with “Hi” – this is more significant than you might think.) I replied, brusquely,

Really? You would have thought “Sarah Palin is a cunt” was well within my commenting policy? I’ve been very explicit about that. Other things not within my commenting policy: “Al Sharpton is a nigger.” “Woody Allen is a kike.” “Salman Rushdie is a wog.”

I hope that clears things up.

——– Ophelia Benson, Editor Butterflies and Wheels ———

He replied. This is how he replied:

Dear Ms Benson,
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my email.
I must say, I don’t expect much in the way of civility from the ‘new’ atheist type, but I confess I thought elementary good manners by way of an introductory salutation might not have been beyond you. Obviously not.

In regard to my comment: This is simply a difference of opinion, though one that you have blown up into a difference of principle – or, rather, you have attempted to do so. In my opinion (I assume I’m allowed to have an opinion since we don’t live in a ‘new’ atheist world yet, and neither, thank Christ, are we ever likely to!), and as I said in my comment, the word cunt, like the word dick, and like the word asshole, are rarely, if ever, used to refer to a particular anatomical feature of a male or female. Words can take on a life of their own. Language evolves and grows and changes to the degree that words are unrecognisable from what they first meant, implied or described. The word gay, of course, is an obvious example.
I use the word cunt all the time. So do a lot of people I know. I never use it with the slightest thought of it having any connection with the female genitalia. To my knowledge, neither does anyone else.
So, in fact, you are quite simply wrong to ascribe any inference of misogyny to me or anyone I know. Indeed, your introducing the terms nigger, kike and wog,  simply shows how ludicrously – not to mention hysterically and self-righteously – wrong you are.  The simple fact is, there is NO comparison to be made with the words mentioned. All 3 of those words, as far as I’m aware, were specifically coined to refer to others in a racist and openly hateful and derogatory way. Those words refer to specific people and are used to degrade and denigrate those specific people. The word cunt is NOT used in any such way by the majority of people who use it. It most certainly is not used to denigrate or degrade women.
You have a different opinion. Good for you. Keep advocating your point of view. Perhaps you’ll change my mind on the issue.
I am unlikely to change your mind for the simple reason that you have got no qualms about DELETING my point of view, and would further, in the unlikely event of you ever being in a position to do so, have no problem in countenancing my being made to conform to your mistaken and ludicrous views through threats of censorship.
I, on the other hand, am a democrat, and would not entertain for a second the idea of shutting anyone up, let alone you.
Incidentally, have you any idea how pathetic you appear to me in your phoney concern for women’s interests?
Are you not the person who is encouraging your fellow dopey ‘new’ atheists to attend a gig at an American military base? What was it you called those state-sponsored thugs and murderers? Oh yes, ‘good people’.
Tell me, what’s worse: Using the word cunt completely bereft of any hateful connotations or intentions in regard to women, or sanctioning and applauding those who, at the behest of a religious nut, are responsible for wrecking their already impoverished lives through murdering and maiming their children and husbands?
Go ahead, tell me. You hypocritical cunt.
Yours sincerely,
Nigel McCullough

Now back to the present day…where I was curious about past interactions I’d had with Ken White of Popehat, so I googled, and the first thing I found was a post Ken did about the above post about Nigel.

He says it’s great having lots of commenters – especially the silly ones.

Today’s case in point: Ophelia Benson, who one suspects is not a strong booster of Sarah Palin, declined to publish a comment calling Ms. Palin a cunt. The commenter, one Nigel, professed disbelief that anyone would not welcome his trenchant commentary. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Watch as Nigel works himself into a fury in reaching the conclusion that when people won’t publish “Sarah Palin is a cunt” on their blog, THAT’S FASCISM. Also, protip: if it requires 10 paragraphs to justify why you are not being a dick, you are probably being a dick.

One last thing: if you don’t want your name associated with such wankery, don’t sign your name to abusive emails containing such wankery.

There are a lot of amusing comments on that post, especially Ken’s.

I don’t know how free discourse can survive if we can’t go to a woman’s blog and argue about whether “cunt” is offensive or not without being ridiculed. That’s FASCISM.

@David Leech:

1. For someone who comes out swinging with “soviet” and “embarrassment,” you sure are a big girl’s blouse when it comes to “ad hominem.”


I would be very upset if anybody I invited back to my place thought they had to censor their speech because I was very sensitive.

Here you’re just being prissy because you disagree with the tastes of others. If you enjoy the society of people who are deeply invested in calling people “cunt” and engaging in multi-paragraph wanks about how it ought not be construed as offensive, then go seek out the society of such people. But here’s the thing about the real world: we’re not obligated to invite assholes into our house. We might have to tolerate assholes at work, we might have to tolerate assholes at school, but in our private space, freedom means not having to invite them in. Ophelia things Nigel is an asshole. Plenty agree with her. You don’t have a protected right to be liked if you’re a creep.

The good old days.


  1. says

    MrFancyPants (#1) –

    Furiouser and furiouser. Nigel has standards, all of them double.

    “I can do it, but you can’t!”
    “I have rights, not privileges! That’s censorship”
    “It’s free speech, not harassment, insults and bullying!”

    If his computer were as disconnected from the internet as he is from reality, we’d all be happier.

  2. says

    Indeed! That was a very amusing read. The “curiouser” part to me was how Ken seems to have turned a 180 on the whole issue. I cannot reconcile his recent comments and actions with those comments from 2012. It’s like they are different people.

  3. =8)-DX says

    Meh… Brit/Us English, etc. etc. I personally don’t use it, because “fuck” and “asshole” seem to cover most bases, but yeah. It’s a hyper-offensive word to USians so that’s an extra reason not to use it, especially online, similar to the n-word despite having almost no black people in my country nor any ability to fully comprehend the everyday racism of US culture. We have our own local offensive words and racism though, things most USians probably wouldn’t find offensive or understand, so once again.. meh.

    (No 4-paragraph wank! Accept that some things offend! My English isn’t the only English!)

  4. nutella says

    “thank Christ” is a nice touch, too. Atheists always find people who use that expression most convincing!

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