And courage. And, in these precarious economic times, a little bit of the crazy.
Hank Fox has quit his job at a newspaper. Why? Because they ran an article, in spite of his protests, that was plain, simple, taken-for-granted bigotry against atheists.
If you’re looking for godless heroes, there’s one; it takes guts to make these personal sacrifices for a principle. If you want to help him out, take advantage of his editorial services sometime. He’s also got a book in the works which will deserve your attention when it is published.
Seems like a pretty small thing to fight protest about. A quote that is from the interviewee. I think he may have over reacted by quiting his job.
From Hank’s piece:
“Tonight an interesting story rolled across my desk. It was about a World War II pilot and his experience in the B-17 military plane, also called the Flying Fortress. The final anecdote of the article was about his plane getting shot down, and one quote the reporter used was him saying something like ‘My co-pilot was an atheist before, but he’s been a good Christian ever since.'”
Hank found this comment insulting and, when the paper ran it, he resigned. Had the quote been something like, “My co-pilot was a Christian before, but after seeing all the death and destruction, he’s been an atheist ever since,” would he have flagged it and found it offensive?
That said, I admire his courage and, based upon his piece, appreciate his effort to take charge of his life and circumstances.
Like it or not, the quote was from the fighter pilot and not from one of the writers. I agree with Ryan that reporting what the guy simply said is OK.
I don’t know that it was. As he said, if it had been a “just the facts, ma’am” type of statement, or if it was somehow relevant to the facts of the story, I could understand it’s inclusion in the piece over objections, but it was a quote that added little to the story, and would have taken little out of it.
And Hank admits that he may have overreacted, but I applaud him. Had the quote been any of the examples he cites, it would have been pulled. It’s just that it’s more than acceptable to be bigoted towards atheists at this point in time.
I tend to side with the Ryan and tripwire. Granted, it would be more palatable to me if the article related the bare fact that the bombadier became a Christian after the mission. But as it stands, it gives the direct quote:”He’s been a good Christian ever since.” The word “good” is really all I object to, but they’re the pilot’s words.
If a reporter at a disaster mentions how many locals had lost their faith, it seems like that would be included – it has a way of “measuring” the emotional magnitude of the experience. I see this quote in a similar context.
But I’d also expect to see people with faith complaining about it. Would the editors have been right to have not included it, though, based purely on that anticipated reaction?
The more I think about this, the more the basic story resonates with Wafergate…
Here’s an interesting story of a guy who quit his job in Georgia, packed up his dog and all his belongings, and moved west. He posted almost daily from the day he quit until, well he may still be posting for all I know. Great story, but I’m not sure how much is true.
Just look for all the posts by “MoeBirds”. Also, a warning: do not read the political or religion forums on that webpage unless you want your brain to melt. Just stick to MoeBirds story- trust me.
I thought it was an insult to the co-pilot. What kind of ass bad-mouths his co-pilot after going through a plane crash with him?
john doe says
I don’t understand.
The fighter pilot was an atheist, now he’s a Christian. Isn’t that what happened? If it’s true, how can he object to it? The only offensive part is the use of “…now he’s a GOOD christian”, implying his previous state of atheism was bad.
I remember seeing a discussion between PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins about whether or not atheists should object to “petty things” like saying Grace at Oxford. I think this is a little petty. Admirable, but petty
Good man. I hope he’ll find himself a new job. PEople like him are rare. It’s great to see a guy with some bit of judgement.
Is the story true? Is there any way anyone can find out from the co-pilot or his family or friends? If the reporter thought the comment fit to include in the story, you’d think (s)he’d have considered looking into it.
Darth Wader says
I agree with Ryan.
A local church ran a billboard that said “An atheist funeral is like being all dressed up with no place to go.” Now if the article ran something that blatant (though funny) then I could see making a big fuss over it. Also wouldn’t it be easier to change things from within the paper rather than quiting over it?
It is quite admirable that he stood up for his beliefs and values, I just think that quiting his job was not a reasonable reaction. Maybe he could have asked not to be part of that article?
Alarmist@#2 wrote: “‘My co-pilot was a Christian before, but after seeing all the death and destruction, he’s been an atheist ever since,’ would he have flagged it and found it offensive?”
Your sentence isn’t quite the same. Put “good” in there before atheist and see how strongly it condescends Christians. Whether or not it belongs in a newspaper, I don’t know, but I do know that sentence looks down upon Christians as being less than “good”.
“Hank found this comment insulting and, when the paper ran it, he resigned. Had the quote been something like, “My co-pilot was a Christian before, but after seeing all the death and destruction, he’s been an atheist ever since,” would he have flagged it and found it offensive?”
I think the key word upon which all this hinges is “good”. If the actual quote had been ‘My co-pilot was an atheist before, but he’s been a Christian ever since.’, chances are Mr Fox wouldn’t have flagged it – it’s just a statement of fact really. But the inclusion of the word “good” makes it something very different.
Just compare “my co-pilot was a Christian before, but after seeing all the death and destruction, he’s been an atheist ever since” and “My co-pilot was a Christian before, but after seeing all the death and destruction, he’s been a good atheist ever since”. Don’t you think the latter is not acceptable even though the former is?
I wouldn’t have quit over it; But then I wouldn’t mind quoting blatantly racist speech as long as it was clear that the paper was not endorsing the views if the speaker.
Don’t you think the latter is not acceptable even though the former is?
I see your point, but I typically see “good Christian” used to say, essentially, practicing Christian or devout Christian, not as making a character judgment.
I keep expecting to see “little” after “good”. Now THAT would be offensive/funny.
Greg Esres says
Not a hero in my eyes….he quit the fight after a trivial setback.
Darth Wader says
I think y’all (told you I’m from Texas) are taking “good” out of context. If I said he was a good baseball player that doesn’t mean he was a good person for being a baseball player only he did it the right way.
Good Christian often means an observant Christian.
It was the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY. The article ran on Saturday the 4th.
If the sentene in question were part of an editorial or written without attribution by the reporter then he’d have been right to fall on his sword over the issue.
However, it was merely a quote by a really old guy reliving his glory days. These old duffers have a right, same as everyone else, to say dumb and offensive things and have newspapers report it.
Whenever I’m contemplating resigning in righteous indignation over a point of ethics I ask myself, “Is this _really_ the ditch you want to die in?” 90% of the time the answer is “no.” And 90% of the time the things that were driving me nuts work out such that within a fairly short period of time I realize that I was correct to stay calm and stay put.
uncle frogy says
I do not know if he over reacted or not. He felt offended and so he “just left”.
He said that sometimes he would fact check stories he did not say that he did in this case.
We have all heard about battle field conversions to me they sound like “miracle cures”
I have some doubts. Did the pilot really say that or was it added by the first reporter or wire service editor. Did the copilot really have battle field conversion was he ever even an atheist at all. Just a few phone calls to fact check might have added something else to the story.
I’m not in any way saying he should not have quit, that was probably coming in any case just a matter of when. He will look back on this in a few short months as one of his best moments in his life when life opened up to new undreamed of opportunities.
It happened to me (loosing a secure job and a lot of other things as the result) once. It reminded me to E. Poe’s story “The Descent into the Maelstrom” were the hero’s only choice for survival was to jump off of the ship and into the sea or go down with the ship.
His point, however trivial people may think it is, was correct. It doesn’t matter if the pilot said it. Can the entire article.
The problem isn’t that he over reacted. It’s that most of us don’t react enough.
Matt Heath says
meh. It probably was included as an “uplifting” note. They probably wouldn’t have included a similar line if the co-pilot had stopped being gay or Jewish or Christian. So it probably does reflect a bit of prejudice. But meh.
Maybe it was the straw that broke the camels back, but compared to a lot of what you see in the papers (unless the US press is a LOT better than in Britain) it’s kind of meh.
Neil Strickland says
This is one of the things I like about Pharyngula. Once in a while PZ goes over the top with righteous indignation; but then the comments say no, we’re not going to be unreasonable about this.
In case it hasn’t been posted yet, here’s the link to the article in question: http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2008/oct/04/1004_wwiipilot/
Here’s the section with the “good Christian” comment:
OT: a trip over to boingboing reveals this:
It looks interesting.
Sam C says
Isn’t this the point where the hero narrows his eyes, takes a puff on a cheroot, and intones “son, the only good Christian is a dead Christian”?
Isn’t it funny how many Christians thank the Lord that they survived getting shot and how few blame the Lord for getting shot in the first place. Along the lines of “God was looking after me when he saved my life” rather than “I really must have pissed off the Almighty for him to be so keen to shoot me up.”?
Fred Mounts says
The job that I recently accepted is for the local county. After 120 days, I’ll be issued and required to wear county shirts. The problem: the official motto of the state of Ohio is: “With God, all things are possible.” I’m not thrilled about wearing a shirt with such propaganda on it, but I need a job, and the market isn’t looking so hot. Should I just grin and bear it, or what other steps should I take?
I would have cut it too, because first of all, you can’t verify the anecdote, and secondly, it does read like a slur. In fact, it reads like a very particular kind of slur — to me, saying that a life-threatening event is all that an atheist needs to “go straight” is directly analogous to some jerk spouting off that all lesbians really need is “a good deep-dicking from a real man” and then they’ll “go straight” too.
That idea, I think, that atheism isn’t a real belief (or lack of belief), just some sort of a whimsy that can and should be corrected, leads an awful lot of people to harass atheists with the direct intention of trying to convert them. We need more of that kind of crap like I need another nine holes in my head.
So, yeah, I would have cut it too. I don’t know whether I would have quit my job over it, but I sure as hell would have filed a complaint.
I understand the offending statement was a quote by someone who was not the newspaper and not necessarily offensive in and of itself.
The real issue is whether the paper would have pulled a quote if it was considered offensive to another group, like the examples Fox gives in the article. He doesn’t say whether or not they have in the past, but I got the impression it was common.
If replacing the word “atheist” with “Jew”,”Hindu”,”Muslim”, etc. gets the quote pulled, then it should also be pulled when it says “atheist”. To do otherwise is to say that discrimination against atheists is okay but against others is not. If it doesn’t, then it’s not a problem. What it comes down to is whether or not the paper’s policy is being enforced uniformly.
Terry Pratchett has an interesting observation about this: When someone survives a tragedy by a series of unlikely coincidences, people call it a miracle. What those people don’t understand is that when someone dies by a series of unlikely coincidences, it is also a miracle.
Blair T says
Hank was trying to censor opinion, plain and simple. He was wrong. PZ, isn’t the ‘hurt feelings card’ from the religious always being (properly, in my opinion) mocked on this blog? If Hank really wanted to address the problem he saw with the article he should have wrote a counter opinion piece for the paper or a letter to the editor.
“I/my friend was an atheist before” typically just means they weren’t overtly religious before but have since gone fundy.
I have to say that even with the word “good” included, I don’t really think it was a big deal. Certainly not worth martyring ones-self over.
False Prophet says
@ #27 Sam C:
I was thinking along those lines too. Muffin’s point at #14, for example: pointing out negative experiences that turn people atheist, implying that all you need to do is show an atheist the power of God’s love and justice and they’re become devout Christians.
What if instead, the pilot had said, “My co-pilot used to be a Christian, but after our ordeal he realized that my piloting skill and that of the plane’s designers got us back on solid ground. He also realized hundreds of USAAF and RAF airman had been through our situation and didn’t make it, and wondered what kind of God would pick and choose like that. So now he’s a committed atheist.” Would that have been flagged?
Marcus Ranum says
Given the context of a quote from a WWII pilot, he might just as easily have made a racial slur.
I’m sorry, but quiting your job because your paper quoted a WWII pilot’s re-hashing of “there are no atheists in foxholes” was juvenile. Rather than throw a tantrum why not write an editorial demonstrating there are indeed good atheists in foxoles who don’t convert at the drop of a bomb. If you want a list, go here: http://www.maaf.info/expaif.html
Matt Heath says
Fred@28: I think this is like Dawkins and the Latin grace; mottoes are rendered meaningless by being mottoes. You could always wear a small scarlet A pin with it.
So are people saying that when Hank Fox stood up for his convictions he was a dick? That he should have just taken it like a good christian?
Not that I’ve seen.
Peter Ashby says
Fred@28 grin and bear it. If the motto says: without god you are in the shit or equivalent then that would offensive. The motto is non exclusive therefore it can be easily worn. As Matt says, wear a scarlet A. But before you do check if your coworkers have religious symbols on show. If none do then do not wear the Scarlet A. If some do wear it and use religious freedom as a reason if challenged and make an issue of the others having it so you should too. Your managers will either allow it or ban all religious symbols or ban you at which point I believe you contact the ACLU.
Hank Fox says
Blair T #32: Hank was trying to censor opinion, plain and simple.
Blair, I wasn’t trying to censor opinion. The most basic job of a copy editor is to flag (point them out to a senior editor) potentially embarrassing gaffes in articles, so they don’t get into the newspaper for readers to see.
As I said in my bit at Earthman’s Notebook, if this quote had said “My bombardier was a Jew before that mission. He’s been a good Christian ever since.” there WOULD have been an outcry from the local Jewish community that would embarrass the paper. Because it would be demeaning to Jews to imply that an emergency would cause a Jew to instantly abandon his faith and culture for the “real” one.
As to the statement being an honest opinion of the guy being interviewed, I hope we all know that not everything people say to reporters makes it into the final story the reporter turns in. Interview a virulent racist, and a reporter with any clue at all will refrain from quoting verbatim a great deal of what he says. If he did quote the racist word-for-word, a senior editor would make changes — not to misrepresent the guy’s opinions, but to make the LANGUAGE of those opinions less openly offensive to certain readers.
In this case, accurate quote or not, the comment is demeaning, and it shouldn’t have been used. A throwaway joke, it added nothing to the story and could have been deleted without harming either the speaker or the story.
As to me trying to censor opinion, even if I’d been completely in the wrong, that’s still not the case. All I did was bring it to the senior editor’s attention. I didn’t threaten or bargain about it, I didn’t even raise my voice. We had a dozen or so words on the subject, I went back to my desk and thought about it for a few minutes, and then I told him I was quitting. All I did was depart.
No jagannath, we’re saying his convictions are misplaced and he over-reacted. A newspaper quoting someone’s bigoted opinion doesn’t necessarily mean endorsement by the newspaper. Keep in mind newspapers are businesses that often rely on controversy to sell papers. When Pat Robertson makes stupid remarks on national TV we condemn Robertson, not NBC, ABC, etc. for reporting it. Now if Fox has proof of bias within the newspaper then he was correct in quiting and should present it.
Hank, just a clarification:
Has the paper in the past deleted quotes of this type for other religious groups? I ask only because your analogy is unclear if it has or if it is only your opinion that it would have been deleted had it been any other religious group.
Hank was right. Sending a sternly-worded letter to the chief editor and hoping that one of his underlings would read it to him – or at least give him the general gist of it – would have accomplished nothing. True, quitting his job also accomplishes nothing, in terms of getting the paper to change its policies, but it means Hank doesn’t have to work for people who refuse to show him the same level of respect and dignity they fall all over themselves in bestowing on the “faithful.”
So yeah, it’s a good thing.
Dan Freiberg says
I see nothing wrong with reporting what someone said, as long as the quote is verified. The reader can determine whether it’s offensive or not.
Should “offensive” cartoons of Mohammed not have been published? Should “Hate Speech” be outlawed?
Blair T says
Hank, I take your point that you were not trying to censor. You were doing your job as copy editor and did not try manipulate the situation. I stand corrected.
Snarly Old Fart says
This reminds me of the Big Lie, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
When the battle gets ugly, who do soldiers call out for?
Number One, by a mile, is “Medic!”
Number Two is “Mommy!”
Under real fire, any religious soldiers abandon their superstitions and fall back on their training. That’s what sees them through, that and dumb luck.
Peter Ashby says
The problem is you apparently did not attempt to fact check the comment. It was not a matter of opinion and may have been true. You say that part of your job as a Copy Editor was fact checking. So did you attempt to check the facts of the statement? If the incident is true how can be offensive to relate it?
You are assuming that this one anecdote is claiming that all atheists would so react but the quote does not say that, it is in your mind. It is this which makes me conclude that either you are over sensitive or you were just looking for an excuse to make the break you say you have always wanted to make. It was not otherwise a resigning matter.
PZ Myers says
If you actually read Hank Fox’s post, you’ll discover that there was no tantrum. He calmly discussed it with the editor, and calmly decided that in good conscience he wasn’t going to support it in any way.
As for whether it was a trivial reason to quit: absolutely. It was tiny, insignificant, and unimportant…but that’s what it always is, a demand to take one small step backward, and we accede, and we accede, and we accede, and suddenly we find we’ve been on a long march to nowhere.
You could also say that Rosa Parks’ protest was trivial. Why, she only had to walk a few feet further to the back of the bus. Was a short shuffle really worth raising all that fuss?
I wonder how many people would have the courage to say something like this to a reporter about others or themselves, and how often such comments are not printed for fear of offending Christians. I can’t remember ever reading a story like that in the paper, though there must have been a few (?). On the other hand, the Christian conversion stories are so common as to have become a trope.
You know, the more I see this comment, and reading it now in context, the more annoyed I am and the more I think I would be bothered to see it in my local paper. From the comment, it appears the bombardier is still alive (and if the interviewee doesn’t really know, then he probably doesn’t know as much about the guy’s religious beliefs as he suggests). If I were the bombardier (or a member of his family, if he’s deceased), I would be offended that no one bothered to follow up with me on the matter. Had the conversion tale gone in the other direction or – like Hank Fox argues – been about abandoning another religion, I suspect it would have been investigated or left out.
Best of luck to you, Hank.
It was not a matter of opinion and may have been true.
irrelevant to why it offended him, but I see you don’t understand that.
it is in your mind
mine too! go figure.
or you were just looking for an excuse to make the break you say you have always wanted to make.
that could very well be.
…and yet the point is it was indeed a decision sparked by a particular attitude, both noted and explained in detail, by Hank.
One wonders what your motivation is in being so dismissive?
This reminds me of the Big Lie, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
as well it should.
I really like the simple counter that I noted just a short time ago, and it seems even more appropriate given the current quote under discussion:
“Jesus was my copilot, but then we crashed and I had to eat him.”
I wonder if a real pilot said this in a newspaper article about one of his missions, without any context that it might be a joke, how many xians would have been offended by it?
Focusing on whether the quote itself was true, whether Hank fact-checked it, etc., are off-base in my opinion. As Hank pointed out above, the reporter decides which parts of an interview to include in the article. An off-the-cuff statement about the bombardier’s religious conversion seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the article. A newspaper’s decision to include an offensive statement as an end-of-article joke is very different from including the statement if the article was about, for instance, how servicepeoples’ religious beliefs might change over time.
To examine the “if it’s true, you have to include it or it’s censorship” argument in another situation, imagine the article had been about the current mortgage crisis and resulting home values declining in a given neighborhood, and during an interview with an inhabitant of the neighborhood, the interviewee had said, “this whole area is just falling to pieces. Just last month, a bunch of black people moved in across the street.”
If a newspaper is concerned about the quality of its articles, what would it do? Fact-check and verify that yes, a black family had recently moved into the neighborhood? Include the statement as-is because “The reader can determine whether it’s offensive or not”? Or maybe exclude the statement, because it really has nothing to do with the content of the article, and including the statement whether it otherwise adds nothing relevant to the article looks a lot like an endorsement of the opinion. I think that a newspaper concerned with producing quality articles would decide not to include offensive quotes primarily for their humor value when such quotes otherwise add no relevant information to the article.
He might have also said “and both the co-pilot and myself have had sex exclusively with farm animals since that fateful day”. Yeah, he said it, but it would be pretty sorry journalism to unapologetically tack that onto the end of the piece in a “gee wiz, who can blame them” kind-of way.
Now, if the piece was about soldiers who develop a taste for farm animals… that would be completely appropriate. Even if the piece was taking a positive spin on the phenomenon, though I have to admit, I’d find that a little creepy. I’d either cancel my subscription, or extend it. You can’t be sure about these things until you’re faced with them.
“I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” Popeye the Sailor
I seriously doubt this is the only incident Hank has had at the paper. He simply met his saturation point. I congratulate him on his good behavior.
Good luck Hank!
I was all ready to support Hank’s decision, really, because I agree that any unjustified slight against atheism, no matter how small, is intolerable. But, after reading things through, I just can’t. Put me down as one who doesn’t see the problem here. It was the pilot’s words, and for all we know maybe the co-pilot really was an atheist who converted. That wouldn’t make the statement prejudicial, just true. I don’t even think that the addition of the word “good” proves problematic, since in context “good Christian” just means an observant Christian, like calling someone a “good worker.” I don’t see it as a moral pronouncement.
I don’t know. I wish Hank all the best in these hard economic times. I truly hope this won’t be a decision he overly regrets.
After reading the comments in this thread, I see Hank has addressed my concerns. He has a point. I’m still not sure I would have made the same decision he has, but all the same I wish him luck.
The full quote is the first footnote in Interesting Times:
See also Nation, though.
(and there’s also a podcast)
Gregory Kusnick says
Hank Fox, #42:
For me this is the most troubling part of the story. A dozen words scarcely seems like enough to make a convincing case that this could be offensive. In most jobs I’ve held, if my boss made what I considered to be a bad decision, it would be part of my job to speak up and try to change his mind, or have my mind changed by his reasoning. At the very least it would take a lot more than a dozen words for us to agree to disagree. I know this wasn’t easy for you, and I don’t want to come off as unsympathetic, but it seems to me that “Don’t argue, just leave” would be a dereliction of duty in most professions that require one to exercise judgment. Maybe the newspaper world is different in that regard.
Chris P says
I help run a newspaper that already supports two copy editors. You have to go with what was said. We cannot even stop churches from advertising – our job is to get information about what is going on in the community to people and let them make their own decisions based on full disclosure.
I think if everybody read New Scientist from the time they could read there would be no religious people on the planet.
Communication and information resolve most problems.
“Wage slave” sucks but it’s not so bad when the alternative is starving to death. My policy is the boss is always right, especially when it’s difficult to find another job in a bad economy.
Integrity and courage are wonderful qualities, but staying alive is even better.
Was “My co-pilot was an atheist before, but he’s been a good Christian ever since.” offensive? Yes it was, but here was a great opportunity to educate god-soaked Americans about atheism with a letter to the editor that said atheists are normal and Christians are cowards. Christians have a childish belief in heaven because they are afraid of the reality of death.
In other words, it would have been better to insult Christians instead of being offended by an insult to atheists. Christians deserve to be ridiculed and laughed at and treated with contempt, because they’re idiots who are good for nothing but getting in the way of human progress.
Good luck Hank Fox. If I was in your situation I’d consider calling my old boss, telling him I was offended, but would like my old job back. It would not be fun to do that but poverty might be much worse. Whatever you decide I’m sure somebody with your intelligence and skills will be very successful.
You have to go with what was said.
But you don’t. You never do. Decent journalists interview for a good 10-15 minutes at minimum, when they never get more than a couple of paragraphs for a story. No one EVER goes with everything that’s said, or the paper would just be full of transcripts and would be five times longer. There are always editorial decisions made as to what to include. In this case, the comment was a drive-by swipe at atheists, and was not necessary to the story. Keeping it in after that was specifically pointed out is a huge slap in the face. “Sure, this offends a certain group, but so what? They deserve it.” I don’t blame him at all.
@Fred Mounts, #28
Good luck in your new job! As for the motto, it looks like you’re going to have to suck it up. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Ohio motto “with God all things are possible” in ACLU of Ohio v. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Bd., 243 F.3d 289 (6th Cir. 2001).
I’m not sure if the ACLU did not petition the U.S. Supreme Court, or if the court just didn’t accept review, but the Sixth Circuit decision is binding in any court in Ohio.
The motto was adopted in the 1950s (big surprise). It’s from Matthew 19:26.
(For the record, I don’t like the “civic religion” rationale that the federal courts use to uphold these mottos, but that’s the law right now.)
Fred Mounts says
All, thanks for the responses. I’ve thought about using post-it notes to list the different gods that it might be referring to, or even pasting my own name over it ( I wish that my self-esteem was so high!). But more seriously, I’ve started inquiring if there’s any way that I can just dress myself rather than wearing the uniform.
Jon W says
This style of indignation is what I expect from religious zealots.
And by the way, comparing Mr. Fox to Rosa Parks borders on obscene. I am an outspoken, militant atheist who also feels marginalized by Xtian America, but I can’t imagine, even in my most self-pitying moments, comparing the plight of an atheist to the plight of an African American woman living in Alabama in 1955. That goes beyond hyperbole. Mr. Fox made a mistake, and it’s very brotherly of you, PZ, to try to let him feel justified…but please…ROSA PARKS?!
PZ Myers says
I compared the plight of atheists to that of African-Americans? Where?
I replied to the objection that Hank was responding to a trivial slight. I pointed out that Rosa Parks’ heroic decision was actually also to a very trivial event, requiring miniscule effort on her part to avert. Do you judge her by the fact that all she did was not take a dozen steps?
By the way, for those thinking Hank should have just let a few words pass…look at this post from this morning. It links to a student paper article on Sally Kern, but the bulk of it is an excerpt from the interview that was not used in the final copy. This is typical. You interview to gather lots of words, and you only use a small, selected subset of them, and the reporter/editor pick which bits.
Nothing I would have quit my job over, but to each his own.
Were you looking for an excuse to bail ?
Sometimes we look for small things to help us make big decisions.
“[…] but I can’t imagine, even in my most self-pitying moments, comparing the plight of an atheist to the plight of an African American woman living in Alabama in 1955.” – Jon W
I can’t imagine for a moment comparing the plight of an African American woman living in Alabama in 1955 to the plight of a Tutsis living in Rwanda in 1994. Come on man, it’s not a contest. It’s the principal.
Jon W says
Rosa Parks was not responding to a “trivial slight.” Get up and move to the back of the bus is just a teensy bit less civil than the discourtesy faced by Hank Fox.
I’m only criticizing the comparison.
Jon W wrote:
Oh, piss off. It’s not about indignation, it’s about not letting the religious people spout lies uncontested or frame the culture wars in their favor. It’s about challenging them and standing up to them when they pull this stuff. It’s about pushing back and not simply allowing oneself to be a punching bag. If you think this has anything to do with hurt feelings then you are a moron. Religious zealots are wrong, but they are wrong because of what they believe, not because they are zealous. Learn the difference.
While I think the level of warranted reaction may be debatable, some parallels have been drawn to the catholics’ reaction in the cracker debacle. We really need to mark a distinction here.
Even if for argument’s sake we allow that Fox was wrong in his opinion that the quote needed to be left out, that the principles that led him to this opinion were skewed. What he did was take those principles and left his own security, his own job in protest. The catholics involved in crackergate wanted to take other people’s (among other things) jobs “in protest”.
While I am not entirely on board with the rationale behind Hank’s opinion that led to his decision, I applaud him for the manner that he stuck to it, taking personal responsibility for his principles instead of bullying others to change theirs to fit his.
Jon W says
Sorry if I misunderstood you, but I can’t assume any of the points you’ve spelled out here from the passage I quoted above.
Jon W wrote:
Well, my original comment was merely meant to convey that I was predisposed to be sympathetic to anyone opposing religious bigotry. That’s all. That you decided to read something about “indignation” into that comment, and further to chastise me for it, is indeed something you should apologize for. So apology accepted.
Jon W says
Votre mère est un lézard. :)
‘Rosa Parks was not responding to a “trivial slight.” Get up and move to the back of the bus is just a teensy bit less civil than the discourtesy faced by Hank Fox.’ – Jon W
So, the comparison was ridiculous because being asked to switch seats is so much less trivial than having your objections to material your employers are publishing dismissed? You don’t think that’s splitting hairs a bit?
Jon W says
Yes, Jams, the comparison is ridiculous; it is so much less trivial; and you should be embarrassed for asking.
ام الهول says
I’ll have to remember to use the adjective “good” to modify the noun “atheist” from now on. We’ll see how well that goes over.
Maybe if you could actually articulate why you think it’s ridiculous, the embarrassment would be mine rather than yours. Take a shot at it. Make a case beyond your own secret world of weights and measures.
Here’s the thing.. it was just words, and I didn’t see in indication from his blog that the quote was manufactured. Sure, news outlets ‘edit’ stories to omit details, but if the pilot actually said that, why should it be removed? Editing history is the hobby of the evangelicals, not us.
Yeah. I didn’t think so. Another ruffled petticoat without a thought in its head.
The next-to-last straw on the camel’s back.
How many of us keep on just breathing after the cumulus of these insults, remaining tethered and on our knees with no hope of just surviving a little longer after that last straw, instead of breaking free.
Hank Fox: i hope that you perceive the many doors open to you after this decision.
Jon W says
Jams, my petticoat is perfectly straight…I just have a wee bit more on the calendar today than replying to Pharyngula posts. Anyway, since it’s possible that you’re handicapped, I will oblige your imperceptiveness with as little condescension as I’m capable:
Rosa Parks’ civil rights had been dragged through the dirt her entire life. She was protesting against the real injustices that people with her skin color faced all the fucking time. Her protest spawned a boycott, which was perceived as just a little too uppity and was answered with terrorist attacks on black communities. This was a REAL civil rights struggle. To compare Hank Fox’s overreaction to Rosa Parks’ actual heroism is to depreciate the achievements of the latter (and to insult my intelligence in the mean time). Mr. Fox’s civil rights were not being violated. If you want to compare the two incidents, then he quit his job over NOTHING.
Jon W says
Incidentally, this is what really irked me: your euphemistic way of talking about the humiliation suffered by black Americans.
I am deeply offended by many of the posts in this thread. Many of them refer to the conversion of the “co-pilot”. Read the original article. It was the bombadier.
I am sick and tired of pilots and co-pilots getting all the glory. There were ten crew members on a B17 who all risked their lives. But who always gets mentioned? The pilots and co-pilots. In Top Gun did Tom Cruise play the pilot or the back-seater? The pilot, of course.
PZ. Please exercise your editorial authority and delete all the posts which made reference to “co-pilot” in this thread. They are a slap in the face to all the brave crew members who fought in WWII who were not pilots but who no one seems to remember or appreciate. It’s time to make a stand.
Christophe Thill says
I wonder about the German civilians who had the bad luck to receive one of this guy’s bombs on the roof of their house (the high altitude bombings by the Flying Fortresses was not known to be very accurate). There’s some chance they were Christians before: probably Lutheran protestants, if it was in the Northern half of Germany. But after that, I don’t think that what was left of them was very Christian anymore.
Peter Ashby says
Well since you admit that the offense was also all in your mind I might ask what makes you ridiculously sensitive? Also how was I dismissive? I asked what I thought were perfectly pertinent questions. You did not answer them, simply dismissed them and I am dismissive?
They have mirrors in Dunedin, try using one when you get there.
Marc Abian says
I have to say this is rather trivial. Certainly nothing as bad as being asked to switch seats because of your skin colour.
Jon, you sanctimonious imbecile.
I would like to congratulate you on your response. Your case is far clearer now that it has stepped beyond the disturbingly frequent use of the italicized “is”. You get an ‘A’ for effort.
Like I said, it isn’t a contest. I could describe how I was nearly stoned to death by Christians when I was eleven, or the time I was stabbed by religiously inspired thugs because I was unfortunate enough to have Atheist parents, or the various means institutions have shut me out by their very design, or the centuries of hemlock, crucifixions, auto de fés, prisons, torture, and lets not forget plain old-fashioned disappearing. We could list off the many people in hiding because of their lack of faith, and a systemic pattern of persecution that not only spans the globe, but reaches back almost as far as recorded history. But it really isn’t a contest.
Your glorification of a brief flash of American history doesn’t undo or dismiss the troubles and sufferings of others. Even if the comparison was intended to compare degrees of suffering, you would still be wrong. Luckily, as we’ll see, that was never the case, nor is it particularly relevant to the subject at hand.
PZ’s comparison had nothing to do with degree of suffering experienced by Mr. Fox or Rosa Parks, but with what was the most distinct characteristic of the Rosa Parks incident: it was trivial.
The very triviality of being shuffled around the interior of a bus is what gives the event its power as a symbol.
PZ’s point was that the small stands we take are as important as the grand campaigns, and that sometimes, like in Rosa Park’s case, the small stands are what make all the difference. And really, isn’t that what we learned from Rosa Parks?
The grandness and romance of the American civil rights movement never even walks into the picture until sanctimonious imbeciles like yourself decide to prance it out and proclaim that no one else’s troubles are “real”.
Jon W says
Thanks for spelling it out so clearly: Enforced racial segregation is trivial!
How stupid of me not to see it that way.
Oh Jon, you really need to brush up on your comprehension skills.
If Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus equals enforced racial segregation, then Mr.Fox quitting his job equals systemic religiously motivated persecution.
Quitting your job and changing seats on a bus are both trivial acts until considered within their greater context.
Trust me, I was told to move to the back of the bus last year, and it was very very trivial (I didn’t realize I was in designated seating for the disabled – very embarrassing).
You see Jon, the problem here isn’t that I’m arguing that “enforced racial segregation is trivial”, but that you are trying to make the case that the troubles faced by atheists are trivial in comparison. Your assumption of the later is what has led you to believe that I’m arguing something that I am not.
Isn’t it fun to watch prejudice unfold?
Well since you admit that the offense was also all in your mind
actually I did no such thing, you seem to have trouble reading what I wrote, and interpreting why I wrote it.
let me rewrite it for you so it’s clearer: the passage that pissed off Hank pissed me off for the same reason.
did you even read what he said about it on his site?
He explained it in quite some detail, that would be entirely redundant for me to repeat here.
Also how was I dismissive?
I’m not sure I can even begin to explain, if you don’t see what I mean by that.
We had a thread several months back where we discussed how racial epithets used by those who have no understanding of how they offend, still DO offend.
While it’s always interesting to see input from people who haven’t experienced discrimination in their lives at all, they do tend to come off as being very dismissive of those that have, or have seen the effects of it directly. Moreover, I also felt you were being dismissive in that you obviously did not even bother to read Hank’s explanation on his site for his actions. Apparently, given that you think your questions have not been answered, you still haven’t.
if that doesn’t make sense, continue with PZ’s post at #67.
Thanks for spelling it out so clearly: Enforced racial segregation is trivial!
Isn’t it fun to watch prejudice unfold?
I wouldn’t call it prejudice, but rather the lack of direct experience OF prejudice.
He hasn’t experienced any serious level of discrimination being an atheist, so he has no reason to assume there really is any.
I can understand it, even it highly suggests he hasn’t spent much time thinking about the issue, or looking at where discrimination HAS taken place.
It’s such a pervasive, insipid type of discrimination (like the majority of americans putting atheists at the very bottom of the list of who they would vote for), that many fail to see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
they look at a “tree” like the phrase Hank was attacking, and fail to see how those exact kinds of trees have built up a forest of discrimination over many generations.
the history of racial discrimination and religious discrimination have a lot in common, even if on their face they might take different immediate forms.
Ichthyic, you are on a roll, like Nick Gotts, when it comes to hooking dumbass trolls. I think you’re ahead for October.
I got my pole over the side, but I’m not hooking even a damned tadpole.
I got my pole over the side, but I’m not hooking even a damned tadpole.
let me see that…
Well, there’s your problem, you don’t have any bait on the hook*!
Now, just to be clear, if I baited any hooks in this particular pond, it wasn’t intentional.
*be aware that trolling for trolls is still trolling, and you should throw the non-trollfish back.
Jon W says
I’m told that this isn’t a pissing contest–that it’s about principles–and then I’m accused of not having the scars to back up my argument.
I haven’t even implied that there is never serious discrimination against atheists; my point is that this non-event starring Hank Fox is emphatically not an example of real discrimination, and that Rosa Parks being ordered to surrender her seat to a white passenger is.
Being an infidel who has, as a matter of fact, experienced genuine discrimination (clairvoyance isn’t your only talent, I hope?), and yet feels no need to blubber about it to strangers, I’m slightly turned off by the melodrama in this post–but I’m not trying to shush the atheist cause. I am trying to discourage conflating it with a civil rights struggle. It’s not. Don’t let your lust to feel like a victim outshine your rationalist’s sensibility.