It was a painful 50 minutes, but I listened to the entirety of Peter Boghossian and Stefan Molyneux patting each other on the back, in this video, Feminists vs. Atheists: The Death of Rational Discourse. I think you can tell from the title that there is not much hope for rational discussion here, and from the two speakers, you know it’s going to be awful. What I did was listen while I was engaged in some other work, and just extract a few paraphrases of the conversation now and then, when they said something particularly tiresome.
And really, that’s what it’s all about: reciting cliches at each other without thought, repeating bogus accusations we’ve all heard a thousand times before. These are not people who think very deeply about much of anything.
So what I’ve done below is scribble down the general tenor of the discussion. This is not a transcript. I’ve included some time points so if you really want to, you can go back and check on all the context.
First thing they got into was how offended (word chosen intentionally) they were at the outrageous namecalling going on.
1:20 (PB) nastiness, invective, namecalling, slurs. He doesn’t like the Left — they have atrocious behavior.
(SM): They were rude to Ann Coulter! They make direct death threats! They’re monsters!
(PB): How did we come to the point where we can’t have adult conversations?
(SM): They’re emotionally invested.
(PB): It’s a culture of “we’re offended” and political correctness.
These are themes they return to multiple times. “They” are so rude. “They” are insulting. “They” are offended, and we don’t give a damn if “they” take offense.
This is a dishonest trivializing tactic. One could argue that they, as atheists, are merely offended by religion; therefore they don’t have any reasonable arguments. But that would be dishonest! Of course atheists have solid points to make against religion…just as feminists have solid points to make against the blithely sexist culture of modern atheism. But Boghossian and Molyneux can just sweep those aside by simply claiming they’re political correctness run amuck.
Also, notice how they accuse a mysterious, unnamed “Left” of being insulting, while actively insulting them. It’s as if they have no sense of irony at all. Also note how Boghossian claims to be the adult here, implying that everyone else on the other side is childish. This is a bit of a verbal tic with Boghossian, and as you’ll see below, he repeats it over and over again. I’m beginning to think that his real beef is that he’s got no imagination, and his opponents manage to be far more creative in their insults than he is.
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.
Then we get a flurry of repetition.
6:10 (PB) we need to argue in an adult way
8:20 (PB) the woman was not capable of having an adult conversation
11:00 (PB) many people in the atheist movement have lost the ability to have an adult conversation
It got to be really annoying. This is Boghossian’s go-to putdown, and he says it constantly.
Brace yourselves. It’s going to get weird.
11:20 (PB) if someone accuses Sam Harris of sexism, you’re making the women suffer!
12:10 (PB) why do they go after Dawkins and Harris?
(SM) Because they’re white males.
Daring to point out that Sam Harris said something sexist means you’re hurting women. Criticizing atheists for sexism while clitoridectomies are going on is bad. They make a kind of “Dear Muslima” argument here.
(PB) The left are the new racists. They’re the ones who think in terms of the color of their skin or gender.
13:50 (SM) The left says race doesn’t exist.
They want us to be color-blind, I guess. Ignore historical and current patterns of discrimination that selectively affect certain populations unfairly, and do nothing to offset that discrimination. Pretending that there is a level playing field when there definitely isn’t is apparently the only strategy our rational, reality-based philosophers will accept.
15:10 (PB) People have lost the ability to have an adult conversation.
Shut up, Peter, you’re sounding like a broken record.
16:40 (PB) I’m not committed to any ideology.
Oh, what nonsense. Of course you are, but apparently, you aren’t aware of it. Everyone has preconceptions and a mental model of the world, and a freakin’ philosopher ought to be acutely conscious of that.
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.
There is no thought crime here. The impression I get is that they’re appalled that Dawkins and Harris get criticized — do they even realize that no one has argued to silence or jail or execute either of those guys? We respond to their speech with more speech, which is what we’re supposed to do.
21:30 (PB) People are not having adult conversations.
24:00 (SM) They’re offense robots.
25:00 (PB) Where does all this vitriol and bile and anger come from?
25:40 (PB) How can we make people talk as adults?
26:30 (PB) She had some issue that prevented her from having an adult conversation.
Fuck off, Peter.
Molyneux now goes off on a long tangent explaining how women really aren’t discriminated against.
26:50 (SM) culture of victimhood
28:00 (SM) women choose to have children, explains pay differences
31:00 (PB) graciously admits that he’s willing to consider the possibility that women are a privileged class.
Oh. Right. Women choose to have children, and fathers have nothing to do about that. Do they even realize the problem here? That we as a culture devalue “women’s work”, like child-rearing, and that we reflexively pretend that men should be excused from the responsibilities of house work and taking care of babies?
That does NOT justify paying women less, or pretending that having children is a less-valued activity than working overtime.
Get your puke buckets ready now.
31:00 (PB) Women having their clitorises removed is “legitimate victimhood”.
Just like there is legitimate rape and illegitimate rape, apparently the only real victimhood is being physically mutilated — being passed over for a promotion, being relegated to demeaning work, getting paid less for the same job, while clearly not as devastating as having a knife taken to your body, are apparently not real problems of oppression.
33:40 (PB) the best way to address this issues is in an adult manner
34:10 (PB) cultures of being offended, again
37:00 (PB) we’re not ready to have an honest conversation
37:40 (PB) There are certain members of our community that are not behaving in an adult way
Fuck off, Peter.
39:00 (SM) Atheists experience more discrimination than members of minorities.
Seriously? Two privileged white male dudes sitting around talking about how they’re the real victims? It’s impossible to take these guys seriously.
40:00 (PB) I don’t want to be repetitive…
40:30 (PB) It’s time we stopped looking at the color of people’s skin or their gender
This is why atheism has such difficulty getting credibility with women and people of color…because we have so many asshats who glibly deny the reality of their experiences. Hey, everyone, just pretend you’re a white man! Problem solved!
42:00 (SM) The real sexists and racists are the ones who benefit when the conversation is shut down…
Like when Sam Harris is criticized? That’s all they’ve got. That Harris and Dawkins have been publicly criticized is, to these two bozos, racist and sexist.
43:50 (PB) We need to have an adult conversation.
Bite me, Peter, you tiresome drone.
44:30 (PB) The real victims are the women who suffer from sexism.
45:00 (PB) We ought not to bully ideas off the table.
The only people trying to bully ideas off the table are these guys trying to imply that arguing with Atheist Thinky Leaders is somehow “bullying”. The only thought crime is disagreeing with Atheist Thinky Leaders. The only idea off the table to these two is the sense that we should be aware of patterns of discrimination and actively work to oppose them.
And now I feel so dirty. Blecch.