Now that Zombie Pharyngula has been raised from the dead and is sort of walking mindlessly over at ScienceBlogs, I have another complaint, and it’s aimed at National Geographic. Years ago, when they took over, one of the things they decided to do was to port over all the old content to WordPress.
They botched it. They botched it bad.
They got all the articles converted, as near as I can tell, but the comments…huge numbers of comments were lost. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of comments. I told them this, they didn’t care, and that was one of my first presentiments that this whole deal was not going to go well. It didn’t. They did a half-assed job and then neglected the whole thing, until it fell apart.
For instance, take a look at this short post from July of 2011. I remember it because the comments section turned into a huge firestorm of fury and outrage, to the point where people were linking to the comments directly, not my article, all over the place. Look now, and it’s empty, not a single comment survived.
That’s a shame, too, because it was a critical moment in the history of the atheist movement. This was one of the trivial events that led to the disintegration of what had been a growing community, and clued in a lot of us to the rot underneath it all. It was the moment when Richard Dawkins shat the bed.
I at least saved the text of those critical comments, that I also verified were directly from Dawkins himself, so I’ll put them here.
This is “Dear Muslima”.
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
How can you forget “Zero Bad”?
Many people seem to think it obvious that my post was wrong and I should apologise. Very few people have bothered to explain exactly why. The nearest approach I have heard goes something like this.
I sarcastically compared Rebecca’s plight with that of women in Muslim countries or families dominated by Muslim men. Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.
But not everybody sees it as end of story. OK, let’s ask why not? The main reason seems to be that an elevator is a confined space from which there is no escape. This point has been made again and again in this thread, and the other one.
No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.
No, I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.
The Internet doesn’t forget, but it does tend to make those memories fragmented and inconvenient to access.