Social justice networks are metastasizing!

metastasis |məˈtastəsəs|
noun (pl. metastases |-ˌsēz| )
the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary site of cancer.
• a metastatic growth.

It’s true — Freethoughtblogs has divided, although I prefer to think of it as multiplying. A new network has sprung from our loins, The Orbit, which includes some popular bloggers formerly of FtB, including Aoife O’Riordan, Ashley Miller, Brianne Bilyeu, Dana Hunter, Greta Christina, Heina Dadabhoy, Miri Mogilevsky, and Zinnia Jones, and incorporating several new bloggers as well. Head on over there, say hello, and start adding them to your RSS feeds.

You can also help them fund their efforts by donating to their kickstarter.

We’re hoping the trolls will be confused. Suddenly, more sites that are opposing and mocking them are spawning? Aren’t we supposed to be collapsing and going away?

FtB is going hyperplastic!

hyperplasia |ˌhīpərˈplāZH(ē)ə|
the enlargement of an organ or tissue caused by an increase in the reproduction rate of its cells, often as an initial stage in the development of cancer.

Get ready — we’re expanding. We’re launching a whole new army of bloggers at FtB this week, so it’s going to get hectic and confusing. Some are leaving, even more are being added, so expect to see strange new blogs popping up in the list on the left sidebar, and lots of “Hello, World!” articles appearing in the Recent Posts list. I’m doing the grunt work of installing the new blogs so I may not be saying much here for a while — once the dust is settled we’ll do proper introductions and try to acquaint you with all the new people.

Until then, feel free to welcome the new mob as they trickle in.

Whoa. You like us!

Well, that was a little bit overwhelming. I put out our new instructions for how to apply for a blog here, and we got a flood of responses. Now a few things I have to mention:

There was a glitch in our setup, and so some people got emailed back some initial evaluations, and some of them were critical. That was bad. Those were supposed to be private. I think we have the problem nailed down, but one thing I have to say: if somebody said something negative about your blog, that was one person. We’re going to have a back channel discussion about them, and we have different views. No one has been rejected already. I actually like essentially all of the applications so far.

That said, the turnout was a lot higher than I expected, partly due to initial enthusiasm. I was actually expecting a handful of applications to trickle in over the next month, or maybe even none. We’re going to have to think about how to manage so many — we may simply have to turn down some. We may have a staged rollout, with a couple of people added at a time over a longer period. We may just have to tell some of you to hang in there and wait for the next quarterly review.

We are going to wait until mid-March to announce new blogs — this is one of those things we don’t want to rush. Patience, everyone!

How to join freethoughtblogs


We’ve been shaking things up a bit behind the scenes here at FtB. One of our enduring annoyances has been recruiting new bloggers — the way we set it up here (again, behind the scenes) was to appoint a committee and tell them to do all the work. Then, every once in a while, someone would write to me or someone else and ask how to be considered for FtB, and I’d blithely pass their name along to the committee.

That didn’t work. We don’t have a staff. No one signed up here to do administrative work, we were here to write, so passing a name to the committee was more like casting it away into the eternal void.

So we’re trying something different. No committee. Instead, we have an email link, and you’ll write to us with your qualifications. It then gets passed into a private application channel, and we all have an opportunity to look you over and vote yay or nay.

So if you want to blog here, here’s what you do: send an email to, in which you give us this information:


Contact email

Do you want your email public?

Twitter account, if any

Link for donations, if any

Links to your current blog, any biographical material, or best examples of your writing in comments or forums or other media

Why do you want to write for us?

It’s that easy. This is a private communication to the bloggers here; none of this information will be made public without your permission. So if you’re interested in trolling us, it won’t be very rewarding, since your application will vanish into our application channel, never to emerge into the public, and we’ll snigger at it before deleting it.

Serious applications will be examined for their suitability. Our requirements are simple: we want godless Social Justice Warriors. If that’s you, why aren’t you writing for us already? (Oh, because applicants vanished into the darkness of the eternal void of the committee).

We really want to encourage diversity, too, and we also want to see some sort of track record of your writing. Anything will do; if you don’t have a blog of your own, give us links to your substantive comments, or your participation in an online forum, anything to show that you’re actually able to write coherently, and that your views align with our intent. If you don’t have a history of regular blog-like writing, that’s OK — we’re creating a guest blog, and will give you keys to that so you can try it for a few months and see if you take to it.

Group blogs are fine. You can be pseudonymous, too, we’ll just need to have a way to contact you.

What are the rewards, you ask?

  • You get space for a blog of your very own!

  • You get to join a group of supportive people!

  • You get paid! OK, not much. We take the profits from each months advertising and divide it among all bloggers by their proportion of traffic. So you get a free cup of coffee every month!

  • Fame and glory!

  • You’ll be able to shape the future membership of FtB! Review the next set of applicants, if you want!

  • Trolls galore! We’ve got a crop of dedicated assholes who will plague you until you block them. We’ll show you how!

If this sounds fun, send us an application. We’re also planning on quarterly review of new applications, so we’re going to possibly invite new bloggers to join us in mid-March. If anyone applies. If anyone makes the cut. Remember, godless SJWs only, please.

If you think later that you’d like to join, these instructions will be available at the “About FtB” link in the top left corner of this window, at some time in the next few days.

Something is wrong with SIWOTI!

Deja vu, man, deja vu. Someone else has a hate site that obsesses over their blog.

The people who run and participate in this site are largely disgruntled former commenters, some of whom left on their own after I disappointed them in some way, and some of whom were banned after violating the commenting policy. There are, increasingly, participants at the site who have never even engaged at Shakesville, but just find some satisfaction in participating in a space dedicated to the explicit purpose of destroying this community.

They explicitly want to chase me out of my space, offline, and want me to have no opportunities to make a living doing what I’ve done for the last ten years of my life. They want this community to cease to exist because they don’t like me and the commenting policy, and don’t care what destroying it would mean for the people to whom this community means something.

That’s from Melissa at Shakesville. We’ve seen exactly the same thing here at Freethoughtblogs, and over the years, I’ve had multiple badly-done Pharyngula hate-sites pop up and fade away. It’s bizarre. The trigger for all the hatred is usually the injustice of getting banned, and I just don’t get it. I’ve been there myself.

Many years ago, before I started up this blog, I’d been active debating creationists on various forums. I’d post replies and rebuttals to stupid creationist claims, and more than once, I was asked to leave or banned because I was “disrespectful” or “rude” or “making people angry”. You won’t believe what I did next:

I left.

I didn’t try to sneak back, either. I’ve always used the same pseudonym, pzmyers, on all of my logins.

These creatonists are people who are emphatically wrong and persist in endorsing idiocy, definitely triggering all of my SIWOTI symptoms, but they’ve got their place and if the owners of the forum say they don’t want me using their services, I stop using them. It’s really not that hard.

But for some reason, some people get extremely bitter about being told to go away. They are outraged that you deny them the privilege of participating on your wonderful blog. They start making sockpuppets and probing at the filters to see if they get around the ban. Remember that obnoxious Australian guy who’d create a new sock every night and get on to leave a pile of insults while I was sleeping? That went on for weeks. Remember Reap Paden, who currently holds the record for the number of pseudonyms he ran through (well over 40 before I lost track), and yet was instantly recognizable to everyone, thanks to his godawfully bad writing? There are many more you don’t know about who don’t puzzle out what I’m filtering on, and keep pounding out comments that get instantly shunted off to the spam queue. There’s one guy who comes by every week or two to make a test comment, in the hopes that the blockade will have magically lifted…and he’s been doing this for two years.

Others scurry off and set up anti sites, like the Shakesville haters. It’s a good way to leech off the popularity of someone else: provide a watering hole for all the people with a grudge against the site you despise, and gather like-minded people to sit and fume and whine and moan. And best of all from my perspective, they obsess so much that they become fanatical readers of everything I do, even more dedicated readers than the busiest of our regular commenters.*

But I don’t have it as bad as some. Shakesville is a singular site with a much more restrictive commenting policy than I have here, so she bears the brunt of the nuisances. Here, at least, we’ve spread the hate load: Ashley gets the racists, the rest of us get the same old banned-on-Pharyngula crowd, but now they’re having to strain to find a blog on FtB that they haven’t been banned from…and you’ll see that, too, when a new blog is opened up here, the same names that were long kicked outta here show up in the comments to whine at length. It really is like a tick infestation.

Another factor is that for some reason these parasites really hate the idea that a blog might stand up for a cause. Ophelia is getting comments from Phil Giordana (yeah, another long-gone Pharyngula reject) who is flinging the insult du jour, “Social Justice Warrior.” Ophelia asked him why he was against social justice, and this was his answer:

I never threatened anyone online, never attacked peoples’ appearance, apologized to you for using what you consider “gendered slur”, yet I’m still banned from your blog. You fuckwit! (that one’s fine, OB said so).

Boggling, ain’t it? This is a guy who does nothing with his time online other than to rant with fellow obnoxious people about how he was banned and how awful FtB is, and to whine on Facebook about how much he despises “social justice warriors” because he was banned from several sites.

There was a comment on Ophelia’s site from thetalkingstove that I thought was fairly insightful about the situation.

I fully admit this is just speculation, but I suspect that the whining about being banned from forums shines a light on a lot of the motivation certain people have for being in the skeptical movement (such as it is). For them, it’s not about changing the world for the better; they’ve simply found something that enables them to feel superior to other people – easy targets like creationists and alternative medicine – and that makes them feel good, that their opinion and intellectual prowess are special.

Then when they encounter people who aren’t impressed by their amazing logic skillz, it hurts. It shakes that image of themselves as being stupendously rational and intellectually superior, and they can’t let that go.

Shorter version: a lot of people are in the skeptical movement because they’re arrogant arseholes.

That rings true, especially since these people tend not to be very good at that logic part — witness Giordana’s reply to Ophelia. They’re not very clever, they don’t care about anyone else, and they want to join the Smart Kids Club just because it boosts their ego, and when they’re rejected, they lash out.

I have a suggestion for them, though. Join MENSA. They’ll take anyone.

*Ironic footnote. They also like to complain nastily about regular commenters who are here every day…without calling attention to the fact that they here every day, screencapping and copy-pasting and writing angry rebuttals to every nitpicking detail.

I am Power-Mad Drunk on Intoxicating Power!

As many of you may know, just less than a week ago some earnest questions were asked – to the Horde generally – about gender by morgan (frequent, though apparently not current, epitheter of metaphors). morgan’s questions reduced to a more fundamental one: “Why is constructively engaging gender so damn hard?”

This is something about which I’ve often written and spoken. It runs through my critiques of a number of disciplines/specialties, most notably the pedagogy of gender itself. It’s long been my thinking that we can teach gender much better than we do, and one important aspect of that is to encourage self-exploration rather than using idiographic studies of various exotic species: trans* folks and intersex kids and survivors of testicular, ovarian, or breast cancer. To encourage that self-exploration, I’ve developed workshops in the past that attempted to reveal to the participants’ view the transsexual analogous and transgender analogous portions of their own psyches. It occurred to me that morgan might find better answers through something like the workshops I’ve led than through simply reading a recommended book or a fantastically intelligent comment (to which, ahem, I might link). And so I offered to create an online workshop, though I’d never done one before.

Quickly others spoke up to express interest, and noted that weaving the workshop into the Lounge’s already multi-threaded complexity simply wouldn’t work. It would compromise the Lounge’s comfortable directionlessness, perhaps making idle chat feel less welcome in the exact space set aside for it. Likewise, it might make it very difficult for people to find, and follow, the workshop itself. So it was suggested that we ask PZ for a separate thread for our experimental conversation.

And how you responded! With more than 50 people – if I’ve counted correctly – jumping in during the introduction period, it became quickly apparent that even with our own thread people were bound to get lost. The solution? More threads! (Good for these cotton workers, if no one else.) I took to PZ the suggestion that he open a new thread for each set of exercises. His counter-offer has given me the power to make my own OPs on Pharyngula, under my own byline.

This will take work off PZ’s plate, permitting me to create separate threads on my own initiative, when my posts are ready. Also, it eases worries about posting times, as starting a new thread will not interrupt a conversation in an old thread. All in all, I think it’s a good idea.

But it only happened because 1) the Horde appeared to want it, and 2) it suited PZ’s whim. It will continue only so long as both are true. I have no aspiration to pepper Pharyngula’s headlines or to change the character of this blog: it is absolutely and always PZ’s house. I just got a spare key. I don’t have any plans at this point to post anything other than the this introduction and my planned workshop posts, although if it seems particularly relevant I might blog about a current event that allows me to make a point useful to the exciting gender discussion happening here.

When the workshop is over, I may hand the spare key back to PZ or, if he prefers, just keep it in my key bowl in case it’s needed. But for whatever duration, a few posts under my byline will, I hope, change nothing about my relationship to the Horde. I expect to be corrected when I make mistakes, challenged when I make an argument, and called out when something I do or say enacts or reinforces oppression. On every single thread not in the workshop series, I hope I continue to be no more and no less than I have been: a member of a very special group of people who enjoy learning from each other.

Rum, chocolate, and confetti (if you feel compelled to eat, throw, and drink these things in despair and/or celebration at this Crip Dyke-has-a-byline development) should be available in the Lounge. Afterparty with the scum and villainy will be in the ThunderDome, per usual. The third exercise set will appear sometime a little after midnight Blog Standard Time as the second OP in the workshop series [given that the second exercise set was posted under the first OP before this development].

In the meantime, thanks PZ, for creating this space. Thanks to the Horde for doing all the heavy-lifting in the workshop thread. I owe it all to… Oh, who am I kidding?

Power! Absolute power!

Why you can’t trust Wikipedia

The entry for Chris Rodda is a lovely example of lies.

By 30th of April 2014, she gave up her writing presence on Freethoughtblogs due to the repeated cyberbullying by leftist social justice activists, instigated by Freethought Blog’s own head of operations, Paul Zacharias (PZ) Myers.

How many lies can you squeeze into one sentence?

There was no “cyberbullying”. Chris was very highly regarded here. If mere disagreement is “bullying”, then I’m the frequent victim of bullying. (Note: I do not think it is.)

I did not instigate anything. I made one comment questioning whether it was appropriate to treat being called an atheist “libel”. That was really it. Apparently several other people made similar objections.

She spontaneously and independently decided to leave. If I’d had my choice, I’d have asked her to stay — she was a good contributor.

I am not the “head of operations” here. If anyone fits that description, it’s Ed Brayton — who is a good friend of Chris Rodda. I am confident he would have liked her to stay on, but this is not a prison — if people elect to leave, they can.

My middle name is misspelled.

Wikipedia: where any hack can edit anything.

What happened to This Week in Christian Nationalism?

Many people have asked what happened to Chris Rodda’s blog. I wondered that, too — it disappeared very abruptly, without warning and without notification to all the other bloggers here. There was nothing nefarious about it, though: she voluntarily asked Ed Brayton to pull it, Ed was traveling so he couldn’t inform all of us, and just had time to ask our tech master to do the deed. Rodda explains on Facebook.

So, I have now officially left FTB. By my request, my blog there has been completely scrubbed. This was actually a long time coming, but today was the last straw. Although there are some friends and other bloggers there who I really like, that site was just not where I belonged. I thought that my being a secularism and religious freedom activist would be enough, but the honest truth is that some atheists are as bad as the fundamentalist Christians that we fight, and after the comments I was seeing on my post there today — the same post that has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response on both HuffPo and Daily Kos, and also from MRFF supporters and even a few unlikely sources — I knew that it was time for me to leave FTB. So, that’s that, my blog there is now gone.

Apparently, what crystalized her decision was that several of us criticized a recent post, the one that she cites on Huffington Post, in which she was very irate that Mikey Weinstein, who is Jewish, was called an atheist on Fox News. She was right to be annoyed, and made a good case for the nuisance of constant misrepresentation of Weinstein and the MRFF by right wingers, but I think she made the argument that calling someone an atheist was defamation. I said so; I mentioned that I often get the flip side of that, being ‘accused’ of being a Jew when I’m not, and that we’d be rightfully appalled if I acted insulted and thought I was being defamed by being called Jewish.

Despite the fact that I’ve long appreciated her work and think she was an asset to the network, this criticism was apparently the final straw for her, and she left. Maybe that’s for the best, given that she seems to think “atheist” is a legally actionable slander, and also that she thinks the praise of the HuffPo readership is actually worth something.