Fundraiser: The Panel of Inexpert Discussion

“I think the people of this country,” sniffed Michael Gove, “have had enough of experts.” Perhaps he was right.

He wasn’t the only Brexit campaigner to identify and capitalise upon public distrust. Arron Banks, the multimillionaire behind Leave.EU, cheerfully attributed his campaign’s success to the mantra “facts don’t work”. Speaking after his referendum triumph, he said: “The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It doesn’t work. You’ve got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”

A non-trivial number of people in the world don’t care for facts or reason. They want something to be right, so they act like it’s correct. Trump perpetually says voter fraud is rampant, the experts repeatedly point out that isn’t the case, and yet groups of Trump supporters have started showing up to polling places to discourage people from voting. As a blogging network devoted to facts and reason, we turn down our noses at such tactics. And yet by avoiding the feelings-trump-facts crowd, we’re ignoring a significant chunk of the people.

This panel is our attempt at getting comfortable with their worldview. A number of people will lecture you on things of questionable truthhood, and if you walk away feeling something afterward then we’ll have succeeded. You can watch the event live on YouTube, where it will be archived afterwards. So tune in Sunday the 27th at 2PM MDT, and feel something. Don’t forget, this is all happening as part of our legal fundraiser; if you like this concept, chip in a few bucks here. Alternatively, check the fundraiser page for more ways you can contribute.

How Was Your Boycott?

I was planning on signal-boosting the YouTube boycott, thanks to a message by Great American Satan, until everyone else beat me to it. For an awareness campaign like this, it’s more useful to space out your messages than doing one big blast, so I deliberately held back. But what is there to do once the boycott’s done, you ask?

Well, some of you might be tempted back to YouTube. There are alternatives out there, though. For instance, Intransitive posted an animated short about the Le Mans crash of 1955. Problem: it was host on YouTube. Solution: it was also on Vimeo! Rather than blindly follow that YouTube link, do a bit of digging to see if any other site is hosting it. I’d also like to plug the Internet Archive, which hosts everything from Democracy Now! to classic cartoons.

You could also contact Google/YouTube directly. Yeah, Google’s support ranges from byzantine to bad, but did you know they post a mailing address for YouTube? Track down that pen that’s migrated to the back of your desk, fish out a blank sheet of paper from the printer tray, and send them a polite but firm message about their new terms of service.

If that all sounds like too much work, why not hit them in the pocketbook? There are multiple YouTube ad blockers available, all of which can be installed with a single click, and these tools are popular enough to keep up with Google’s countermeasures. Just be sure to uninstall it if or when Google relents! It’s what I’ll be doing, now that I can watch PyData videos again.


[HJH 2019-12-14] With the benefit of hindsight, I can see an objection to my last bit of advice. Yes, blocking ads will hurt Google’s bottom line, but it also might hurt the bottom line of YouTube creators. Aren’t I taking money out of their pockets?

For the most part, people aren’t making money off YouTube ads. Some big channels rely on Patreon to keep afloat, while others use paid sponsorships, and neither is significantly effected by a YouTube ad blocker. In both cases it’s easy to make up for any lost revenue due to your ad block.

The entities who do make genuine money off YouTube ads either have a second revenue stream you can drop money into, were already famous and don’t need the cash, or are gaming the system in some way. This last category is the one most hurt by removing ad revenue, and while that would prevent a Baby Shark it also prevents Elsagate. Ironically, this gamification is also the cause of YouTube’s draconian new Terms of Service, because the old one could not satisfy video creators, advertisers, and viewers at the same time. The new one solves the issue by allowing YouTube to crack down on creators however they see fit, should bad press float their way.

Blocking ads does not prevent quality content creators from surviving on YouTube, but it does harm those hoping to game the system and pocket a quick buck. So long as that remains true, blocking YouTube ads is perfectly moral.

Timeline: Rachel Oates and EssenceOfThought

I’ve already covered some of this material, as has EoT, so you might be wondering why I’m repeating myself months after the events in question.

The old stuff hasn’t been well-organized nor placed in chronological order. My own efforts, for instance, were at the end of the second-half of a long blog post where I was pretty harsh on Rationality Rules. There’s room for a more dispassionate summary of the full context of what happened, especially if allegations about this “will be amplified by social media and echo for weeks, months, maybe years.” I’m pretty firmly on EoT’s side, but by minimizing my commentary in favour of direct quotes I can create a summary that Rachel Oates’ supporters will also find useful. The primary bias of this post will thus be via lies of omission, so I’ll try to be as comprehensive as possible. There’s also material that neither EoT nor I have mentioned, most of it focused on Rachel Oates’ side of the equation, so her point of view is better represented.

With that intro out of the way, let’s begin at the beginning. All dates and times are based on Twitter’s timestamp, which I think uses my timezone of Mountain Daylight Time, though it’ll be helpful to know about India Standard Time. Oh, and CONTENT WARNING for transphobia, plus mention of suicide and self-harm. [Read more…]

The Crossroads

Apparently I know the solar system very well?

I attended a lecture on Carl Sagan, hosted by the Atheist Society of Calgary, and part of the event was a trivia challenge. While I wasn’t the only person at my table offering answers, my answers seemed to be the ones most consistently endorsed by the group. Assisted by some technical issues, our team wound up with a massive lead over the second-place finisher. The organizer from ASC surprised us all by saying everyone at our table could pick up a free T-shirt. I wasn’t terribly keen on wearing their logo, but I wandered over to the merch table anyway.

Sitting among the other designs was one that stopped me cold.

[Read more…]

Rationality Rules is an Abusive Transphobe

Abuse comes in more forms than many people realize. Take financial abuse, where someone uses economic leverage to control you, or reproductive coercion, or this behaviour.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where the abuser intentionally manipulates the physical environment or mental state of the abusee, and then deflects responsibility by provoking the abusee to think that the changes reside in their imagination, thus constituting a weakened perception of reality (Akhtar, 2009; Barton & Whitehead, 1969; Dorpat, 1996; Smith & Sinanan, 1972). By repeatedly and convincingly offering explanations that depict the victim as unstable, the abuser can control the victim’s perception of reality while maintaining a position of truth-holder and authority.

Roberts, Tuesda, and Dorinda J. Carter Andrews. “A Critical Race Analysis of the Gaslighting against African American Teachers.” Contesting the Myth of a” Post Racial Era”: The Continued Significance of Race in US Education, 2013, 69–94.

A small but growing amount of the scientific literature considers gaslighting a form of abuse. It’s also worth knowing about a close cousin of gaslighting known as “DARVO.”

DARVO refers to a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior. DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim — or the whistle blower — into an alleged offender. This occurs, for instance, when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation. […]

In a 2017 peer-reviewed open-access research study, Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame, Harsey, Zurbriggen, & Freyd reported that: “(1) DARVO was commonly used by individuals who were confronted; (2) women were more likely to be exposed to DARVO than men during confrontations; (3) the three components of DARVO were positively correlated, supporting the theoretical construction of DARVO; and (4) higher levels of exposure to DARVO during a confrontation were associated with increased perceptions of self-blame among the confronters. These results provide evidence for the existence of DARVO as a perpetrator strategy and establish a relationship between DARVO exposure and feelings of self-blame.

If DARVO seems vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s a popular tactic in the far-Right. Brett Kavanaugh used it during his Congressional hearing, this YouTuber encountered it quite a bit among the Proud Boys, and even RationalWiki’s explanation of it invokes the Christian far-Right. DARVO may be common among sexual abusers, but it’s important to stress that it’s not exclusive to them. It’s best to think of this solely as an abusive tactic to evade scrutiny, without that extra baggage. [Read more…]

The Death of the ACA

I’ve been catching up on YouTube videos, and this interview with John Iacoletti and Chelsea Rodriguez really hit me. It’s bad enough that some jerks threw transgender people under the bus to protect a bigoted YouTuber, but think about what else these people have done:

Almost every organization runs on trust. The exceptions, like the US Department of Defense and Facebook, can only get away with it because their “customers” have no alternative. People in need of a medium-sized atheist/skeptic non-profit have a number of good alternatives to pick from, in contrast.

At this point, would you trust the ACA enough to collaborate with them instead of another organization? Would you donate money to help keep them afloat? [Read more…]