It Must Have Been the Pressure

Something odd happened a couple of days ago. Atheist Alliance International tweeted a link to a post that purports to explain harassment–by limiting its definition to criminal harassment and applying tests that don’t exist within that definition to say that what we’ve been experiencing isn’t harassment. Ophelia has an excellent guest post by Tom Foss explaining how the original post goes wrong.

I call the tweet odd because AAI was proactive on the question of anti-harassment policies. Someone from the organization contacted me, rather than the other way around, when the policies were suggested and asked for information on how other organizations were handling the issue. They told me when they put a policy in place. So I was surprised to see their link.

I wasn’t the only one. There was some reaction from a few of us who saw the tweet:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/316586362960760833″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/SimonKnowz/status/316586677353185280″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/JFLCroft/status/316587177712701440″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/316587587445858304″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/SimonKnowz/status/316587750642040834″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/316587781721817088″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/JFLCroft/status/316587900953305088″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/316588244479406081″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/JFLCroft/status/316589635952320512″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/OpheliaBenson/status/316590887125778432″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/rebeccawatson/status/316587914140205057″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/DBryte/status/316639805557579776″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/szvan/status/316588794369409025″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Ibis3/status/316628789704679424″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/JacquesR/status/316657481243828224″]

As you can see, most of it wasn’t even about AAI. In addition to the reaction on Twitter, Ophelia showed the tweet in a post that was about the original blog post, not about the tweet. A few people in the comments mentioned AAI. To the best of my knowledge, that was the extent of the reaction.

Then AAI deleted the tweet and president Carlos Diaz issued an apology, saying:

Hi everyone, tweeting that link was a mistake, a big one. One of our Social Media collaborators twitted the link from what looked to him as a sensible source with a title that seemed on the same page as we are.  He wasn´t aware of the fact that the article is far off from our stance on harassment: we don´t condone it, we don´t defend it and we certainly will not accept it in our community, end of story.  We are completely committed to promoting women feeling safer in our community (something we should all strive for) and to stopping this senseless harassment that plagues us.

We have an anti-harassment policy that is mandatory for all conventions we help organize or give funding to and we are always open to receiving suggestions or requests for help regarding this, and any other issue (email: president [at] atheistalliance [dot] org).

I personally apologize for the slip up and hope you understand we, in no way, share any view other than the fact that we all must work together against harassment in our community, we must all feel safe discussing ideas among ourselves and not blame the victims in order to hide the shortcomings our community has.

I was curious what the reaction to this would be, so I searched on Twitter for AAI’s handle. The reaction this time wasn’t confusion. Among a bunch of thanks for the apology was this:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317012386907291648″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317012968455942144″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/BTRadford/status/317013758016901120″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317064655904321536″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/JakCharlton/status/317026814285455360″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317028462328160257″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/CompleteCulture/status/317063863306702849″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mateus_justino/status/317065492412116993″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/danielwaddell17/status/317027412867170304″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Metamagician/status/317035928961040384″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317036237062033408″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Metamagician/status/317040061189324800″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Metamagician/status/317040741689991169″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Metamagician/status/317041779641810945″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317061538609500161″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/DC_in_Detroit/status/317041539484381184″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mirandachale/status/317063601422753792″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/NotungSchwert/status/317065769169084416″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/RichardReed84/status/317013952968134656″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Trinoc_/status/317017327726125056″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Zaminuszen/status/317017813019660289″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/ElevatorGATE/status/317025210190663680″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/tkmlac/status/317026234297102338″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/tkmlac/status/317027351697448961″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/tkmlac/status/317029930229714944″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/SteelesWheel/status/317030820667863040″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/tkmlac/status/317030994911838209″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/AstrokidNJ/status/317036445577666560″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Daosorios/status/317049122765037569″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Daosorios/status/317049794264694785″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/saramayhew/status/317062560513916929″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/felch_grogan/status/317097085222674432″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/saramayhew/status/317075869984251906″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/schrostherapist/status/317078946145517569″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/JDofAndersonia/status/317080671849947136″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/atheismplus/status/317082337567449089″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/atheismplus/status/317082699288420353″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/atheismplus/status/317082924044414976″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/atheismplus/status/317083187807395841″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/atheismplus/status/317083338907217920″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/EdwardGemmer/status/317087118230974465″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Shingen666/status/317089944558501888″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/felch_grogan/status/317090990391431168″]

The differences are striking. None of the people who originally tweeted about the post said anything about being offended. They (we) described the post as wrong or bad, not “offensive”. We note that the content of the post has relevance for our situations. But when the time comes to characterize our response, we’re “offended” or “sensitive” and demanding that everything be submitted for our approval. We are, of course, engaging in a “witch hunt” by disagreeing with the post.

We say that we’re confused by the behavior of an organization we admire. The response to the apology says it’s time to abandon the organization.

Rather than ask or wonder what happened, as we did, the assumption is made that AAI originally endorsed the sentiments in the harassment post. Then, terrified by slightly over a dozen tweets about the post and a couple of comments, they “rolled over and pissed their bellies like submissive, frightened dogs”. The possibility that the apology is a straightforward description of what happened doesn’t seem to be considered.

That’s too bad, because a further comment by Diaz suggested that was exactly the case:

Hi all, thanks for being so understanding. You shouldn´t be thanking AAI for doing what´s right, you should be proud for bringing this to our attention.
As I said before, we´re always open to suggestions or for requests of supports, you can always shoot me an email at [email protected] or simply talk to us on Twitter or Facebook.

Then he and Ophelia went on to talk about support for “heretics” in other countries. You know, like you do when you’re conducting the business of organized secularist activism.

Or when you’re under terrible pressure and strain. Either one.

It Must Have Been the Pressure

39 thoughts on “It Must Have Been the Pressure

  1. 2

    It’s funny, because these same asswipes would be all over creationists writing “thoughtful, well-reasoned posts in good faith” about evolution.

    The atheoskeptic movement really does need to be put down. The world doesn’t need more assholes opining on shit without having done the research.

  2. 3

    Thank you, Stephanie, for so clearly capturing the difference in approaches. You, Rebecca, Ophelia, Tom Foss, et al, called the bullshit for what it was and the Diaz copped to it, apologized for it, and agreed that AAI didn’t want anything to do with it. A mistake was made. You called them on it. AAI fixed it.

    The other side’s response? Odious responses by the simply odious demanding that AAI not do what was right. These people are valueless to skepticism.

  3. 4

    So…for those that were offended by the retraction, do they understand how utterly childish those tweets were? It’s like reading tweets of high school students.

  4. 6

    It’s like reading tweets of high school students.

    Given their obsession with getting laid, having balls, and all that, it’s a pretty good guess they’re still pissed off about not having dates for the prom.

  5. 7

    Anthony K

    The atheoskeptic movement really does need to be put down. The world doesn’t need more assholes opining on shit without having done the research.

    3 years ago, I identified as an atheist and a skeptic. My social group is fairly lukewarm on religions; my relatively extreme atheism was a small point of pride.

    These jackasses have pretty much erased that pride.

  6. 8

    @5 Hankstar: More to the point, do they have any idea just how deficient vjack’s post is with regard both to ethics and the law?

    He was trying to define away harassment using the exact same approach William Lane Craig uses when he tries to define God into existence. Ignore the actual, real, agreed-upon definitions and facts in favor of his own twisted interpretation.

  7. 9

    I see that we’re back to the “FTBullies are intimidating everyone with their vast power” meme. I’m so confused. I thought Thursdays were a “FTBullies are irrelevant, everyone is seeing through their nonsense” day. Can someone please send me the current schedule?

  8. 10

    Kevin wrote:

    I don’t know the others, but I’m quite embarrassed to say that I once respected Russell Blackford.

    Likewise. But he’s got a TAM gig out of siding with the scumhole creepers so I doubt anything as trifling as the respect of people who can’t give him that sort of exposure is all that important to him anymore.

  9. 11

    Yeah, see, screech, they stopped publishing a schedule ever since they proclaimed 2013 as the Year of Random Onslaughts of Vacuous Shit. The reasoning, as I understood it, was that by keeping FTBullies guessing about what was coming next, the Bullies couldn’t possibly remember all the bizarre, nonsensical, unconnected, and inconsistent broadsides of shit the Brave Heroes had previously flung. So they were kinda, sorta hoping you would have already forgotten all about that irrelevance shit before they switched to flinging the all-powerful shit. That you remembered the Bullies were supposed to be irrelevant haz surely given the Brave Heroes a sadz. You can expect another onslaught of random shit soon.

  10. 12

    Back to the original fuck-up by AAI, this kind of thing does emphasize why “having a dialogue” and “improving the tone” are such misguided goals. All it does is engage in faux-reasonableness that someone who isn’t familiar with the references and underlying assumptions will think is saying one thing, when it’s exactly the other. I’m kind of amazed that someone at AAI got snookered by vjack’s self-serving, self-contradicting denialism, but whatever. It’s kind of like creationists who purport to be for “academic freedom” and “critical thinking” and “understanding strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories” and fool a few legislators, many journalists, and some of the general public. It’s a whole different ballgame when you know what they really mean, and it’s neither obligatory, beneficial, nor responsible to include this kind of double-speak in the “dialogue” when they mean it as the thin end of the wedge to drive in their toxic shit.

  11. 13

    If you guys weren’t so tragically ironic, you’d possibly be substantial. Vjack said the word harassment is being thrown around. He came up with a working definition of harassment and then attempted to fit behaviors either into our outside of that definition. That is fundamentally all he did.

    You are free to agree or disagree with Vjack; however to put him in the category of “asswipes” or to say that his motivation is “getting laid” or “having balls” shows how you folks are nothing more than mirrors of that you criticize. Do you guys project much?

    Really? At least try to deal with the substance of what he said, try to show how he minimizes or trivializes things like “harassment.” Then possibly you can be taken seriously rather than the “vacaous trolls” that you so criticize.

    Love ya

    Richard

  12. 14

    Kevin, 8:

    @5 Hankstar: More to the point, do they have any idea just how deficient vjack’s post is with regard both to ethics and the law?

    He was trying to define away harassment using the exact same approach William Lane Craig uses when he tries to define God into existence. Ignore the actual, real, agreed-upon definitions and facts in favor of his own twisted interpretation.

    It was pretty egregious, wasn’t it? But don’t expect vjack to recognise the mote in his eye, as it were.

  13. 15

    Wowbagger: Yes, I guess that’s true.

    However, I am a buyer of books. Lots and lots of books. Hard to see how being outed as a cro-magnon is going to help him sell me one of his books.

    50 Voices of Disbelief was on my list of books I wanted to buy…won’t be doing that now. Maybe I’ll pick it up at the local library.

    I think I’ll get Grayling’s latest instead.

  14. 16

    Well, hello, “Ron in Houston”. How nice of you to sock by.

    I don’t usually release sock puppet comments, but I’ll make an exception this time to point out that what you want people to do was not only already done, it was linked in this post.

    Also, nobody claimed vjack’s motivation was any of those things. If you go back and read the post, he wasn’t among the tweeters being referenced in that comment. If I were required to speculate on vjack’s motivations, the answer would have something to do with staying relevant in a movement that’s partly passing him by, but it would be mere speculation based on the fact that I hadn’t heard much about or from him for quite a while before he started putting up posts like this.

    Now, go back to your drawer.

  15. 17

    Kevin:

    I don’t know the others, but I’m quite embarrassed to say that I once respected Russell Blackford.

    Same here – now I dismiss him as casually as I dismiss that clueless pawn Stangroom. They both appear to be jumping up and down and demanding a fucking cookie for sticking it to the #ftbullies.

    I think Blackford should sit down and have a good long chat with his former debate partner (and utter badass) Jane Caro about feminism and harassment – I’m sure she’d be fascinated to hear his dismissals of the actions of his new Brave Hero buddies.

  16. 18

    Hank: Nobody said that skeptics had to understand logic and evidence, did they? Oh wait…

    I’m still constantly amused by the irony of a lecture on the harassment of public figures like Ophelia coming from someone who hides behind a pseudonym.

    Off to read a book now. Not Blackford’s.

  17. 19

    Stephanie:

    If I were required to speculate on vjack’s motivations, the answer would have something to do with staying relevant in a movement that’s partly passing him by, but it would be mere speculation based on the fact that I hadn’t heard much about or from him for quite a while before he started putting up posts like this.

    I think you could be right. I remember vjack from a few years back when I first started reading atheist blogs; I lost interest quite quickly due to a number of factors, not least of which was his increasingly dull & dry content. It’s interesting that the first time I hear from him in years it’s a feet-first entry into the anti-feminist schism (and is as dull and dry as it is dishonest).

    It may well be the case that he’s decided to jump on the anti-fem slamwagon before he’s a blip in the rear-view mirror of online godlessness but, as you say, that can really only be speculated on – for all I know he might well wholeheartedly believe what he wrote (in which case he can be deemed ignorant or malicious, depending on how charitable you might be feeling).

    On a general note, I think if anyone’s “whipping up drama to generate blog hits” (as certain feminist bloggers are constantly accused of) it’s the Brave Heroes themselves, after having glimpsed a future where public/movement atheo-skepticism isn’t just a “guy thing” of eviscerating the Vatican, inflaming imams and bollocking Bigfoot. With so many of the Old Guard standing fast against all these uppity chicks publicly and oh-so uncivilly asserting their humanity, it’s interesting to see which members of the atheosphere are siding with them.

  18. 20

    Motivation notwithstanding, all vjack did was to crib from a legal definition of harassment, and he fucked that up.

    Skepticism for the win. My office admin assistant would have done an better job, just by being adequate.

  19. 21

    The only thing “offensive” about Vjack’s post was how flagrantly wrong, fallacy-riddled, and contradictory it was (harassment can involve “visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons” but “silly images” are “clearly NOT” harassment). AAI took it down because its dismissiveness toward and narrow definition of harassment contradict their stated policies and positions.

    All that said, it’s depressing to see so many “skeptics” talking about what a “good faith” and “well-written” piece that was, when its mangling of harassment law (including complete ignorance of what is meant by “hostile environment,” which is in his quoted definition) could be corrected by a ten-minute office powerpoint. Or, you know, thirty seconds on the Google and an unwillingness to equivocate.

    It’s depressing, but I’m well past being surprised by so-called “skeptics” overlooking fallacies and shoddy research so long as it’s in service of their pet prejudices. It’s a reminder that we all can fall into those traps, and it’s when the ideas are most appealing that we should exercise the most critical thought and skepticism.

  20. 22

    Richard: I addressed your points at Ophelia’s. I also dealt with the substance of what he said, most importantly, how what he said was a heaping helping of equivocation and false dilemma.

    In terms of how he’s trivializing things, here’s the point again for the dense: by cherry-picking a definition of harassment that does not apply to what people have been saying, and by ignoring what is meant by “hostile environment” in a legal sense, and even ignoring a section of the example law cited by the page he linked to on harassment, he was able to say that the things which have been called harassment are not “real harassment” (even though they would qualify as such under civil codes, workplace harassment laws, and cyberharassment laws, the latter of which Vjack has cited before in a post linked to this one), and thus dismiss them out of hand. If you can’t see how that serves to dismiss people’s actual concerns and complaints, and you can’t see how it trivializes civil, workplace, and cyberharassment to say “yeah, but that’s not real harassment according to the definition I arbitrarily cherry-picked because it better supports my presupposed position,” then again, I submit that the reading problem is yours and yours alone.

    And you may want to go back to Skepticism 101 and re-read the textbook sections on proper research and fallacious arguments. Read them closely, Richard, since I know you have difficulties.

  21. 23

    Apologies for the triple-post, but I’d like to comment on the Courtier’s Reply that is “at least try to deal with the substance of what he said.” When the substance of what someone says is built on a fallacious first premise, why waste the time, effort, or energy dealing with the rest (though it has been done, repeatedly)? It doesn’t matter what your argument on the proper definition of marriage is if it follows from “Premise 1: The Bible is the inerrant word of God;” it doesn’t matter what your opinion on the upcoming presidential election is if it’s predicated on the belief that alien reptoids control the worlds’ ruling families. Until we address the fallaciousness of that first point, there’s really no use or point in discussing the rest.

  22. 24

    Huh. Tom, it never even occurred to me that people might think that addressing the foundation of the argument wouldn’t be addressing its substance. That does make a few of those tweets less bizarre, though. Thanks.

  23. 25

    My office admin assistant would have done an better job, just by being adequate.

    Ah, that’s some shitty classism* on my part (I only meant that my office admin assistant is by no means a skeptic, and is quite skilled at zir job. Ze can transcribe quite capably, when zir position requires it, unlike good-faith-vjack.)

    I retract that. It was stupid and rude of me.

    (*Classism at least. Prolly some other ugly -isms in there as well.)

  24. 26

    AAI treating the move as simple common sense makes me wonder who the fuck is listening to the Slymepit now, and by extension why we need a dialogue with them. Seems like the movement has already left them behind.

    Well. Except for TAM, but of course the KKK and Stormfront exist too.

  25. 28

    Tremendous snarking, my peoples! <3 for screechy, tony, & stephanie @16. And thanks for apologizing for classism, Anthony. As a 36 year old who has never made as much as 30K in a single year of my life, I appreciate it.

    Setár- That's hyperbole I can get behind. I've admired your handle for a while now, too. 🙂

  26. 29

    Ugh. I didn’t look at the wall of jerks up there much until just now. So many liars, intellectually dishonest creeps, and self-important ponces. The most bold-faced of the liars whose name I recognized – GEMMER! That dude had the gall to say people on Pharyngula were hating on him for his interracial marriage. What an unbelievable tool!

  27. 31

    #25 @ Anthony K: Thanks for clarifying and recognizing the content of your comment. I was taken aback by it, and I had to re-read it to make sure who said it in order to interpret the content. I felt that I was back in the 80s secretaries pool, or something. Cheers, mate.

  28. 32

    Wait…so why is #ftbullies on twitter full of assholes this morning moaning about how we have no right to be offended? As you’ve so clearly shown, no one was complaining about being offended!

  29. 33

    PZ, that does seem to be the perpetual question.

    “You’re doing harm.” “Don’t get so offended!”

    “You’re normalizing bad behavior.” “Don’t get so offended!”

    “You’re driving people away.” “Don’t get so offended!”

    “You’re discriminating.” “Don’t get so offended!”

    “You’re demonstrably wrong.” “Don’t get so offended!”

    It’s like they think calling us “offended” negates everything we’ve just said. Don’t they realize other people can tell the difference?

  30. 34

    What a bunch of gibbering gobshites. Not a single fucking thing that comes out of their mouths makes an iota of sense, nor does any of their viscous drivel compel one to search out a counterexample.

  31. 36

    “Dangerous precedent!” “Witchhunt!”

    (Don’t mind me, I just like saying those words. They don’t actually mean anything, do they?)

    P.S. I, too, would like to thank Anthony K. for thinking twice and apologizing for his #20. That’s why there’s a line.

    @screechymonkey

    I see that we’re back to the “FTBullies are intimidating everyone with their vast power” meme. I’m so confused. I thought Thursdays were a “FTBullies are irrelevant, everyone is seeing through their nonsense” day. Can someone please send me the current schedule?

    I share your confusion. I think we’re both at the same time. It’s a quantum thing. Science!

  32. 37

    sez leftsidepositive:

    Back to the original fuck-up by AAI, this kind of thing does emphasize why “having a dialogue” and “improving the tone” are such misguided goals.

    Hmmm… Subtle disagreement. Having A Dialogue is a good thing, but if you have to go out of your way to do it, as opposed to it being Standard Operating Procedure, you’re missing the point. Analogy: If you have to tell people how smart/rational you are, you probably aren’t; if you have to tell people that you’re all about Having A Dialog, again, you probably aren’t. Notice how Diaz didn’t make a fuss about Having A Dialogue? Instead he just… well… had a dialogue.

  33. 38

    Setár, genderqueer Elf-Sheriff of Atheism+ @26 wrote:

    …who the fuck is listening to the Slymepit…

    Especially since they can’t even come close to having any basis for claiming that they’re making the trains run on time. I mean, Mussolini lied when he said the trains were perfect, and he lied when he claimed responsibility for it, but at least he could point to someone else’s improvements and falsely take credit. The slymepit can’t do even that much, because they’re actively dismissing (as harmful) the improvements to the atheist/skeptical communities that have been made so far. They’d have to propagandize against their own propaganda just to get back to where things stood before “guys, don’t do that.”

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