A while ago, Ophelia noted that Justin Vacula had uploaded a picture of most of the FtB crew at Women in Secularism to Facebook. This picture had the messages of solidarity with embattled atheists across the world that we had written out removed and replaced with “We <3 Justin”. It was a Reap Paden “creative original” that Vacula liked so much he needed to share.
Then Paden tagged some of us in the photo. Ophelia objected, and the comment thread went into overdrive.
I wasn’t in a place to untag myself, so I got a nifty little summary of those comments in my email. There was Lee Moore, neutral party extraordinaire and would-be peacemaker, saying that no one loves the people in the picture. There were Vacula and Paden being abusive because Ophelia dared to tell them to leave her alone. There was blaming her for not pre-emptively having blocked them on Facebook as though she should–of course–have known they were going to behave so spitefully. There are the usual whines about how telling someone to leave you alone is weakness or confusing the lay definition of harassment with the legal definition. There was gratuitous nastiness both before and after Ophelia had blocked Vacula.
It was such a charming, pro-social, and activist set of emails.
There was one interaction that particularly stuck out, however.
Alishba Zarmeen: Please keep Maryam out of this ftb bullshit.
Justin Vacula: Maryam posts on the FTB network. Anyway, I have no quarrel with her. [edited to add] Would be great if she left for a more respectable network, but that’s perhaps a story for another day.
This struck me because this is such a strange but common misunderstanding. Maybe it’s centered in “just world” victim-blaming. Maybe it comes from wanting to believe that this behavior of Paden’s and Vacula’s really is the “disagreement” they claim rather than plain old, garden variety harassment. Why it happens isn’t terribly important. The fact that it’s wrong is what matters.
No, Alishba, you don’t get to direct the crap. You can enjoy it, if you must, when it’s pointed at people you don’t like, but you don’t have any say when it gets pointed at anyone else. The only way to keep the crap from infecting everything and everyone in these movements, all the bits of what make these movements important to you, all the things and people that keep you inspired to act–the only way to keep this from touching them is to stop it entirely.
You see, these people don’t care who is doing the work of our movements. They don’t care whether their targets have written good books, have helped doubting believers free themselves from superstition, teach critical thinking, work for movement organizations, or anything of the sort. They don’t care. They only care that no one be able to tell them what they can or can’t do, who they can or can’t use for their sport.
“No one” means they don’t want you telling them either.
This isn’t something you can control. This isn’t something that benefits you. They’re in this for them and them alone.
Don’t forget that.
By the way, this is also the conversation in which this little jem was posted by someone named Matt Johnson:
I’ll tag you Ophelia… i bet its been a while since you’ve been properly tagged… we god haters know how to do it so well you’ll scream out “HITCHENS!!!” In extacy before you have the urge to say “oh god”.
I was tagged in the photo too, so I got that little bit of joy in my email. I didn’t, however, get any email saying Vacula had objected to the comment or to its replacement:
I’ll tag you, Ophelia. I bet its been a while since you’ve been properly ‘tagged’. See, now that’s harassment.
What was that Dave Silverman was saying about silently lending your support to misogynist crap?
Now just imagine that message being sent–by atheists–to your favorite atheist activist, because that’s what’s going to happen to any of them who get in these people’s ways.