Entirely Predictable

I suppose this could be viewed as a response to Michael Nugent’s recent finger-wagging at PZ, and in a way I suppose it is. Really, though, his post is just a nucleation point for a number of thoughts that have been swimming around.

The important thing to remember is that, if you want to control how a problem is addressed, you have to address the problem effectively. If your actions are ineffective, your methods are undermined. If you try to control the way people address problems from a position of inaction, you have exactly zero moral authority. You have even less moral authority than that if you were in a position of power and/or influence when you declined to fix the problem.

This blowup has been entirely predictable from the start. Even if no one knew about the multiple allegations against Michael Shermer before last August (and at least JREF leadership knew), people have known for the last year. In that time, D. J. Grothe invited Shermer to be a keynote speaker at the JREF flagship event. A presentation at that conference provided reasons to doubt reports of acquaintance rape. Edwina Rogers appointed Shermer to her Global Secular Council project.

During the period when Shermer was almost certainly aware that Mark Oppenheimer was writing his article on the allegations, Richard Dawkins tried to use his influence behind the scenes to get people to stop talking about the allegations. Nugent attempted to use his influence directly to get PZ to stop talking about them. Dawkins took the idea that date rape is “lesser” rape for a test drive on Twitter.

After the allegations were printed, Dawkins compared being raped to driving drunk. He also said no one should report being raped while severely intoxicated. He, oh, so subtly called the blog network that broke the news of various allegations “Feedingfrenzy Thoughtpolice Bullies”. Michael Nugent took his complaints about PZ public.

Is every one of those events aimed at shoring up Michael Shermer in response to the harassment and assault allegations? Maybe. Quite possibly not. Some of them probably would have happened anyway, and the people behind them mostly aren’t answering the questions.

However, there are enough of them that it looks an awful lot like the powerful closing ranks to protect one of their own. It particularly looks that way given that none of those people supported the push for conference anti-harassment policies, and some openly opposed them.

If you think that’s not applying a spark to a powder keg, you haven’t been paying attention. You didn’t pay attention to what happened in the Catholic Church. You didn’t pay attention to what happened in the Boy Scouts of America or the Society for Creative Anachronism. You’re not paying attention to what’s happening now in science fiction and fantasy fandom or in response to what’s been revealed by Operation Yewtree in the UK.

This blow up? This–yes–outrage? This noise and protest and anger? This is what happens in cases like this.

There’s a good reason why it happens too. Yes, a lot of people rally around their friends when those friends are accused of wrongdoing. Many of them even continue to deny wrongdoing in the face of multiple credible allegations. What they don’t do, what they don’t have the power to do, is change the world to make their friend’s action okay.

People who lead groups, who speak from stages, who have, say, a million people subscribed to their every utterance–these are the people who have the power to change the world through their own actions. The rest of us “little people” are left with numbers and passion and volume. We’re left with revolt.

If you want these things dealt with in a manner that suits your notion of decorum, you have to keep things from reaching the point where the “little people” revolt. If you want to quiet the people demanding changes, you have to fix the problem or persuade them that it’s not a problem worth fixing. (Pro tip: That last is not an option when the problem is sexual harassment and assault. It just isn’t going to happen.) If you want to persuade them their concerns aren’t valid, you have to demonstrate enough respect to address them directly instead of talking to the air.

That’s the only way you get control how problems are addressed–to address them. Everything else leads to greater numbers, more passion, and more noise. Not only is this entirely predictable, but some of us have been telling you this for years.

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Entirely Predictable

67 thoughts on “Entirely Predictable

  1. 2

    If you want? It depends what you want. If you want to make sure your drunk but totally sober buddy gets away with having sex with that drunk woman who was sober and can’t remember anything, well then I guess you have to just obfuscate, name-call, talk about how absurd your opponents are and how obviously correct your position is.

    And if your other buddy says something stupid, like “I’m not the sexist pig you’re looking for”, you have to then stand up and shout out loud: “Look here, look here, I’ll explain what sexism is!”

    I really think Richard Dawkins is basically trying to defend people by making himself look like an ass – he probably assumes he can weather an bad PR: I don’t think this will significantly influence his number of speaking gigs, celebrity status or income.

  2. 4

    D. J. Grothe invited Shermer to be a keynote speaker at the JREF flagship event. A presentation at that conference provided reasons to doubt reports of acquaintance rape. Edwina Rogers appointed Shermer to her Global Secular Council project.

    During the period when Shermer was almost certainly aware that Mark Oppenheimer was writing his article on the allegations, Richard Dawkins tried to use his influence behind the scenes to get people to stop talking about the allegations. Nugent attempted to use his influence directly to get PZ to stop talking about them. Dawkins took the idea that date rape is “lesser” rape for a test drive on Twitter.

    I’d just like to register my bemusement that the conspiracy nuts in the atheist/skeptic community not only missed this conspiracy,* they had no idea they were active contributors to it.

    (* It could also be converging but independent interests, true enough, but those look identical to conspiracies at a certain distance. Red flags still should have been raised…)

  3. 5

    @UnknownEric,

    Nugent attempted to use his influence directly to get PZ to stop talking about them.

    You quote that but I think it’s a reach unless Stephanie is talking about something else. He said at the conference in Ireland he spoke to PZ and tried to get him to tone his invective down, PZ supposedly agreed. Not sure I’m convinced by the latter part, but to call it him trying to get PZ to stop talking about them full stop seems a stretch.

  4. 8

    Nope. Michael Nugent sent me what was essentially a draft of the article he published…a month or two ago. His one-sided defense of a known womanizer with multiple victims making accusations was there at that time.

    I ignored it. It was so patently biased and bizarre (really — you’re going to complain about making personal attacks by making a personal attack? It’s like the Mooney accommodation wars all over again), and so plainly a threat to take his complaints public, that I saw no point to replying. Yes, please, do go ahead and complain about that mean poopyhead Myers (in the politest possible language, of course!) — I’m not going to care. Nugent’s site is already a haven for the nastiest of the slymepitters, so how much does he think an accusation of rudeness coming from that cesspool is going to impress me?

  5. 9

    No, that was a question of me reading Nugent as being more forthcoming about his role in this than he was in his post. I skimmed because I knew a lot of it already and inserted disclosure where he merely talked about talking to PZ. I read it that way due to prior knowledge of an email he sent to PZ, copying Ophelia (who told me about it and gave me permission to say so) and Dawkins. If you want a good sense of what that email said, take the start of Nugent’s post about PZ.

    It was bad practice on my part not to confirm that Nugent had made this public, but it is now.

  6. 12

    I’d imagine he was sticking to the brilliant standards conceived by Ron Lindsay (?) and signed up to by a few others, where the requirement to give the subject of a “hit” piece right of reply before publishing it was codified. Shows how ill conceived those are, not least the appearance (being ever so civil and benefit of the doubty) of pressure and conflict of interest. Got #GamerGate on the mind at the moment and similar pre-sharing of articles by Gaming journalists and writers is seen as the most pernicious corruption since time began. Probably not that bad, but I think there are circumstances where it doesn’t look good, this is one.

    Also begs the question of why hasn’t Dawkins publicised Nugents post. He usually laps up the sycophantic drivel, I was sick in my mouth a bit when I read Steve Zara’s apology to him and Harris, Dawks the great leader patting him on the head… Maybe because it names the “clickbait” king who cannot be named?

  7. 13

    Dawkins did publicize it on Twitter: “The supernormally fairminded @micknugent on how the global atheist movement needs to eschew US-parochial infighting”, with a link to the hit piece.

  8. 16

    Oops, sorry, I don’t follow him so missed that… Also just reeling from him asking me on Twitter if I’d believe the woman in the New Statesman article describing her rape at 14 and drunk, if she had no reliable memory of it… Err, yes FFS!

  9. 17

    Wait.

    So multiple (well, two) people plotted behind the scenes to suppress information of wrongdoing, and tried to discretely silence and discredit potential whistleblowers?

    Tha-that IS a conspiracy!

    [dives for the nearest tinfoil hat]

  10. 19

    No, I wouldn’t believe her story…if I lived in a world with spherical cows where everyone had a photographic memory, except when drunk, and where rape could be carried out with a perfect lack of evidence, circumstantial or otherwise.

    The magical rational world of Vulcan atheist dudebros, in other words.

  11. 20

    I COMPLETELY understand if none of you want to come near this subject, but…

    …has anybody in any position of power within the “Atheist Movement” come to any of you privately and said, “Sorry this is happening, we agree with you, not them”?

    Because if not, that’s just pure ethically bankruptcy and cowardice.

  12. 21

    Steph @ 18 – yes, Michael said that was why he was cc-ing both of us: because of the statement. Now that he’s published that post, I’m assuming it’s fair to say this, especially since 1. he never asked us not to and 2. he never asked us for permission to cc us in the first place. In other words I never asked to be cc’d on that email (or knew it was on the way or any such thing), and I thought it was horribly inappropriate – both ccs, that is, to me and to Dawkins – so I feel entitled to supply the details.

  13. 22

    Wow. WOW.

    Maybe I’m getting mixed up in the timelines here, but: Nugent drafted that article taking issue with PZ saying bad things about Shermer a month or more ago, then the Oppenheimer article in which multiple women attach their names to specific accusations of wrongdoing, then Nugent decides that the article is still the relevant and appropriate contribution to make to the conversation?

    WOW.

  14. 24

    I just don’t understand how this escalated. Harris ought to have said, wow, that is a great example of the unconscious biases we have, and thanks to those who pointed it out to me.

    Dawkins needs to stop parroting CHS. How does he not see it is exactly like when evolution deniers find their 1 scientist who agrees with them and touts them as a legitimate voice on the topic? CHS is not a feminist, she is not an expert, and she is not respected in the field when it comes to feminism.

  15. 25

    UnknownEric, about this current round? No, not specifically. However, quite a few people at orgs have been supportive prior to this. I don’t have any reason to think they’re not now, even if they’re not reaching out at the moment.

    I will say that the Secular Coalition linked to Mark Oppenheimer’s piece yesterday in an email news round-up. I was impressed.

  16. 27

    I’m sick and tired of Nugent and his “lie back and think of the movement, baby”.
    Because that’s essencially what it is.
    He’s like the bully-enabling teacher who ignores the bullies and chastizes the victims because they are actually reacting to the bullying.
    Also, no, this is not a ‘murican thingy.
    I’m not American, I know that some of the worst of the slime is in continental Europe and Dawkins is so English he probably poops in red and white. Even if you could make the argument that we are an exception who got drawn into this, it still ignores that this is not a conflict that is unique to the USA and the atheist “community” in the USA. You have #Aufschrei in Germany, #Everyday Sexism in the UK and many more.
    Also, I’ve been politically active since I was 14. I’ve had enough men playing Nugent in that time. They’re often worse than the outright assholes.

  17. 28

    Dawkins, Nugent, Randi, Grothe, and Rodgers, all acting to send a message to Shermer that despite knowing of his actions, they did not deplore them. They circled wagons to protect a known rapist against the consequences of his actions, and to smear and intimidate his victims and any other victims in the movement who wanted to come forward.

    And their defenders on Twitter and on the blogs, I note, are often ones who retort with the “dictionary atheist” argument: atheism is just lack of belief, it implies no moral code, and there’s no reason that atheism should be tied up with other progressive ideals.

    Well, in a way, they proved themselves right on this count: you can be an atheist and have no moral code, or progressive ideals, you can be an atheist and still believe that the hierarchical power structure which benefits the privileged few at the expense of everyone else is a good thing that ought to stay in place, and you can be an atheist and actively defend people who use their positions of influence to do harm.

    Sure, okay. Now, the onus is on them to explain why anyone should want to be such an atheist.

  18. 30

    I have the advantage of having the email, so I looked it up to get the date. August 19th.

    Meanwhile Nugent (along with Derek Walsh, also of Atheist Ireland) is accusing me of defamation on Twitter – or did, rather, and then ran away.

    I’m beyond disgusted.

  19. 31

    Zvan @18 and Benson @21:

    Collusion doesn’t have to be explicit. Nugent may have stated he forwarded the message to Dawkins and Benson because of the agreement, but he might also have been thinking “this’ll help Dawkins silence the allegations, and serve as a warning to Benson.” He was already known for pushing civility, Dawkins was only tangentally mentioned in the piece (much of which was added recently, I note), and Benson was never mentioned at all; there was no strong reason to forward it on. He might also have known Dawkins was pressuing Benson, and thus never tried to pressure her himself; by receiving this email, Dawkins would know someone was pressuring Myers, and thus he didn’t need to pursue that.

    This gives us a simple test of the conspiracy hypothesis: if Dawkins never got in touch with Myers before the latter spoke out about Shermer, despite having desire and means to, and Nugent never tried to silence Benson before she spoke out, despite also having a desire to and a personal connection, then the hypothesis is plausible. If not, then not.

    (To be clear, I don’t really care if there is a conspiracy, I’ve got more than enough reason to be hopping mad at both Dawkins and Nugent for protecting Shermer. It’s worth floating the possiblity of it, though, if only to test the depths of this rabbit hole…)

  20. 32

    Dawkins did publicize it on Twitter: “The supernormally fairminded @micknugent on how the global atheist movement needs to eschew US-parochial infighting”, with a link to the hit piece.

    fuck me but I’m tired of this anti-american bigotry. Being for anti-harassment policies and against date rape is not “US-parochial infighting”.

  21. 34

    It’s an obnoxious letter. After telling me that I have accused “Michael Shermer of multiple unreported serious crimes”, he gives me my marching orders:

    consider apologising to people who you have unjustly hurt and defamed, and start focusing on actually promoting compassion and empathy and social justice if those ideas are important to you.

    I’m supposed to not only shut up about serial womanizer and accused rapist Michael Shermer, I’m expected to apologize to him…presumably for my impertinence in suggesting that a Famous Skeptic ought not to treat conferences as his personal candy bowl.

    And now he denies telling anyone “to keep sexual harassment secret”. What was he expecting me to do in response? This is a problem: he’s so infatuated with civility that he sends out this vague, murky shit and expects everyone to do something that he won’t be so rude as to specify, and then when we try to puzzle out what he means he tells us no, that’s not it, and stop defaming me.

  22. 35

    That. ^ He actually ACCUSED ME OF DEFAMING HIM on Twitter a few hours ago. Then Derek Walsh joined in. I kept asking him and asking him what Nugent had meant if not that, and oh gosh gee he had to do something else right then. Plenty of time to accuse me of defamation, no time to explain why Nugent didn’t mean what he said but something quite quite different.

  23. 36

    There needs to be a different word than “civility” for the kind of thing Nugent is demanding. Like “ballast,” since he only seems to give a fuck about what won’t rock the boat.

  24. 37

    Well, fuck him then. It seems I’ve been entirely too charitable in my thinking about him until this minute.

    It hasn’t happened yet, but I hope he soon has the “deer in the headlights” moment that George Pell eventually got in front of the Australian Royal Commission into the kiddie rapers.

  25. 40

    [Cross-posted from Nugent’s blog]

    Nugent, even the introduction to this email relies heavily on harasser dog-whistles. The rest of it is substantially similar, and doesn’t so much poison the well as lace it with plutonium. Christ, you even found a way to turn a decrease in violent language into a bad thing.

    I have to turn your question right back at you: is this how you want to be remembered? As a SlymePit shill, so obsessed over tone that you’re blind to content? Complaining about the words someone uses to discuss allegations of sexual assault by some of our most famous members, instead of the assault itself? Denying reality when confronted with the truth?

    It wasn’t a draft of the article, as I had no article in mind then. It was a letter to a person who I considered to be a friend who I thought was behaving badly.

    Then would you mind explaining why this passage from your email …

    Each time that we have discussed these concerns, you have responded that you will tone it down, which to some extent you have. You no longer encourage your commenters to tell people to shove a rotting porcupine up their ass, and they no longer tell people to die in a fire or fuck themselves with a rusty chainsaw. But ceasing such vitriol, while obviously welcome, is a very low hurdle for a blog that aims to promote compassion and empathy and social justice.

    In the last year or so, you have publicly accused Michael Shermer of multiple unreported serious crimes, Richard Dawkins of seeming to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children, and Russell Blackford of being a lying fuckhead. Less seriously, but still setting a metaphorical tone for your blog, you have joked about Rebecca Watson shanking Phil Mason in the kidneys, and about you stabbing Christians and throwing people off a pier.

    Last week you described Robin Williams’ suicide as the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people, said that a white lady who made racist comments looks like the kind of person who would have laughed at nanu-nanu, and responded to criticism by saying that you should have been more rude, because asking you to have been nicer about the dead famous guy is missing the point. While that seems to have been the final straw for some people, it remains part of a pattern of behaviour that is fast becoming your legacy.

    … matches so well with the article?

    Whenever we have met, I have raised concerns about this. Each time, he has responded that he will tone it down, which to some extent he has. He no longer encourages his commenters to tell people to shove a rotting porcupine up their ass, and they no longer tell people to die in a fire or fuck themselves with a rusty chainsaw. But ceasing such vitriol, while obviously welcome, is a low hurdle for a blog promoting empathy and social justice.

    In the last year or so, he has publicly accused Richard Dawkins of seeming to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children, Michael Shermer of multiple unreported serious crimes, and Russell Blackford of being a lying fuckhead. He has joked about Rebecca Watson shanking Phil Mason in the kidneys, and about himself stabbing Christians and throwing people off a pier.

    Last month he described Robin Williams’ suicide as the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people, said that a white lady who made racist comments looks like the kind of person who would have laughed at nanu-nanu, then added that he should have been more rude, because asking him to have been nicer about the dead famous guy is missing the point.

    I’d rather take open hatred than your false civility and slick apologia.

  26. 41

    Apologize to Shermer? The sheer fucking brass balls on that asshole. Not a thought, mind you, to the idea that Shermer might be guilty of the things he’s accused of, certainly no parallel e-mail to Shermer to apologize for harassment, rape, womanizing, and using legal threats to try to shut down criticism. Not a thought to the way that leaders have known about and enabled Shermer’s behavior for years. No, you should apologize to him.

    PZ, I don’t frankly know how you do it. If anyone needed proof that you’ve got near-boundless actual civility, this is it. If I were receiving that e-mail, I don’t know that I would have been able to restrain myself from decking that colossal asshole.

  27. 43

    Ugh, sorry for the double-post, but this whole thing just sticks in my craw. Nuge claims he was writing to “a friend,” but you know, I think of my friends as equals. Even if I thought one were “behaving badly”–an odd way to describe a peer–I wouldn’t send them a condescending e-mail demanding that they shape up and apologize (and I certainly wouldn’t cc that e-mail to people who are, at best, tangentially involved). That’s not how normal, mature people interact with their friends. That’s closer to how a teacher acts with an unruly student.

    I think Nugent would like to think that he was staging an intervention. In reality, he was trying to organize a parent-teacher conference. It’s not his place to do either, and neither was appropriate.

    For someone who wants to set boundaries of appropriate behavior for everyone else, Nugent needs to learn some himself. This is utterly gross.

  28. 44

    Another annoyance that I just remembered: last time I was in Ireland, and Nugent was piously telling me to be nicer, he explained that he’d received some very substantial complaints from some guy named Peter Ferguson, who I hadn’t heard of before. He was very irate with me, he explained, and had even urged Nugent not to invite me to that conference.

    His problem: I had blocked him on twitter! Oh, horrors.

    I had no idea who this guy was. I block a couple of people a day — I get total strangers roaring up to me and echoing slymepit/thunderf00t tropes, and I just hit the block button, since there’s no point in talking to them. I was tempted to just end the conversation at that point, now that we’d determined that his good friend who’d shared his serious concerns was just another petty troll.

  29. 45

    … piously telling me to be nicer, he explained that he’d received some very substantial complaints …

    Geeezuzz. We’ve all met these guys.

    They’re the teachers who suspend the bullied rather than the bullied after the victim gets up barely enough voice to swear at their tormentors.

    They’re the parents who take away everyone’s privileges when one of them finally yells and screams when relentless teasing gets unbearable.

    They’re the bosses who are offended by the language of the harassee standing up to the harasser rather than trying to ensure their safety.

    Not the kind of company I’d want to join.

  30. 47

    Each time that we have discussed these concerns, you have responded that you will tone it down, which to some extent you have. You no longer encourage your commenters to tell people to shove a rotting porcupine up their ass, and they no longer tell people to die in a fire or fuck themselves with a rusty chainsaw.

    Which is, btw, complete bullshit.
    To the best of my memory, PZ had nothing to do with the Horde’s discussion and subsequent abandonment of certain phrases. But it feeds nicely into the idea that we’re not actually people who have brains to think for themselves, but just mindless cult followers who heed every word PZ says and never ever disagree with him, his loyal minions who will lash out without ever even stopping to ask what has happened.
    Sheeple, in short.

  31. 48

    PZ, that guy’s twitter handle is @Humanisticus. Blogger over at SIN. Like many a Twitterer who believe they’re obliged to an audience, it’s entirely his problem if he comes bounding up to you with stale memes warmed over from the slymepit and is blocked.

  32. 52

    Ferguson is in moderation saying he didn’t say that to Nugent and you shouldn’t call him a troll. He’s probably right about not telling Nugent. Ferguson is one of the people who harped on about the existence of the Block Bot (as in this lovely conversation he’s having with the guy who told the world he wants to wear my skin). I’m sure Nugent, with his wonderful listening skills, decided that meant Ferguson was listed on the bot and, therefore, was blocked by all at FtB.

    I also have him blocked on Twitter, as well as in comment moderation here, because he can’t manage to address challenges to his arguments or follow the facts of the situation he’s arguing about, which is a tedious bore. He’s going to stay there because he treats the people who harass me as reasonable interlocutors.

  33. 53

    Ophelia, has Nugent reported this act of defamation? If not, then isn’t he accusing you of an unreported crime?

    I think Nugent should either file a law suit or consider apologising to you for having unjustly hurt and defamed you, and start focusing on actually promoting compassion and empathy and social justice if those ideas are important to him.

  34. 54

    I’ve never met Ferguson, that I know of, and he’s so unmemorable that I don’t even recall what he said on Twitter to make me block him. All I know is what Nugent told me to my face in Ireland. I have many sins, and even more that I was never aware of, but seriously…does blocking someone on twitter rise to the level of a venial sin? Some people seem to think it even qualifies as mortal.

  35. 55

    “Finger-wagger” seems like a pretty easy gig. You’re a disinterested third party (Ha!), so of course you choose a side. If the other side gets outraged by something outrageous, you nervously rub your hands together and express dismay at their tone or their word choice. When the other, preferred side, comes back with something noxious, pretend you didn’t see it and say nothing. When the less-preferred side calls you on something you said, default back to being dismayed by tone/word choice. If that side asks pointed questions about anything you said, go to radio silence. Eventually, return and either a) pretend it never happened or b) proclaim you were “busy” and/or “I have a Real Life, you know!” When it’s all over, pat yourself on the back all over the Internet for “being a facilitator” and “helping heal Deeeeeep Rifts”.

    See also: Tone Troll, Pearl Clutching, and Making Shit Up.

  36. 56

    @PZ, “@Humanisticus”/ Peter Ferguson is a skeptic ink blogger and pitter-lite, like Notung and Ed Clint. Pretend to be all above the “in fighting” while supporting harassers against people trying to stop the harassment. I imagine if Nugent ever invited Rebecca Watson to a conference he’d bust a vein or two in his forehead. He is convinced she called Ed Clint a rapist. Anyone with reading comprehension would see she didn’t …
    http://skepchick.org/2012/12/twitter-users-sad-to-hear-they-may-be-rapists/

    She pointed out he was crowing about being a rapist by her standards, sex without consent due to drink is rape. She also pointed out what a monumentally stupid hill that is to die on, just to try and score points over her as an “SJW” who must be defeated by Peter, Ed etc. Of course if he literally meant what he appears to say – that he had sex with many people who were too drunk to consent, then by his own words he is a rapist. Of course he meant just had a few drinks and was trying to score some points in the pit-FTB war, I assume, he never did clarify…

  37. 57

    My apologies for the length of this little screenplay, but I hope it will amuse:

    In the mountaintop fortress of the Global Thinky Kings, the Lords of Atheism and Skepticism convene. The Kings (some of whom are women, but who are totally cool if you refer to them as kings) sit perched on their thrones while a clerk reads them the business of the day. A brightly colored parrot holds a perch high above the thrones.

    Clerk: “Your Highnesses, it is time to issue the invitations to this year’s Global Thinky Kings conference. We have come up with a final list of candidates for speakers who can keep the masses entertained while your majesties relax in the royal hospitality suite. There are, however, a few… concerns regarding some candidates.”

    King Michael of Ireland: “Surely none of them are known associates of that woman, you know, Re..”

    High King Richard: “DO NOT SPEAK THAT NAME IN MY PRESENCE! I know you are new here, King Michael, but if we must refer to her at all, it is as She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named. And in any event, surely our noble clerk would not be so incompetent as to allow any associate of hers to make the short list.”

    Clerk: “No, your Majesty, your instructions were quite clear on that point. The concerns with these candidates are of a more… marginal nature. It appears that our first candidate had sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent.”

    Christina, Queen of Summer: “Oh, surely not. No doubt she is lying.”

    King James of Florida: “Or perhaps he was drunk. Boys will be boys, you know! Especially when they’re drunk. Or so I’m told. Ah, we sorely miss the late King Christopher and his wisdom on the subject of alcohol.”

    High King Richard (leaning forward in his throne, a gleam in his eye): “Or perhaps… she was drunk?”

    Clerk: “Oh, yes, Your Majesty. She claims she was too intoxicated to give consent.”

    (laughter rings through the mighty hall)

    Clerk: “It’s possible he was intoxicated as well…”

    King Michael of Pasadena (muttering): “Amateur. You’re not supposed to get yourself drunk. Though it is a useful excuse to some….”

    King James: “What did you say?

    King Michael of Pasadena: “Oh, nothing, nothing. I was just pondering what fertile lands you command, King James. Have you given any further thought to naming a new heir?”

    High King Richard: “Gentlemen! Gentlemen! We must attend to the business at hand! Now, clearly, by getting drunk this woman forfeited any right to bodily integrity. If only she had read the writings of the wise and noble Queen Christina, she would have known better. Besides, it could be worse — she could have been born a Muslim. Then she would have been circumsized and unable to enjoy this surprise sex! Clerk, please draft me some pithy Tweets condemning Islam —-”

    King Samuel: “OOH! OOH! I’LL DO IT!”

    High King Richard: “Yes, very well then. Condemning Islam for its treatment of women as property for men to use. Now, as to this speaking candidate, I declare this man to have committed Zero Bad, and woe unto anyone who suggests otherwise.”

    Clerk: “Yes, Your Majesty. Now, as to this next candidate. He has written many brilliant articles on atheism and skepticism. However, he did once — forgive me for saying this in the presence of the ladies — block someone on Twitter.”

    King Michael of Ireland: “HE DID NOT!”

    High King Richard: “Surely it was a creationist or something?”

    Clerk: “I’m afraid not, Your Majesty. It was, in fact, one of King Michael’s loyal Irish subjects.”

    King Michael of Ireland: “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”

    (laughter)

    King James: “Ah, the new guy is so frisky! Have you ever considered running an educational foundation?”

    King Benjamin: “That’s not how we do things. Well, generally. Perhaps you should just threaten to sue him…

    King Michael of Pasadena: “Or just threaten to sue!”

    King Benjamin: “… for, I don’t know, violating free speech rights or something?”

    Suddenly, the parrot begins screeching loudly
    Slyme Pit the Parrot: “FREEZE PEACH! FREEZE PEACH! FREEZE PEACH!”

    High King Richard (annoyed): “Oh, now you’ve done it. That damn bird will go on like that for hours. We’re adjourned. But someone needs to stay behind and clean up all these parrot droppings.”

    King Benjamin: “Well, it should be one of the women. They’re evolutionarily predisposed to clean up the dwelling while the men are off hunting pterodactyls or something. It’s totally scienticious!”

    King Sam: (nods vigorously)

    Queen Christina: “It’s a fair cop” (grabs mop)

    The rest exit

  38. 59

    Well done, Screechymonkey.

    I engaged Nugent a bit on twitter and basically asked, if sexual assault/harassment are going on how is it a misrepresentation to talk about it. He responded with a link to his original article and condescendingly told me that’s where the conversation started. If he doesn’t want to answer a question he points to the thing he wrote that caused the question and acts like you were too dumb to get it. I’ve seen him do this several times. It’s like the entire Mount Rushmore of Privilege can’t stand to have their words quoted back at them.

  39. 61

    Maybe we save that for the sequel: I think it will involve Adam Lee being summoned before the Thinky Kings to answer for his lese majesty. As you know, the Thinky Kings have two weapons: fear, surprise, and a fanatical devotion to the Dawk!

  40. 64

    IIRC Mick used to cc every single of his blog posts on Twitter to Dawkins, PZ and Rebecca for a while, still does it to Dawkins.

    oolon @56,

    I imagine if Nugent ever invited Rebecca Watson to a conference he’d bust a vein or two in his forehead.

    Well he did in 2011. It’s where we had egate.

  41. 65

    yazikus @24:

    I just don’t understand how this escalated. Harris ought to have said, wow, that is a great example of the unconscious biases we have, and thanks to those who pointed it out to me.

    I’ve never followed Harris, but your comment above has me wondering if Harris understands how pervasive sexism is in society. Does he acknowledge that we all have sexist beliefs because we’ve been swimming in a society suffused with them?
    Or is he one of those people that denies the extent to which sexism is present in society?
    I’m leaning towards the latter, especially given that he claims to not be a “sexist pig”. No one called him a sexist pig. He was criticized for making sexist remarks, which happens to many (most?) of us throughout our lives, but instead of apologizing, he got defensive, almost as if he was horrified at the idea that *he* could be sexist (and then cited various women in his life as proof that he’s not sexist).

  42. 66

    Flewellyn @29:

    “Sure, you can be good without God, but why should we?”

    Ouch. Your well made point is sharp.

    ****

    screechymonkey @57:
    That was hilarious!
    I do think you ought to add something in there about King Ron of the Lind Say who recently said this over at the CFI blogs:

    As indicated, I was in attendance at the book talk. I also read the Boorstein article when it appeared. I did not have the impression that either by her questioning at the event or by her later article that Boorstein was trying to make Harris appear sexist. Her question was a legitimate one, and I don’t detect any nefarious purpose by her inclusion of the exchange in an article that covered a lot of other ground. In addition, by personal communication to CFI, Boorstein has expressly denied that she had any such intention, adding that she herself did not interpret Harris’s answer as sexist. I think Harris was mistaken in accusing Boorstein of malicious intent. The evidence does not warrant such an accusation.

    I also believe the criticism leveled against Harris for his comments is unwarranted. To begin, some of the criticism has, intentionally or unintentionally, distorted what Harris said. He never indicated that women were less capable of critical thinking, and he said nothing to suggest he thought women were biologically inferior. He did speculate that women may not like confrontational writing as much as men. Whether there’s any empirical data to support that assertion, I don’t know. Surveys indicate women, in general, do have different reading preferences than men, in general, but it’s not clear how this might affect their interest in books that criticize religion. Anyway, in his blog post, Harris expands upon and explains his comments, so there’s no need for me to analyze them here. I’ll just add that a statement that contains the word “vibe” should, at least presumptively, not be regarded as setting forth a serious considered judgment.

    Here’s the sad reality: there’s a toxic atmosphere in what passes for the atheist “community” that makes any reference, however brief, however off-the-cuff, to issues relating to sex/gender the subject of intense scrutiny and often the most uncharitable interpretation possible. Moreover, as Michelle Boorstein has learned, both those accused of sexism and those who are perceived—even incorrectly— as accusing others of sexism are too often the targets of the most vile, despicable comments.

    Because what the world needs is more apologetics for Harris’ comments.
    ****
    Seven of Mine @58:
    You predicted moi? 🙂

    ****

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