No Debate

They don’t actually want to debate us.

These people–mostly men, mostly white–claiming that we’re destroying the world by shutting down debate? These people claiming that blocking someone instead of hashing out their issues (personal or political) is damaging public discourse? These people claiming that telling them to “get bent” is abridging their freedom of speech?

Yeah, that’s as far as they really want things to go. Complaining bolsters their reputations, at least among the people who don’t think things through. It generates easy content. It garners cheap outrage. It requires neither work nor accountability. Smears and insinuations are much, much simpler.

That’s a big reason there aren’t many of these debates. Sure, plenty of people aren’t willing to directly debate racism and sexism any more than they’re willing to share a stage or their spotlight with creationists. Some people refuse to be harassed into a debate. Some people know debate is bad both for getting at the truth and because framing every disagreement as a debate is bad for communication. But when the smear merchants come up against someone who is willing to engage them directly, they tend to get a bit scarce.

Take, for example, “The Amazing Atheist” (aka a number of names, but we’ll call him “Kirk” here, since that’s the last name he’s currently using publicly) deciding not to debate Martin Hughes. Continue reading “No Debate”

No Debate
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About That Opinion…

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

I have a dirty little secret. It’s the kind of thing that people as involved in social media as I am aren’t supposed to think, much less say. It’s certainly something that bloggers who put their opinions out there as I do aren’t supposed to think.

Here’s how it works: I publish a blog post on a subject, anything from a few hundred to a few thousand words. Or it could be a Facebook post or a series of tweets if it’s a shorter observation that I want to make sure people can see without clicking through to anything. Then people respond to tell me their opinions on the subject.

And I…I don’t care.

This isn’t universal, of course. There are many circumstances in which I do care. There are people who provide data I don’t have: studies, personal insight on something that’s confusing me, experiences I can’t share. There are people with whom I’ve been engaged in years-long discussions about the world, often even though we’ve never met. There are people who raise substantial objections over my reasoning or premises. I’m not talking about those, usually. I have my days when I don’t care much about any of that either, but those are just bad days.

Photo of small child in a pink shirt and jeans leaning across the seat of a chair, cheek resting on hands, looking into the camera
“bored” by greg westfall, CC BY 2.0

Then there are the people who notice that I have put my opinion out into the world and decide that this is an invitation for them to tell me what they think. Often their comments are literally nothing more than that. “I think X.”

That’s nice. I don’t care.

I won’t tell you I never think I should care. I do. I mean, I’m putting my opinions out there, right? Plus socialization. Plus a model of online writing that says readers are my customers, consumers who must be catered to in order for me to succeed.

Still, I don’t care. Not only that, but I think most of the things that tell me I should care miss the point of social media at a minimum. Continue reading “About That Opinion…”

About That Opinion…

Repost: Sam and Max Rules

This post is ancient, but I still think about it when people tell me I have give someone the benefit of the doubt, to be more charitable. I’ve been thinking about it now as well as Ive been working on a post about relationships and argument.

A bit more than a decade ago, my husband and I played a bunch of LucasArts adventure games. Remember, this was pre-Episode One. Pre-Grim Fandango not being released for Macs for that matter. LucasArts was still okay then. In fact, they were pretty cool.

Sure, the Indiana Jones game was kinda dull, but Day of the Tentacle was a geek’s dream. Personally, though, I preferred Sam & Max Hit the Road. It’s still the most surreal game I’ve played, although Psychonauts came close. But even Psychonauts’ meat circus (really) didn’t quite compare to the combination of conspiracy theory, circus freaks and roadside attractions that was Sam & Max. Gator Golf, anyone? A bigfoot underground? How about a rotating restaurant atop the world’s largest ball of twine?

Photo of a motorcyle parked outside a glass-enclosed gazebo housing a very large ball of twine.
Sam and Max fans will understand why the lack of restaurant in this picture of a ball of twine is disappointing. The bar up the street is quite nice, though.
Photo by Ben Zvan. Used with permission.

Still, my favorite part of the Sam & Max gameplay was the dialog. It was menu based. All the options tended to be snarky, but there were a few that would get a person decked in real life. Really funny, but nothing you’d actually say unless you wanted to end the conversation immediately.

The first time we came across one of these, we looked at each other, figured out how much progress we stood to lose, and picked the least helpful option. Continue reading “Repost: Sam and Max Rules”

Repost: Sam and Max Rules

With Room to Learn

There has been a lot of talk in the last few months about how “call-out culture” causes problems. Some of it is ridiculous, as when writers take to large magazines and newspapers to complain of being silenced. Some of it is not, as when those already marginalized note that dealing with fierce blowback for mistakes as they enter and acclimate to activist spaces is one more barrier than they have energy for.

I want to deal more with the latter as I get back into writing more regularly. There are things I want to say about languages of power once I’m comfortable that my views are fully fleshed out. In the meantime, however, there are a couple of posts contemporaneous with my earlier writing on the topic that I want to highlight, both from Angus Johnston on the Student Activism blog. Continue reading “With Room to Learn”

With Room to Learn

Fuck Your Civility

Well, here it is a day later, and still no one had told Steve Snyder that it his comment at JT’s was unacceptably sexist. So I did.

Well, Steve Snyder/SocraticGadfly, since no one else can be assed to step up and say this, no matter how much me being harassed “pisses them off”, no matter how much they’ll stand up for JT, fuck off, you putrid, obsessive, pointless, sexist smear of slime. It is not anything but vilely anti-social to spend two and half years after a woman tells you that rape allegations need to be taken seriously popping up any time she and the man on whose blog you were schooled are mentioned together to say that this woman is controlling this man’s behavior by having sex with him.

It only gets you two things. The first is a reputation as someone who isn’t capable of making a socially acceptable argument about why treating rape seriously is bad but can’t let the issue go, and the second is secular and skeptical movements that are distinctly hostile to women.

So fuck right the hell off.

And the same goes for anyone incapable of telling Steve here the same thing.

If none of the people preaching for civility are going to stop this behavior, if none of the people telling me how to behave are going to do anything to see that I’m treated well in return, they get to deal with how I deal with it. And they get to deal with how I deal with it after a day of my mistreatment being ignored in a forum where putting the smack down on bad behavior is supposedly the order of the day.

And if they really want to know how their version of “civility” fits into this, they can ask me. Very nicely. I doubt they’ll like any answer they get today, though.

Fuck Your Civility

Feedback for American Atheists

So I kept reading the transcript of the chat room during yesterday’s “Brave Hero” radio show. I know. I know. But that sort of thing is hard to look away from once you’ve looked, like any traffic disaster.

I found something I wasn’t expecting.

DaveMuscato: Hey folks, I just wanted to mention that I’m here (Public Relations Director for American Atheists). I did not catch Dave on the air but I caught some of the calls at  the end. I’m happy to do what I can do listen to your feedback if you

DaveMuscato: have something you want me or Dave to know

Color me impressed.

So what did Dave and Dave get for feedback? It’s a bit hard to tell, because PZ was also in the chat room at the time having all sort of accusations thrown at him. Here are the bits I think were probably meant for American Atheists. Continue reading “Feedback for American Atheists”

Feedback for American Atheists

The Appeal to the Naive Observer

I get rather a remarkable number of comments like this one about a letter I sent to CFI regarding Justin Vacula’s attendance at the Women in Secularism conference this weekend.

Attempting to have him excluded from the event –which is clearly the subtext of the letter you quote here, if it wasn’t why give them a “situation” to “resolve” – will force people like me, who are new to this whole kerfluffle, to believe that you really don’t have ideas worth defending.

Now, setting aside the fact that I, at least, am aware of several ways that conference organizers can limit the disruptiveness of an attendee short of barring them from the conference, and setting aside that I thanked CFI for taking one of those options, there’s a failure of critical thinking in this comment and comments like these that boggles my mind.

Continue reading “The Appeal to the Naive Observer”

The Appeal to the Naive Observer

What "Dialogue" Does

Rebecca posted a Twitter rant from Jeff Sharlet at Skepchick yesterday. Sharlet’s topic? This idea that dialogue is always something for which we should strive. He doesn’t exactly mince his words either:

Fetish for “dialogue” assumes those you disagree w/ lack only your insight; assumes they want to “compromise.” As if they have no agency.

Student fetish for “dialogue” a form of technocratic optimism based on free market myth of “exchange” as end in itself.

Rebecca added some choice words of her own:
Continue reading “What "Dialogue" Does”

What "Dialogue" Does

Satire, or Some Gun Control, Please!

I’m largely away from the internet this week, and I’m running a series of guest posts to introduce you to other bloggers and give some people without a blog home some space to be heard. Ariel has only recently started commenting but has provided an interesting perspective.

From Wikipedia: satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.

Flag gun with "Satire!" on the flag.
Let me add: satire can be a formidable weapon, effective in achieving its aims, but also deadly.

When I was young, we were using it constantly. The communist regime in my country, although economically bankrupt, was still in power. On official TV (there was no other one, and no internet, mind you) the serious-looking party leaders threw thunderbolts against the “imperialist West”, while promising us a brilliant socialist future … after solving some temporary problems of course, “blown out of proportions by counterrevolutionary propaganda”. Apart from the Catholic Church, there were no officially recognized forces or organizations to counteract this dreadful tide. Continue reading “Satire, or Some Gun Control, Please!”

Satire, or Some Gun Control, Please!